Looming Delegate Fight Over Florida And Michigan Races

The split decision from Super Tuesday's coast-to-coast balloting has thrust the fight over the disputed delegations from Michigan and Florida back into the spotlight, now that neither Democrat can claim an outright delegate victory.

Political pundits Wednesday forecast that the Hillary Clinton campaign would now make a renewed push to seat the delegates from The Wolverine and Sunshine States, given the neck-and-neck delegate count on the Democratic side.

"It's easy to imagine that they could be the difference between Obama and Clinton even after the super delegates have made their decision," said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia told The Huffington Post.

According to projections from NBC news, Barack Obama was expected to rack up between 840 and 849 delegates following Super Tuesday balloting, versus 829 to 838 for Clinton.

Delegates to the Democratic National Convention are awarded proportionally based on votes received in each congressional district. There are also a number of so-called "super delegates," Democratic Party elected officials and insiders, who are awarded a convention vote based on their position in the party.

The Democratic Party had earlier sanctioned Michigan and Florida for leapfrogging ahead of other early voting states in the primary calendar by stripping them of their convention delegates, and each of the major candidates pledged not to campaign in those states.

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean was quoted by the St. Petersburg Times in June 2007 saying: "Their primary essentially won't count...Anybody who campaigns in Florida is ineligible for delegates."

Barack Obama and John Edwards withdrew their names from the ballot in Michigan, leaving only Clinton and several minor candidates in the race. Clinton won the Jan. 17 primary with 55 percent over "uncommitted" which received 40 percent of the vote.

Clinton also won the Jan. 30 Florida Primary, with 50 percent of the vote to Obama's 33 percent.

The Obama camp derided the win as meaningless in an email sent to reporters on primary night, reminding the press that both candidates received zero delegates in the Florida primary.

But Obama supporters also cried foul over Clinton's pre-election activities in the state, saying that two events she attended in the Sunshine State broke her pledge to respect the Democratic Party's sanctions and avoid campaigning in Florida.

The Clinton campaign argued that the events were closed to the public, and therefore in line with the no-campaigning pledge.

On primary night, Clinton also flew to Florida for a victory celebration alongside Reps. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Alcee Hastings.

The Associated Press reported on Jan. 27 that Clinton had already vowed to try to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates:

"I will try to persuade my delegates to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida," Clinton said at a campaign stop in Tennessee before flying to Sarasota.

Congressional Quarterly's Craig Crawford, writing on his "Trail Mix" blog, forecast what was in store for the convention if the candidates became embroiled in a credential fight:

First, the rival campaigns must compete behind the scenes for the support of credentials committee members - a contest that could prove to be the most important "primary" of all.

Outside the backrooms, the Clinton campaign will surely mount a vigorous public relations drive aimed at turning the debate into a question of "voting rights" and "civil rights," hoping to put Obama in the position of seeming to oppose such civil liberties. And the Clinton team will argue that Democrats simply cannot afford to deny entry to two of the nation's biggest swing states in the general election.

Already, pundits and party activists are raising the possibility that the Democratic Party might have to consider is a "re-do" in Michigan and Florida.

Marc Ambinder wrote Wednesday that:

Here is what might happen instead.

The DNC will sanction new contests, probably caucuses.

The Clinton will protest vociferously. Caucus? CAUCUS?

There will be a big debate.

Sabato told The Huffington Post that there had been "lots of credentials fight" over the years in the Democratic Party, but nothing quite like the "mess" looming in the current fight.

He also said credentials fight doesn't bode well for the party heading into the general election.

"When you get factions within the party believing that they have been treated unfairly, you have created the super-structure of defeat," Sabato said. "Some half of the party is going to feel cheated. That is exactly what you don't want your party activists to feel headed into a contested general election."