- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2008

Democratic Party officials yesterday restored Florida and Michigan’s disputed delegates but gave them only a half-vote each, reaching a compromise they said would send a signal of unity in the final days of their long presidential primary season.

Portions of the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee decision were met with loud and angry protests from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s supporters in the room, some of whom shouted that they would not vote for front-runner Sen. Barack Obama in the fall.

The compromise also prompted harsh words of objection from Mrs. Clinton’s top advocate on the panel making the ruling, who hinted the candidate would appeal the Michigan delegate allocation at the August convention in Denver.

The panel voted 19-8 - over the protests of Clinton senior adviser Harold Ickes - to give Mr. Obama delegates based on the Michigan results, even though his name did not appear on the ballot.

“Uncommitted” won 40 percent there, and the Clinton camp had wanted the delegates to go to the convention with that allocation. But the ruling was to give Mrs. Clinton 69 and Mr. Obama 59 delegates, each with a half vote.

Mr. Ickes said he was “stunned” by the “gall” of the Michigan decision.

“This body of 30 individuals has decided that they are going to substitute their judgment for 600,000 voters,” he complained, adding sarcastically: “Now that’s what I call democracy.”

Panel member and Obama supporter Everett Ward accused Mr. Ickes of “political posturing” and of exercising “selective amnesia” in part because he voted for stripping the delegates from both states last fall.

Other panel members who back Mrs. Clinton said the Michigan compromise was the only way to unify the party in November.

“I submit to you that hijacking four delegates, not withstanding the flawed aspect of this, is not the good way to start down the path of party unity,” Mr. Ickes said.

He was greeted with a sustained standing ovation when announcing: “Mrs. Clinton has instructed me to reserve her rights to take this to the credentials committee.”

The Obama campaign called the decision a “fair solution” that will allow both states to participate in the convention.

The panel effectively voted twice to restore Michigan and Florida’s full delegations to the Democratic National Convention, reversing its decision from last fall to strip 100 percent of the delegates because the states broke party rules and held their contests too early. Mrs. Clinton won both contests after none of the candidates campaigned there, which party officials from the rogue states said was punishment enough.

The panel yesterday voted unanimously to restore the full Florida delegation, with half-votes. The allocation, based on the Jan. 29 primary, gave Mrs. Clinton 105 pledged delegates to 67 for Mr. Obama - an effective split of 52 1/2 to 33 1/2.

The rulings - which happened after nearly 10 hours of testimony, private and public deliberation and protests - changed the number needed to earn the Democratic presidential nomination from 2,026 to 2,118.

Before the decision, Mr. Obama was about 40 delegates away from clinching the nomination under party rules without Florida and Michigan.

Including commitments from the elected officials and party activists known as superdelegates, he held a lead of 200 over Mrs. Clinton. Early calculations indicated Mr. Obama would need at least another 130 delegates to clinch the party nod.

Panel members said they made the decision so other states would learn there are penalties for breaking the rules.

“When you have rules, they must be followed, and if they are not followed, you have chaos, and I don’t think that’s what we want to see occur in 2012,” said panel member Yvonne Gates, who is neutral in the Clinton-Obama race.

But state officials demurred.

“We were completely bypassed in the process,” said panel member Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. “That has been an enormous punishment.”

Obama supporter Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida said yesterday the compromise must come since “we are now well past the 11th hour of this nomination process.”

“It is time … to reach a dignified and high-minded resolution,” he said.

Mr. Ickes used Florida’s high turnout to jab that in 2004 only 750,000 Democrats voted in what he called a “full-blown, hotly contested multi-million-dollar primary.”

Mr. Wexler fired back that “you know as well as I that by the time Florida voted in March, Senator [John] Kerry effectively was the presumptive nominee. There was no contest.”

Mrs. Clinton won the Florida primary with nearly 50 percent on Jan. 29, when 1.75 million Democrats participated. Mr. Obama received nearly 33 percent and former Sen. John Edwards, who has since dropped out of the race and endorsed Mr. Obama, got 14.4 percent.

DNC Secretary Alice Germond, a panel member not pledged to a candidate, said the primaries were “unsanctioned beauty contests that we told the voters had no meaning,” and seemed shocked when her mention of Martin Luther King as part of Democratic Party history was booed by protesters.

All day the panel members and even Florida and Michigan elected officials who back one candidate or the other promised to bring everyone together around the eventual nominee.

“When we leave this room, we’re all wearing the same blue jerseys so that we can go after the Republicans in their red jerseys in November,” said Jon Ausman, a DNC member from Florida who brought forth the party challenge and said he would not appeal.

But protests outside - where Floridians cited the 2000 presidential election and said they were tired of being disenfranchised - and the scene in the room presented on C-SPAN told a different story.

After the panel voted 15-12 against seating Florida with full votes, some in the room let out loud hisses and angry chants of “Denver, Denver,” an indication Clinton supporters want the primary fight to continue until the summer nominating convention in late August.

Others shouted “Madame President” and the name of presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

The panel members said they were revoking their initial punishment of taking all Florida’s delegates in the spirit of unity, but the protesters wouldn’t have it, with one shouting: “Lipstick on a pig!”

“You just took away votes,” cried another, while others labeled it “insane.”

“What this party needs is unity,” argued panel member Alice Huffman, a Clinton supporter. She told the voters it was not about the candidates, but some protesters shouted back, “Yes, it is!”

Rules panel co-chairman James Roosevelt Jr. warned the protesters: “You are dishonoring your candidate when you interrupt your speakers.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Roosevelt said that Republicans watching and thinking it was an example of divided Democrats should actually be warned since they had record turnout for a hearing about process.

“If this many people are going to give up their weekend for a rules committee meeting, watch out, because we’re going to be knocking on doors” in the fall, he said.

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