Florida Democrats say no to fresh presidential primary

March 18th, 2008 - 11:42 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 18 (IANS) Florida Democrats abandoned plans to hold a new presidential primary, leaving it to the national party to decide how to give representation to the state at the party convention to pick its nominee. The state party’s decision not to hold a new vote, regardless of whether the costs for the new primary were covered by the national party or not, left hanging the fate of state’s 210 delegates to the convention in August.

In an e-mail sent to Florida Democrats, state party Chair Karen Thurman said: “We researched every potential alternative process - from caucuses to county conventions to mail-in elections - but no plan could come anywhere close to being viable in Florida.”

But Democrats in Michigan moved closer to holding another contest June 3 as legislative leaders reviewed a measure today that would set up a privately funded, state-administered do-over primary, media reports said.

The draft measure would set up a fund within the state Treasury to receive up to $12 million in cash and other assets from private donors to cover the cost of the election. The contest must be held by June 10 for the results to count under DNC rules.

The national party punished Michigan and Florida for moving up their primaries before Feb 5, stripping them of all their delegates to the convention in Denver.

All the Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign in the two states, and frontrunner Barack Obama, vying to be America’s first black president, was not even on the Michigan ballot. Former first lady Hillary Clinton, bidding to be the first woman US chief executive, won both primaries.

As her race with Obama has tightened, she has argued the delegates should be seated or new primaries held. Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who backs Clinton, has suggested one option-seating all Florida delegates already chosen but only giving them half a vote each.

Based on the Jan 29 results, Clinton would have won 105, Obama 67 and John Edwards 13. Instead they would get half those delegate votes. Republicans stripped Florida and Michigan of half their delegates as a penalty for early primaries.

Expressing Clinton’s disappointment with the Florida party’s decision, her spokesman Phil Singer said: “Today’s announcement brings us no closer to counting the votes of the nearly 1.7 million people who voted in January”.

“We hope the Obama campaign shares our belief that Florida’s voters must be counted and cannot be disenfranchised.”

Obama campaign stated: “We hope that all parties can agree on a fair seating of the Florida delegates so that Florida can participate in the Democratic Convention, and we look forward to working with the Florida Democratic Party and competing vigorously in the state so that Barack Obama can put Florida back into the Democratic column in November.”

About Michigan, Clinton campaign aide Harold Ickes said: “A re-vote is the only way Michigan can be assured its delegation will be seated, and vote in Denver at the party’s national convention this summer.”

“If the Obama campaign thwarts a fair election process for the people of Michigan, it will jeopardise the Democratic nominee’s ability to carry the state in the general election.”

Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor responded: “It’s pretty apparent that the Clinton campaign’s views on voting are dependent on their own political interest. Hillary Clinton herself said in January that the Michigan primary ‘didn’t count for anything.’ Now, she is cynically trying to change the rules at the eleventh hour for her own benefit.”

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton who trails Obama in the delegate chase, and her husband Bill Clinton separately asked Democratic Party leaders to look beyond mere delegate strength in picking a presidential nominee at the party ’s national convention.

“I don’t know that it will be an easy decision, but that’s what leaders sign up for,” said the former president, declaring that a candidate’s ability to win a general election should be considered.

Hillary Clinton concurred. “I think it’s a question about everything and I think people are going to have to take everything into account,” she said.

Their outlook ran counter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s view that “If the votes of the super delegates overturn what’s happened in the elections, it would be harmful to the Democratic Party.”

Obama leads Clinton 1,617-1,498 counting all delegates. But his lead is much larger among pledged delegates, which are won in primaries and caucuses. Obama leads Clinton by 155 pledged delegates, 1,404-1,249, while she leads 249-213 among super delegates, a margin of 36.

A total of 2,024 delegates is required to win the nomination. Neither Obama nor Clinton are likelyto reach the magic number through primaries and caucuses alone, leaving the convention’s 796 or so super delegates with the balance of power.

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