Do-overs in Florida, Michigan?

Officials in Michigan and Florida are showing renewed interest in holding repeat presidential nominating contests so that their votes will count in the epic Democratic campaign.

The Michigan governor, along with top officials in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign and Florida’s state party chair, are now saying they would consider holding a sort of do-over contest by June. That’s a change from their previous insistence that the primaries their states held in January should determine how the their delegates are allocated.

Clinton won both contests, but the results were meaningless because the elections violated national party rules.

The Democratic National Committee stripped both states of all their delegates for holding the primaries too early, and all Democratic candidates — including Clinton and rival Barack Obama — agreed not to campaign in either state. Obama’s name wasn’t even on the Michigan ballot.

Florida and Michigan moved up their dates to protest the party’s decision to allow Iowa and New Hampshire to go first, followed by South Carolina and Nevada, giving them a disproportionate influence on the presidential selection process.

But no one predicted the race would still be very close this late in the year.

Ironically, Michigan and Florida could have held crucial primaries if they had stayed with their traditional later dates. They may yet do so if they decide to hold new contests as Clinton and Obama compete to the wire.

Clinton has been insisting that the desires of more than 2 million people who cast Democratic ballots in the two states should be reflected at the convention, which would help her catch up to Obama in the race for convention delegates. Obama has said he wants to see the delegates from the two critical swing states participate, too, but not if Clinton is rewarded for victories in boycotted primaries.

Now the Clinton campaign has begun expressing openness to a do-over. “Let’s let all of the voters go again if they are willing to do it,” Clinton adviser Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday night on MSNBC. “Whatever we have to do to get people in the system, let’s do it.”

The new contests could be part of a strategy for Clinton to come back in the race and attract votes from superdelegates who are not bound by any primary or caucus votes, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told the network. “Let’s assume for the moment Hillary Clinton wins Ohio and Texas, she wins Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan have primaries in June, she wins both of those,” said Rendell, who has endorsed Clinton. “Then, can the superdelegates look at that and say, `Gosh, she’s won the last five big primaries in a row. She’s won almost every big primary since we began.'”

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Clinton supporter, told the Detroit Free Press that Clinton’s victory in Ohio changes “the landscape a bit.” She said it could open the door to a caucus, if it can be privately funded and both candidates agree.

Granholm, a Democrat, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, issued a joint statement Wednesday demanding that their states’ delegates be seated. “We each will call upon our respective state and national party chairs to resolve this matter and to ensure that the voters of Michigan and Florida are full participants in the formal selection of their parties’ nominees,” the statement said.

Crist told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that he does not support having another primary at taxpayer expense. He said he discussed the option with Sen. Bill Nelson, the state’s senior Democrat. “He said the only way to consider the possibility of that is to have the Democratic National Committee pay for it,” Crist said. The Florida Democratic Party said the state estimates the cost would be $25 million.

Getting funding from the national committee might be difficult when the party has a general election to wage. Last August, the DNC offered to spend $800,000 for a later caucus, but the Florida state party rejected the idea because the amount would have only been enough to set up 150 caucus sites for the state’s 4.1 million Democrats. “It wasn’t a real offer. It just wasn’t. It was not something anybody could agree to with a straight face,” said state party spokesman Mark Bubriski.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean issued a statement Wednesday that seemed to leave the matter for the states to resolve.

Dean said Michigan and Florida have two options: either submit a new plan for a process for choosing their convention delegates, or appeal to the Convention Credentials Committee, which resolves issues about the seating of delegates.

“The Democratic Nominee will be determined in accordance with party rules, and out of respect for the presidential campaigns and the states that did not violate party rules, we are not going to change the rules in the middle of the game,” he said.

Michigan Democrats are discussing holding a “firehouse” contest in May or June that would be an alternative to a traditional primary or caucus and run by the state party, said a Democratic Party official who has been part of the discussions. “Firehouse” contests usually have fewer polling places and shorter voting hours than traditional state-run primary elections.

The party official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private, said there was general consensus that it could not be held at taxpayers’ expense and would attempt to generate participation from about 1 million state Democrats.

House and Senate Democrats from Florida and Michigan planned to meet Wednesday night on Capitol Hill to discuss ways of getting their state’s delegates seated at the Democratic National Convention in Denver in late August, Democratic aides said.

Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman said the party is open to another vote, as long as it meets three criteria. Both candidates would have to fully participate, a source of funding would have to be provided and it would have to allow all the state’s Democrats to participate, including those serving in the military overseas. So far, she said, no suggested alternative has met those requirements.

“It is very possible that no satisfactory alternative plan will emerge, in which case Florida Democrats will remain committed to seating the delegates allocated by the January 29th primary,” Thurman said in a statement.

Obama’s campaign says whether to have a repeat contest is up to the national committee, but has signaled a willingness to participate. “We’re going to abide by their rules as they exist now and whatever happens in the future,” Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters Wednesday.

“I don’t think it’s for our campaign or her campaign — we’re in a heated contest here — to have to be the facilitators here,” Plouffe said. “This is between the DNC and those state parties.”


Associated Press writers Ken Thomas in Washington, Kathy Barks Hoffman in Lansing, Mich., and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report.


  1. old_curmudgeon

    Since no one really wishes to spend another $25 million or so the only fair thing to do is to split the delegates evenly between the two contenders. Cheap and fair. I would think that Clinton would not want to actually campaign in Florida against Obama – she might not even get half! Split ’em up and move on.

  2. Ann

    I know they went against the rules but are we a democracy if we don’t let all the people vote or their votes count. The dem. party screwed up but it is a must for those two state to have their votes counted or redo the election. We have gone to far into the I said and me with Bush and to heck with the Constitution. It is a legal right for us to vote no matter whom we want and no party is big enought to over ride that. Do what ever it takes but those two state must have their votes or we have no democracy any more.

  3. SEAL

    Ann: I agree with you. The only solution is to do the primaries over. The states are responsible for breaking the rules, therefore, they should pay for it.

    It is extremely important that we have a real primary in both of these states because it is becoming more and more obvious this campaign is going all the way to the convention floor. Unless one of these candidates arrives at the convention with a lead of 3-400 delegates you can bet there will be a deal brokered. The one with the most delegates will have the leverage.

  4. keith

    There’s another wrinkle in this circus that has not (yet) been widely reported.

    The Democrats in Michigan control both houses of their legislature (and their governorship) and they knew full well that passing a law to jump their primary ahead of others would result in such consequences. In that case, the people of Michigan ought to be bringing impeachment charges against their own legislature and Governor for their “disenfranchisement”, not anyone at the national level. They (or rather, their own legislature) did it to themselves.

    However, in Florida, both the legislature (and the Governor…who, at the time was Mr. Bush’s brother, Jeb Bush) was in Republican hands. And the law they passed (and that Mr. Bush signed) was enacted over the VIOLENT disagreement of Democrats in the legislature there. In essence, the Democrats in Florida were outvoted.

    Such political chicanery amounts to little more than “dirty tricks” and if anyone should be paying for a “do over” primary in Florida, it should be the REPUBLICAN National Committee, NOT the Democrats.

    The bottom line here is that these two issues should NOT be lumped together and thought of as one. That’s because they’ve been created from two totally different circumstances by two legislative bodies controlled by two different political parties.

  5. old_curmudgeon

    Crist, the Republican gov of FL stated clearly Thursday that there was no way the state was going to pay for another $25 million primary for the Democratic party. And you know the RNC is not going to oay for this either.

    There were a large number of Dem state reps who voted along with the Reps to move the date. In my opinion, they were told what was going to happen – THEY (the dems) disenfranchised their own voters. If the Dem voters in FL were smart, and as an ex-Floridian I’m workin’ on faith here, they’d make sure those dems didn’t serve another term.

    I’m sure that Obama, who followed the DNC rules and did not campaign in FL would appreciate the chance to put his case forward to the FL voters himself. Perhaps Clinton wouldn’t want that to happen. There is no clean way out of this.

    And you know the RNC is not going to oay for this either. By the time they get this straightened out the election will be long past.

  6. JerryG

    Political terrorists in Florida!

    Jeremy Ring, rookie Democrat State legislator, built the bomb! (Namely, the legislation changing the primary date)

    Republican controlled legislature delivered the bomb! (Passed it and sent it to Gov. Crist)

    Gov. Crist set off the bomb! (Signed the legislation)

    Governor Crist is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Be very wary of him. He comes across all cool and appears to be a consensus builder, but the fact is he is weak. He failed with insurance reform. His leadership failure with respect to property tax reform is resulting in Florida now experiencing a $2 billion budget deficit! His answer and that of his Republican controlled legislature? Cut education by approximately 500 to 800 billion (the numbers are still fuzzy)! This, in a State which ranks 42 out of 50 in spending per student and which consistently ranks near the bottom in graduation rate and testing scores/performance!

    Barely a Governor for one year and Charlie is fast becoming an expert in deficit spending! Hey, maybe he would be a good Veep for McCain afterall!