Get ready for a nuclear winter. It’s coming, May 31, 2008. “It’ll be a disaster.” declared former senator Tom Daschle.
Over the weekend Thomas Edsall at Huffington Post had a piece that the Clinton Camp was considering using a secret weapon – the nuclear option – on the Michigan and Florida “seat the delegates” fight. The Party Rules and Bylaws Committee meets at the end of this month.
Before the May 5 Update
Hillary Clinton’s campaign has a secret weapon to build its delegate count, but her top strategists say privately that any attempt to deploy it would require a sharp (and by no means inevitable) shift in the political climate within Democratic circles by the end of this month.
With at least 50 percent of the Democratic Party’s 30-member Rules and Bylaws Committee committed to Clinton, her backers could — when the committee meets at the end of this month — try to ram through a decision to seat the disputed 210-member Florida and 156-member Michigan delegations. Such a decision would give Clinton an estimated 55 or more delegates than Obama, according to Clinton campaign operatives. The Obama campaign has declined to give an estimate.
Using the Rules and Bylaws Committee to force the seating of two pro-Hillary delegations would provoke a massive outcry from Obama forces. Such a strategy would, additionally, face at least two other major hurdles, and could only be attempted, according to sources in the Clinton camp, under specific circumstances.
The Edsall piece has been updated
UPDATE | May 5, 11am ET : Hillary Clinton’s campaign today acknowledged plans to try to win seating of the disputed Michigan and Florida delegations to the Democratic Nation Convention at a meeting of the party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee on May 31.
In a statement issued in response to a story on The Huffington Post (“Clinton Camp Considering Nuclear Option,” see below), the campaign declared:
“There is no secret plan…. The Clinton campaign has been vocal in stating that the votes of 2.5 million people must be respected. Hardly a day goes by when a Clinton official doesn’t publicly declare that the votes of Michigan and Florida count and that the delegations from those states should be seated.”
The campaign’s public assertions stand in contrast to its response to inquiries prior to publication of the story. At that point, Clinton aides insisted on keeping all comments either off the record or on deep background, or did not respond to questions at all. The campaign statement appeared to be designed to try to reduce the significance of the story.
In a more typical reaction to the story, political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia said:
“Wow. The nuclear option will yield nuclear winter for the Democratic Party.”
From the Edsall original piece
The controversy over Michigan and Florida grows out of the decision of both states to flout national party rules prohibiting all but a few states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — from holding primaries or caucuses before February 5, 2008. Michigan held its primary on January 15 and Florida on January 29.
On December 1, 2007, well before the contests were held, the Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to refuse to seat either state’s delegation at the August 2008 convention in Denver.
When the contests were actually held, none of the candidates actively campaigned in either state. In Michigan, Obama had his name taken off the ballot. Clinton “won” both contests.
The Obama campaign contends that the primaries in the two states were not legitimate, especially in Michigan where voters could not cast a ballot for Obama. Clinton “won” the Michigan contest with 55 percent, while 40 percent voted “uncommitted” and the remainder went to minor candidates.
Obama manager David Plouffe has argued that the only way to seat the Michigan delegation would be to divide the delegates evenly between Clinton and Obama: “A 50-50 split would be fair.”
Many Democrats, including DNC chair Howard Dean, believe it is critically important to reach some kind of compromise to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations in order not to alienate voters in the two battleground states, each of which could be pivotal in the November general election.
In the case of Florida, there are a number of proposals under consideration. One would be to seat the delegation as is, but give each delegate only one half a vote. Another would be to cut the number of Florida delegates in half.
Spokesmen for the Obama campaign declined to discuss their strategies for dealing with the May 31 Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting, or to speculate on what they think the Clinton forces with try to do.
The Clintons can’t be trusted. Ever. Keep it murky. Uncertainty is her friend.
[UPDATE: Super-delegates are ticked off]
MSNBC Quotes Tom Daschle, an Obama supporter
Daschle Calls Nuclear Option ‘disaster’
Tom Daschle, an Obama supporter, said today that undecided superdelegates would be more than “ticked” if the Clinton campaign tries to force the so-called “nuclear option” and encourages the Rules and Bylaws committee, which meets May 31st, to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates.
The former South Dakota senator said he was amazed at the number of undecided superdelegates that have called him in the last 24 hours saying that it would be an “absolute disaster.”
Asked if the superdelegates would be “ticked” if the nuclear option were implemented he replied, “If we overturn what has happened in all these elections all over the country and do something like that, ticked is mild compared to the feeling I am getting from reports all over the country today.”