The major dispute over the Florida and Michigan delegations to the Democratic convention in Denver has now boiled down to Hillary Clinton's demand for full seating with no sanctions, and an alternative proposal, likely to be backed by Obama, to seat the delegations with either half a vote granted to each delegate, or to cut each delegation in half.
The Clinton proposal -- which now faces tough, if not insurmountable, odds at the Saturday, May 31 meeting of the Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) - would give the New York Senator 55 more delegates than would go to Obama.
The alternative of either halved votes or halved delegations would net Clinton only 20 or so delegates, depending on the details. Obama could afford to concede a 20-plus delegate gain to Clinton without endangering his overall delegate advantage.
Harold Ickes, Clinton's chief delegate hunter, warned that there may be some defections among the 13 RBC members who have endorsed Hillary. If Ickes and his allies cannot hold all their troops in line, a motion before the RBC to seat all 210 Florida and 156 Michigan delegates with a full vote each would face certain defeat.
If defeated at the RBC on Saturday, the Clinton forces are expected to file an appeal to the Democratic convention credentials committee and possibly, failing that, to the full convention.
One of the publicly unstated reasons that Clinton is remaining in the race is to be positioned to step in immediately in the increasingly unlikely event that damaging new material emerges about Obama. In such an event, retaining the right to force pre-nomination fights over credentials becomes crucial to a delaying strategy to allow any conceivable controversy to gain momentum.
Clinton won the January primaries in Florida and Michigan, but the national party has stripped the two states of all delegates in punishment for holding primaries before February 5 in violation of party rules.
On the RBC, there are a total of 28 voting members, along with two co-chairs who can vote only in the event of a tie. To win, then, Clinton needs at least 15 votes, or, if both co-chairs cast ballots, 16 votes.
Those numbers appear increasingly hard to reach, especially after Democratic National Committee lawyers issued a ruling earlier this week that the RBC does not have the power to fully reinstate the two disputed delegations. The Clinton forces contend that the DNC ruling is wrong.
Ickes argued that all is not lost as the RBC session fast approaches. One of the recognized experts in party rules, Ickes said a number of the RBC members have been misinformed about the rules governing the powers of the committee, and he intends to correct the situation before the votes are taken starting on Saturday afternoon.