POLITICS
03/28/2008 02:46 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Florida And Michigan Remain In Spotlight

Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean may only be getting a taste of what could be a grueling march to the Pennsylvania primary and beyond, in which the daily mission will be withstanding question after question on how to solve a problem like Florida and Michigan. Revote supporters have advanced just about every solution possible -- firehouse primaries, cost-effective caucuses, mail-in revotes -- but nothing has firmly moved the DNC from their position: that rules are rules and they need to be abided (at least until such time as another committee takes over the management of said rules). Neither campaign seems willing to budge on their core positions: the Clinton campaign, who might benefit from a small gain in pledged delegates, wants to revotes to go ahead, whereas the Obama camp is content with their "pocket veto" approach to the matter.

But the drum beats on. In today's Washington Post, Governors Ed Rendell and John Corzine jointly take up for the re-vote cause, saying, "We believe there should be a revote in Florida and Michigan":

Even if there were no other choice, having our nominee decided by superdelegates in the backrooms of Washington -- or Denver, at the convention in August -- would be less than ideal. But allowing superdelegates to determine the outcome of our nominating process while 366 pledged delegates, elected by more than 2 million democrats in Michigan and Florida, remain unseated is especially undemocratic and risks squandering the feelings of hope and optimism about a Democratic presidency that these two candidates themselves have done so much to engender across the country.

Fortunately, we do have another, more democratic choice: We can choose to enfranchise Democrats in Florida and Michigan, thereby increasing the likelihood that voters, not politicians or party elders, will determine who faces Sen. John McCain in the fall.

We're not suggesting, as our colleagues Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Charlie Crist of Florida would prefer, that the results of the previous nominating contests in those states be honored. Just as there is nothing fair in disenfranchising voters for decisions they did not make, there is nothing fair or democratic about seating delegates elected in states that were not honestly contested or where all of the candidates were not even on the ballot.

We are suggesting that Democrats in Florida and Michigan be allowed -- now that the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary have long since passed and now that it seems virtually impossible for either of our candidates to reach 2,025 delegates -- to cast meaningful votes for delegates who will help choose a nominee whose support from the voters of our party cannot be disputed.

Naturally, Corzine and Rendell's protestations deserve to be taken with a grain of salt. Both are committed supporters of Hillary Clinton, and long before they start talking up what's good for the party and the nation, they aim at least one dig squarely at Clinton's opponent: "When Barack Obama's campaign says that Hillary Clinton can't escape the harsh realities of delegate math, it's telling the truth. The problem with that argument is that neither can he." This ignores that one of the "harsh realities" -- indeed, perhaps the harshest -- is that the Democratic system of delegate apportionment will likely prevent the gap in delegates between the two candidates from closing substantially, especially in a re-vote scenario.

Besides, those persnickety "rules" remain. The state party was told in advance that there would be a price to pay for moving their primaries, and many believe that it's equally important for the DNC to hold firm on this point. In a competing editorial item in the Post, "Stumped" columnist Andres Martinez takes up that point of view, comparing the actions of "politicos from Florida and Michigan" to the bratty behavior of his own son, and ridiculing the notion of disenfranchisement as "ludicrous." And ultimately, he doesn't see the hurt feelings of Florida and Michigan politicos as relevant to the general election:

Besides -- especially this year -- it's not as if the Democrats need to worry about enthusiasm. The notion that Florida or Michigan Democrats are going to turn against their party in November if their delegations aren't seated in Denver strikes me as a myopic insider view. After eight years of George Bush, Democrats in Detroit and Ft. Lauderdale will be more than motivated enough to turn out in November, regardless of whether their state delegates were allowed to vote at the party's convention in Denver.

He has an interesting point. If the states' delegations don't end up getting seated, how far are party officials willing to push the matter in the fall? Will they campaign for McCain? Work to depress voter turnout? Remind their constituents of the great wrong that was done to them by the DNC? Dean might be making the right move, here, in refusing to be bluffed into action.

Nevertheless, what's clear is that the issue is not going away anytime soon. It's a little amazing that the Eliot Spitzer fiasco couldn't move the Florida/Michigan mess out of the news cycle for more than a few hours. Another couple of months of media attention might be enough to cow anybody into submission.