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Friday, March 07, 2008

Fixing Florida and Michigan

(Editor's note: A couple of emails and comments from readers convey the feeling of anticipation towards the revelation of my problems with some recent tactics from the Obama campaign, so I need more time to make it a legitimate post. I'll post that on Monday. This allows me to address some interesting developments from yesterday regarding the Democratic Primary.)

So Florida and Michigan want their votes counted. What a shock. They are upset that their influence has been stripped, but they seem confused as to whom they should focus their ire. It is not Howard Dean and the Democratic National Committee's fault. Florida and Michigan have only one place to point their finger, and that is at their own state parties.

Both parties of both states were forbidden to push their primary in front of February 5th. If they proceeded, sanctions would be imposed. The motivations behind the national committees imposing such strict laws were clear and simple. If any state was allowed to push up their primary in order to gain more influence in the primary process, then eventually all states would leapfrog each other until the primary season began months earlier than usual. Order and civility were necessary and penalizing rule-breakers was the only way to maintain them.

So, Florida and Michigan were warned, but their state parties insisted on pushing up their primaries to January. The Republican National Committee penalized the two states half of their delegates to the Republican Convention. The DNC stripped all of the Florida and Michigan delegates from the Democratic Convention.

The Republican candidates continued to campaign in the states, as even half of Michigan and Florida's delegates were still greater than smaller states at full value. The Democratic candidates, however, were instructed not to campaign in the penalized states. Some even went as far as to take their names off the ballot in Michigan (though Hillary Clinton did not do so). Mike Gravel was the only candidate to campaign in Florida, while Dennis Kucinich was the only one to campaign on Michigan.

Thus Michigan and Florida were ignored by Democrats, a long-term implication addressed in yesterday's post. As promised, their delegates were stripped. And now the governors of the two states, Republican Charlie Crist of Florida and Democrat Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, are predictably demanding that their delegates be seated. It is important to note that they did not fight the move into January. In fact, they championed the idea. The two governors are partly responsible for their states' predicaments.

Yet, once the promised consequences were delivered, they complained about the consequences. Simply, they called a bluff and lost and then complained about it.

But did they lose? Now, it seems, it behooves the Democratic National Committee to somehow count votes from the two states, so as to not alienate the Michigan and Florida voters. Since counting the unsanctioned January primaries is out of the question, despite Hillary Clinton's pleas, there is a chance that the states will revote either in primary or caucus form. If they do this, they would have more influence on the election than they possibly could have dreamed of when they moved up. Ironically, in this election, it is now the later primaries that are holding the most influence of all, and Florida and Michigan are going to get the best of both worlds.

All for breaking the rules.

So how is this situation fixed, when fixing it must balance fairness with what is best for the Demcoratic Party? What are some possible avenues of rectification? Here are six scenarios, ranging from no chance to probable:

No chance - Counting the elections from January. The party cannot - cannot - award delegates to Clinton in Michigan when the other candidates withdrew their names from the ballot after the DNC's decision. And since Florida will presumably have the same fate as Michigan, they cannot count Florida's January vote either. To award either or both states their delegates based on the unsanctioned January votes would also set a horrible precedent for future primary seasons, when other states will want to move up without fearing punishment (I'm a high school teacher, I know these things).

Doubtful - Ignoring the two states all together. As explained yesterday and earlier in this post, to completely ignore such important states would severely injure the party's chances in the general election, to say nothing of the handful of close congressional races in the two states. Politically speaking, Michigan and Florida must have their say, even if they do not deserve it.

Unlikely - A shotgun caucus. Obama's nearly undefeated record in caucuses (12-1) would make it unlikely that the Clinton campaign and American people would allow a few thousand caucus voters to decide the nominee.

Questionable - Proportional allocation based on national delegates. Under this scenario, if Obama wins 54% of the national pledged delegates, he would get 54% of the pledged delegates from Florida and Michigan. If Hillary Clinton wins 51% of national delegates, she would be awarded 51% of the pledged delegates from the two states. This would be to ensure neither candidate is cutting into the overall percentage point lead of their rival, which would make superdelegates more powerful. Interestingly, in this scenario, John Edwards might get one delegate from each state, as he has won about 1% of the delegates.

Plausible - Split the Michigan and Florida delegates evenly. In the above scenario and in this one, the goal is to make sure that Florida and Michigan cannot swing the decision made by the 48 states and other territories that followed the rules. With these scenarios, the two states get to seat their delegates, and the ill-effects from this fiasco are nearly minimized. Nearly. There is only one true way to truly please Floridians and Michiganites...

Probable - A re-do primary. A caucus is unlikely because the result of the votes of millions of Democrats should not come down to tens of thousands who can show up during an impromptu two hour block. A caucus would alienate the elderly (Florida) and those who are forced to work a second job due to an ailing economy (Michigan). (Incidentally, both are core Clinton constituencies, which partly explains Obama's stellar caucus record.) Moreover, thanks to looming Social Security concerns, as well as Michigan getting killed by free trade, those are two voting blocs that really need a say in their Democratic candidate. Thus, if there's a re-vote, an entire day must be availed.

Now, in order to pull off a primary, massive funding will be needed, but neither the DNC nor the state committees want to pay it. In this disagreement, the DNC is completely justified. They were not the ones to break the rules, and they need to focus their funds on the general election. If the states want to fix their own mistake, they will have to pay for it.

Ultimately, they will probably hold a re-vote in each state, perhaps splitting the costs down the middle. Until then, you will not see Clinton or Obama come out against a re-vote, because when it comes time for that re-vote, the voters may remember such opposition. If anything, you will see both Clinton and Obama push for a re-vote in order to gain an upper hand should it ever happen. Therefore, with the states and candidates pushing for a re-vote, one will probably happen.

I'll be back tomorrow to take a quick look at Wyoming and Mississippi. See you then.


Kindel said...

Could they redo the primary and only award them half their deligates?

Sammie said...

Great breakdown, nicely done. But no way they revote if both sides refuse to pay.

IC said...

Kindel, that's an excellent idea that incorporates a presence from the states at the convention with a stiff penalty. I'll be sure to write on that before too long.

Sammie, you're right, if no one pays, then it won't happen. I think they'll crack under the pressure, though.

Karl said...

If Obama was the one who needed the states, they would revote.

Anonymous said...

Best resolution: the Dream Team thing. Oba can take the back seat spot so he can gain experience, setting him up for 2016. And that should solve all problems between now and 2024, by which time the oil will be running out, a good problem for the Republicans to solve.

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