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EDITORIAL: Counting with Hill and Bill

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2008

So, we have come to the official end of the six-month primary season - but what may not be the end of the 18-month presidential campaign season if Hillary Rodham Clinton refuses to give up the ghost and throw her support behind Barack Obama.

Stalwart Democrats like George McGovern and Sen. Patrick Leahy have asked Mrs. Clinton to declare defeat. But Mrs. Clinton has brushed off such ideas working with her husband, former President Clinton, to charm supporters and voters with their own rules of engagement.

The "winner" didn't take all.

Almost two years ago, the Democratic National Committee set the rules of engagement: No states other than South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa could hold primaries before Feb. 5, 2008 (Nevada was a caucus). The penalty for doing so would be elimination of all delegate seats at the convention. The party's nominee would need 2,025 delegates. These could either be compiled from those proportionately allocated based on the contests or combined with pledged Democrats with an automatic vote at the convention.

This past weekend the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to seat all of the Michigan and Florida delegates (a total of 157delegates) with half-a-vote - even though those states broke the rules.

The decision followed months of insistence and demands from Clinton supporters like Harold Ickes, a member of the rules committee, and immediate-past party Chairman Terry McAuliffe that new rules were necessary to honor Florida and Michigan voters and to ensure that they would come out again for the Democratic nominee.

Michigan was the most egregious because it was playing the Clintons' game. (Mr. Obama removed his name from Michigan ballots in honor of the party's wishes.) Mrs. Clinton bucked the rules. Subsequently, Mrs. Clinton won a contest in which she was the only candidate with 55 percent of the vote. "Uncommitted" won 40 percent. As Christina Bellantoni of The Washington Times pointed out in her article in the Sunday editions, the Clinton camp wanted the delegates to go to the convention with that allocation.

But the ruling gave Mrs. Clinton 69 delegates and Mr. Obama 59, 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 said. Yet no other decision could have been made that would have passed the smell test. The right decision would have been to stick to the rules of 2006.

The rules committee also reset to 2,118 the number of delegates needed to secure the nomination - effectively "moving the goal posts" to take a line from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.

At present Mr. Obama has 2,072 delegates to Mrs. Clinton's 1,915. Mr. Obama is expected to net a majority of the 31 delegates at stake today in Montana (16) and South Dakota (15).

The Clinton campaign says it will protest the Michigan decision at the convention. Mrs. Clinton wants people to see that she has won the overall popular vote by 100,000 - even though the 263,120 votes from Puerto Rico won't count in the general election.

So the primary season comes to a close with Mrs. Clinton and her supporters being given every reasonably conceivable opportunity to win. Let's hope she does not swap the end to the primary season with the beginning of the whining season because she is behind.