Compromise in Florida's delegate dispute may be ahead

In a sign that the impasse over giving Florida a voice in the Democratic nomination finally may be breaking, both Democratic presidential campaigns are starting to broach compromise plans publicly.

Democratic National Committee member Allan Katz of Tallahassee said the Barack Obama campaign authorized him to suggest to the Florida Democratic Party on Friday that it propose a compromise plan that would let Hillary Rodham Clinton net about 10 delegates out of Florida. He got nowhere with the state party, but on Sunday the Clinton campaign for the first time signaled publicly that it might accept something other than Florida's getting all of its delegates seated at the convention.

"The party took away 100 percent of the delegates. The rule is 50 percent,'' Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe told Tim Russert on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday. "Had they only taken away 50 percent like the Republican Party did, Tim, you and I would not be having this conversation today."

Clinton's path to the nomination looks more and more improbable, but she has vowed to stay in the race at least until the party resolves the mess it faces with Florida's and Michigan's delegations. The DNC stripped the states' 366 delegates for holding primaries earlier than allowed by the national party.

Florida's delegation situation could be resolved May 31 when a DNC rules committee considers appeals by DNC member Jon Ausman of Tallahassee, who contends that the panel overstepped its authority last August when it stripped away all of Florida's delegates.

Ausman said in an e-mail to Democrats on Sunday that after talking to key Democrats in the Washington area this weekend, he is convinced the DNC rules panel will restore some of Florida's 211 delegates May 31.

It could be in Obama's interest to have a compromise plan in the works sooner, however, because his campaign is planning a multi­day campaign swing through Florida just after the May 20 Oregon primary. Without a deal on Florida's delegates, Obama could find himself in America's biggest battleground state explaining why Democrats in Guam have more say in the presidential nomination than the 1.75-million Floridians who voted in the Democratic primary.

Local supporters have been talking for weeks about an Obama rally in Tampa, but the campaign said Sunday that nothing has been confirmed.

The closer Obama comes to the nomination, the better the prospects are for resolving Florida and Michigan's situation because they are unlikely to provide enough delegates to make a difference.

Had Florida's Jan. 29 primary counted fully, Clinton would have a net gain of 38 delegates. Cutting Florida's pledged delegates in half would reduce her Florida take to either 19 or six, depending on the DNC formula used.

Michigan is a trickier problem because Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot, but a group of party leaders has proposed that 59 delegates go to Obama and 69 go to Clinton.

Katz, who suspects Florida party leaders are biased toward Clinton, said Florida Democratic executive director Leonard Joseph on Friday brushed off his suggestion that the Florida Democratic Party propose a similar plan. Joseph, who did not respond to a request for comment, also dismissed Katz's request that the state party at least postpone until June a scheduled Saturday election of 40 more delegates to the convention.

"They're behaving like idiots. It's like they continue to operate in a parallel universe,'' Katz said of Florida party leaders who seem to expect that all 211 delegates will be restored.

A Democratic Party spokesman stressed that the party has worked hard to be even-handed throughout the process.

"The state party has been working with the DNC to build the foundation for the Democratic nominee's general election campaign in Florida so that what happened in 2004 doesn't happen again," said Florida Democratic Party spokesman Mark Bubriski. "The party has never taken anyone's side in this race — except the side of the people of Florida."

Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8241.

Compromise in Florida's delegate dispute may be ahead 05/11/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 13, 2008 3:22pm]

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