- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hillary Rodham Clinton today will make her last pitch for the disqualified Michigan and Florida delegates to count toward the Democratic presidential nomination, even as she now concedes the race will end soon after Tuesday´s final two primaries when undeclared superdelegates begin to choose sides.

The Democratic Party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee convenes its long-awaited hearing to decide the fate of combined 313 disqualified delegates from the two states, and, in turn, the fate of Mrs. Clinton’s long-shot chance of overcoming Sen. Barack Obama´s delegate lead.

Mrs. Clinton yesterday rejected the notion of a summer-long fight to capture the nomination.

“I think after the final primaries, people are going to start making up their minds. I think that is the natural progression that one would expect,” Mrs. Clinton told Montana reporters in a conference call.

“I think that people will have to ask themselves those questions: Who would be the best president in terms of preparation and readiness and effectiveness, and who would be the stronger candidate? And I imagine that process will begin after the end of the last primaries,” Mrs. Clinton said.

The remaining Democratic primaries take place in Puerto Rico tomorrow and Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday.

The rules committee will meet to try to determine how to distribute the combined 313 delegates, who were stripped of their voting status for the August convention when the states held primaries ahead of Feb. 5.

Party officials say both campaigns must agree with any compromise, making it unlikely Mrs. Clinton will pick up enough delegates to upend Mr. Obama’s delegate lead.

However, both camps agree the so-called “magic number” needed to win the nomination will change from the current 2,026. If Team Clinton gets its way with a full seating, the figure would increase to 2,210.

Under current rules, Mr. Obama is about 41 delegates shy of the nomination, and about 150 superdelegates are undeclared.

Mr. Obama leads Mrs. Clinton 1,984 delegates to 1,782, according to a tally by the Associated Press.

Mrs. Clinton, who has virtually no chance of winning the nomination without the states, has pushed hard for the delegates to be reinstated. She won both contests, although her rival removed his name from the Michigan ballot.

Both candidates also agreed not to campaign in either state.

Clinton campaign senior adviser Harold Ickes said there is considerable “confusion on the facts” among the 30-member rules committee.

“So that is the purpose of having everyone together in one room so there can be a common understanding of facts and law,” Mr. Ickes said during a conference call to reporters. “But we are hopeful and confident that after having a full-blown discussion that all the delegates will be seated 100 percent.”

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is scheduled to speak on behalf of his state’s challenge, while Michigan Sen. Carl Levin will represent his state. A representative from both presidential campaigns also will address the committee.

The Michigan Democratic Party has proposed a plan that would give Mrs. Clinton a 10-delegate edge -69-59 - for her victory in the state’s race.

Mrs. Clinton, even though she once said the contest would not “count for anything,” has insisted all of Michigan’s 128 pledged delegates be seated according to the state’s Jan. 15 primary results, giving her 73 delegates. Mr. Obama has suggested an even 64-64 split.

The Florida party says the state’s 185 pledged delegates should be counted, and say party rules prohibit the DNC from stripping more than 50 percent of a state’s delegation.

Florida party officials say that it was the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, and not the state Democratic Party, that forced their primary to be moved to January.

“The [Florida] party has not made any specific recommendations to the DNC since we submitted our delegate selection plan, but we have consistently noted that a record-breaking 1.75 million Florida Democrats voted in the state-run Jan. 29 primary, which had all the candidates on the ballot,” said Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen L. Thurman.

Meanwhile, Clinton supporters, who say they hope to pressure the committee to let the result of the Florida and Michigan primaries stand, have organized an all-day rally today outside the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel, where the rules committee is meeting.

Scheduled speakers include Kim Grady, president of the National Organization for Women and Brent Wilkes, national executive director for the League of United Latin American Citizens. Bloggers and feminist-leaning activists have been urging voters from far and wide to make a major demonstration, and some estimate thousands may show this morning.

The Obama campaign has urged its supporters to avoid protests in the spirit of party unity suggesting instead they work to register voters and let Clinton protesters seem as if they are disturbing the peace.

The rules committee features a collection of high-profile national figures and local party members, including Mr. Ickes, a former deputy White House chief of staff for President Clinton and a senior adviser for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.

Thirteen of the members have endorsed Mrs. Clinton while eight have backed Mr. Obama. Nine have not publicly endorsed either candidate.

The rules committee may not be the final arbiter in reaching a compromise, as the states and candidates can file a challenge with the DNC’s Convention Credentials Committee, which typically doesn’t meet until July or August.

The delegate foulup also could be addressed directly at the convention, although party officials and both campaigns say such as scenario is highly unlikely.

Steve Grossman, the former DNC chairman who supports Mrs. Clinton, said the rules panel needs to come up with a balanced solution to the delegate controversy that recognizes the support each of the candidates received in the two state primaries.

“Because Obama is so far ahead in delegates, [he] can afford to be collegial and send a message to Hillary that [his campaign] recognize she did well in those states and by giving her campaign perhaps more delegates to send a strong statement that we need to come together,” he said.

Mr. Grossman said the committee should work toward a solution that penalizes each state but “not excessively and by not being unfair to the voters who gave Hillary a clear advantage in Florida and probably Michigan.”

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