Thursday, May 29, 2008

This week's big event: DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting

Although there isn't a primary or caucus taking place, a huge number of delegates - 366 - will be potentially up for grabs on Saturday. That's more delegates than Pennsylvania and Ohio combined, and many more than the 63 at stake in Puerto Rico's primary on Sunday. The group deciding the fate of these delegates is the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which will meet on Saturday in Washington, DC. I described the responsibilities of the RBC in an earlier post on Michigan and Florida, and when I blogged from the RBC meeting in August 2007, when the committee voted to sanction the Florida delegation.

I'll be at the meeting Saturday as a volunteer for the DNC (I worked as staff to the Rules and Bylaws Committee during the 2004 election). The meeting will likely be covered by C-Span and some of the cable news networks including CNN and MSNBC, so even though space in the meeting room is limited, anyone can watch the proceedings. I will also post updates as often as I can, but be forewarned that this meeting could last all day Saturday (and could possibly go into Sunday... rumor has it that RBC members were asked to stay in DC Saturday night just in case).

According to the Committee's schedule, they will hear oral arguments from the interested parties in the morning (that probably means separate presentations from the Florida and Michigan state parties, and representatives of the Clinton and Obama campaigns). Then after lunch, the committee will discuss and debate the options. The Democratic Convention Watch website has a good analysis of the possible scenarios for allocating the delegates, which ranges from seating all of the delegates according to the election results in the states (this is what the Clinton campaign is asking for), to sticking with the current sanctions that strip both states of all their delegates. According to their analysis, the only scenario that strengthens Clinton's position is seating all of the Michigan and Florida delegates. All of the other scenarios, which involve some decrease in the state delegation size or voting strength, will allow Obama to claim a majority of pledged delegates. That doesn't mean the contest is over, since there may still be enough unpledged delegates for Clinton to make up the difference, but Obama's ability to claim a majority of pledged delegates will be a very strong argument.

The Clinton-Obama breakdown on the 30-member committee is 13 Clinton, 8 Obama, and 9 uncommitted. There is also one committee member from Michigan (Mark Brewer, the State Party Chair, uncommitted) and one from Florida (Alan Katz, Obama supporter), who may not be able to vote on the fate of their own state delegations, but even they could vote we should expect they will support fully restoring the delegates (consistent with the Clinton position, even though Katz publicly supports Obama). So the number in favor of the Clinton position could be as high as 15 votes, and Obama's support as low as 7.

But even though Clinton has an advantage, I wouldn't expect to see members' votes guided only by their candidate preference. In addition to their publicly-expressed candidate loyalties, these committee members - many of whom helped write the delegate selection rules and are guided by decades of experience in presidential nominations - will be guided by their commitment to the party's chances of winning in November, and also with an eye towards the 2012 nomination process.

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