The fate of nearly 2.3 million Democratic presidential primary votes belongs to 30 party activists.
The activists sit on the Democratic Party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, which was to meet Saturday to decide what role Michigan and Florida should play at the national convention in August.
Both states were banned from sending delegates to the meeting because they held primaries in January, too early for party rules. They were attempting to have greater influence on the presidential nominating process long dominated by Iowa and New Hampshire.
Now Democrats want to figure a way to include the two states in the convention because they will be important battlegrounds in the general election.
Just how many delegates to give each state and how to distribute them between the candidates was the vexing decision before the rules committee. Outside, Clinton supporters planned a protest to demand full seating of the 368 delegates from the two states — an unlikely outcome with committee members interested in punishing the two states to discourage future line jumpers.
Hillary Rodham Clinton won both contests after all the candidates agreed not to campaign in either state. At the time, she said the vote didn’t matter, but now she is trailing Barack Obama and wants to see her victories result in more delegates at the convention.
“It’s important to send the right signals to them and the people living in those states that we Democrats value those states, value those voters and want them as full partners in a general election in assembling 270 electoral votes,” said Clinton strategist Harold Ickes, a member of the rules committee.
Obama could afford to allow Clinton a few delegates — going into the meeting, he was just 42 away from the nomination out of more than 2,000 required. Clinton was more than 200 delegates behind.
The committee appeared to be leaning toward a compromise that would allow each state to restore half of its delegate count. That probably would add fewer than 30 more delegates to the total that Obama needs, with three more contests to go — Puerto Rico on Sunday and Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday.
Members of the committee discussed their options over a lengthy dinner with DNC Chairman Howard Dean that began Friday night and lasted until 2 a.m. Saturday. People who attended said no deals were reached, although there was a widespread sentiment that they should try to come up with some resolution that would put the issue behind them.
Obama campaign officials, eager to move on, said they were willing to give Clinton the edge in delegates, but they were not willing to accept the Clinton camp’s hard-line stance that all the delegates should be fully seated in accordance to the January elections.
“We have both fought hard throughout the country, both of us, for delegates and the fact that we’re willing to essentially cede her delegates we do not think is an insignificant gesture on our part,” Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said. “But we’re willing to do this in the interest of trying to bring this to a close so we can focus on the general election.”
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