- March 20, 2008
Michigan delegate split debated
The drive for a second Michigan presidential primary drifted toward collapse on Thursday, and a fresh dispute broke out between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton over the fate of the state”s 128 national convention delegates.
Obama”s campaign said a fair resolution would be to split them evenly with Clinton. Aides to the former first lady instantly rejected the idea and said they would consider a mail-in primary — even though Obama has raised concerns about the security of a vote by mail organized so quickly.
Obama leads the overall competition for convention delegates, and Clinton has been leading the effort to hold a revote in Michigan, eager for a chance to close the gap on her rival.
The state held a primary in January, so early in the year that it violated party rules. As a result, it was stripped of its delegates. Obama and several other Democratic candidates removed their name from the Michigan ballot and all Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign there.
Michigan Democratic leaders had proposed a do-over primary, to be conducted by the state on June 3 with funding by private donors. But lawmakers showed a lack of enthusiasm for a bill authorizing the vote, and state Senate adjourned Thursday without taking it up.
“Regardless of candidate preference, members had concerns over the estimated 100,000 Michigan Democrats who would have been unable to participate in a do-over election, as well as logistical and legal difficulties faced by local clerks,” Michigan Democratic House Speaker Andy Dillon and House floor leader Rep. Steve Tobocman said in a joint statement before adjourning for two weeks. They said they would help try to find a solution that would ensure delegates would be seated.
Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, an Obama supporter and former presidential candidate, promoted the idea of evenly splitting the delegates between Obama and Clinton. “The best outcome is to come to an arrangement where the delegates are apportioned fairly between Senators Obama and Clinton, so the Michigan delegation can participate fully in the Denver convention,” he said in a statement.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Dodd spoke to campaign leaders about the idea, and they agreed it would be an equitable way of handling Michigan. “Senator Obama looks forward to building a winning campaign in Michigan in the fall as our Democratic nominee,” Burton said.
But Clinton told reporters while campaigning in Terre Haute, Ind., that Obama”s nomination could be tainted if he achieves it without a second Michigan contest.
“I do not see how two of our largest and most significant states can be disenfranchised and left out of the process of picking our nominee without raising serious questions about the legitimacy of that nominee,” Clinton told reporters, referring to Michigan and Florida.
Florida also had its 210 delegates stripped for voting in January. A proposal for a mail-in vote in the state collapsed earlier this month without support from the party”s congressional delegation.
Harold Ickes, who is leading the Clinton campaign”s efforts to secure delegates, said the campaign would look at a mail-in option in Michigan with the failure of the primary bill.
“Assuming there is not a legislatively required rerun primary, we would seriously entertain the possibility of a party run, mail-in ballot,” he said.
Ickes said there had been no communication between the Obama and Clinton campaigns about how to settle the matter, saying only the Democratic National Committee, not the two campaigns, had the power to resolve the dispute.
Obama made a campaign stop at a sports bar in Charleston, W.Va., Thursday and met Jeff Lynch, 48, of Mount Pleasant, Mich.
“When am I going to get to vote for you in Michigan?” Lynch asked.
“Probably in the general election,” Obama replied. “A redo vote is very complicated.”
Associated Press Writer Kathy Barks Hoffman in Lansing, Mich., Charles Babington in Terre Haute, Ind., Beth Fouhy in New York, and Matt Apuzzo in Charleston, W.Va., contributed to this report.