Obama's campaign talks of splitting Michigan delegates

March 20, 2008 10:03:15 AM PDT
Barack Obama's campaign said Thursday splitting Michigan's delegates with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton would be a fair way of resolving the dispute over how to handle the state at the Democratic National Convention. Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, an Obama supporter and former presidential candidate, promoted the idea in a statement, saying, "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."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Dodd spoke to campaign leaders. Burton said they agreed it would be an equitable way of handling Michigan, where Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot in a renegade Jan. 15 primary.

The Clinton campaign immediately rejected the idea of splitting the delegates. "Michigan is populated by people, not numbers, and those people need to have their voices heard in this process," said Clinton spokesman Phil Singer.

Clinton won Michigan's primary, but it didn't count toward the presidential nomination because the state violated Democratic National Committee rules by holding the contest before Feb. 5. The DNC punished Michigan, stripping it of all its delegates to the convention in Denver where the nominee will be chosen.

Now, with the campaign between Obama and Clinton so close, the fate of 156 delegates from Michigan and another 210 from Florida could help determine who wins the nomination. Florida was also stripped of its delegates for holding a primary in January, which Clinton also won.

Obama and several other Democratic candidates removed their name from the Michigan ballot as part of their pledge not to participate in the primary because of the rules violation. They were unable to remove their names in Florida.

Clinton has said her preference is to seat the delegates from both states based on the January results. Clinton has said a second option would be to hold another vote in the two states, but efforts to do so have proved troublesome.

Florida has given up on a plan for a mail-in vote that faced unanimous opposition from the state's Democratic congressional delegation. In Michigan, a bill to schedule a June 3 do-over primary funded by private donors was looking increasingly unlikely, despite Clinton personally visiting the state Wednesday to lobby for it.

Thursday was the last day for Michigan lawmakers to take up the bill before House members leave on a two-week vacation, and it appeared doubtful that it would come up.

Singer said Obama should embrace the legislation. "That's the fairest resolution," he said. "By refusing to come out for it, Senator Obama is telling the people of Michigan that their votes shouldn't count and the implications of doing that on his general election prospects if he is the nominee are obvious."

Obama chief strategist David Axelrod raised the Dodd proposal in a conference call with reporters as a possible way for Michigan delegates to be seated, but said the campaign has concerns about the current plan. That includes the fact that it would bar anyone who voted in the Republican primary in January from participating - and that would include those who only voted in the GOP race because the Democratic contest didn't count.

"We are for a resolution that would give Florida and Michigan representation at the convention that was fair and reasonable," Axelrod said. "There are a lot of legitimate concerns that have been raised about the implementation of the (do-over) primary."

Dodd kept his name on the Michigan ballot along with Clinton. At the time, his campaign spokesman said pulling names would be a slight to Michigan voters that could hurt the eventual nominee.

Dodd said in his statement Monday that even though he left his name on the ballot, it's clear that the results of the Jan. 15 primary should not be used to apportion delegates.

The Democratic National Committee declined to comment on Dodd's proposal.

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Associated Press Writer Kathy Barks Hoffman in Lansing, Mich., contributed to this report.

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