Hillary opens another front in Democratic battle

May 29th, 2008 - 2:51 pm ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 29 (IANS) With a never say die attitude, Hillary Clinton has opened another front in the Democratic presidential nomination battle ahead of a crucial party meeting Saturday on how to deal with rule-breaking Florida and Michigan. The former first lady who trails frontrunner Barack Obama by a virtually unbeatable 198 delegates is pushing for seating all the delegates from the two states at the party national convention amid reports that the party rules committee is likely to meet her demand halfway.

Florida and Michigan state parties were stripped of all their delegates for holding their primaries earlier than party rules allowed. Democrats officially pick up their presidential candidate at the party national convention in Denver, Colorado, in August.

Clinton won decisively in both states in the January primaries although all candidates had initially agreed not to campaign in either state after they broke party rules and Obama even had his name taken off the Michigan ballot.

In addition to deciding how many, if any, Florida and Michigan delegates to seat at the convention, the rules committee must determine how the delegates would be allocated between Clinton and Obama.

Even if the full delegations from the two states were counted, Clinton wouldn’t overtake Obama’s 1,661 to 1,499 lead in pledged delegates. But it may bring Clinton close enough to Obama’s total among pledged delegates when primary season ends June 3 with voting still due in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota.

This in turn could help persuade the party’s “super delegates” that she is better positioned to beat likely Republican candidate John McCain in November.

To bolster her argument with the super delegates, key party officials who can cast their ballots for the candidate of their choice unmindful of the primary results, Clinton Wednesday sent an 11-page letter and analysis to them.

Clinton conceded that neither she nor Obama will have the nomination locked up after the last primaries on June 3 but “when the primaries are finished, I expect to lead in the popular vote and in delegates earned through primaries.”

“Ultimately, the point of our primary process is to pick our strongest nominee,” she argues asking them to decide between a candidate who has won more delegates in caucuses and a candidate who has won more delegates in primaries.

The memo from Clinton cites polls and voting patterns that show her besting Obama among women voters, retirees, Latinos, and rural and working-class voters.

“We are urging 100 percent of the delegations be seated and each delegate have a full vote,” Clinton campaign adviser Harold Ickes said. Hartina Flournoy, another Clinton supporter who sits on Rules and Bylaws Committee, said the Clinton campaign is not considering a compromise.

Obama’s advisers say with an overall tally of 1,980 including super delegates, they are within 46 of the 2,026 delegates needed to win the nomination under the current rules.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said they are willing to compromise on giving the two states representation at the convention, though not without a penalty. “We are open to a result that gives her delegates,” Plouffe said. “We don’t think it’s fair to seat them fully.”

“Any compromise is going to benefit Sen. Clinton,” Obama strategist David Plouffe said Wednesday. “We’re hoping there can be some reasonable resolution on Saturday that can allow us to move to the general election.”

In another setback to the Clinton camp, DNC staff lawyers have in a 17-page analysis of the Michigan and Florida challenges, maintained that the rules committee had the authority to sanction the states.

In their memo, DNC lawyers note that party rules impose an “automatic sanction” of a 50 percent reduction in pledged delegates for states that don’t follow the rules.

“The staff analysis is intentionally neutral; it does not make specific recommendations,” DNC spokesperson Karen Finney stated.

The party’s decision not to seat Florida and Michigan also is being challenged by voters in the courts. A US District Court judge in Tampa Wednesday dismissed one of those complaints, siding with the Democratic National Committee’s argument that state parties must comply with the national party rules.

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