A cornerstone of Senator Hillary Clinton's strategy to become the Democratic presidential nominee--and a recently renewed argument on the campaign trail--is the eventual seating of the Florida and Michigan delegations. But could the official decision on whether to seat those delegates already have been made? And during the Democratic Convention, when lodging will be at an absolute premium, does the apparent lack of hotel space for the Florida and Michigan delegations portend their eventual absence in Denver?
As punishment for moving up their primaries in breach of party rules, the Democratic National Committee stripped both Florida and Michigan of their delegates, leaving those states' Democratic voters in a sort of convention limbo. Senator Clinton won both states, although it should be said that besting "Uncommitted" in Michigan by only 15 percent is not a particularly impressive feat. Her now-familiar, but somewhat rule-bending, argument is that effectively disenfranchising Florida and Michigan would jeopardize the chances of the Democratic nominee to carry either state in November. However, regardless of the merits of Clinton's argument, party officials are sending mixed signals as to whether Florida and Michigan will indeed be invited to Denver this August.
One of the better forecasters of whether the DNC intends to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations is whether hotel rooms have been set aside for the offending states. Last November, the DNC announced hotel assignments for the convention, and while Florida was absent from the list, the Michigan delegation had been booked into the Red Lion Denver Central Hotel, as the Michigan delegates had not been officially stripped at that point. Then, last month, the DNC told the Michigan state Democratic Chairman that the Red Lion reservations had been canceled.
Huff Post OffTheBus's Ron Levitt contacted DNC headquarters and the DNC Convention Denver office to investigate hotel availability for Floridians and Michigonians. When pressed for an answer, the Democratic National Convention Committee press secretary, Natalie Wyeth, said that the DNCC's "focus is on designing a first-rate housing, transportation, seating and credentialing system to accommodate the delegates as they currently stand, in accordance with DNC rules."
Mr. Levitt, also President of the South Florida Press Club, spoke with Broward County party chief Mitch Caesar and Florida State Committeewoman Diane Glasser--both super delegates and DNC members--who had the same answer to whether the Florida delegates would have hotel reservations: "Eventually. The state party will have hotel space designated." Given that Mr. Caesar and Ms. Glasser are Floridians, and have a particularly vested interest in issue's resolution, it's unclear whether their prognostication is based on true insider information or mere optimism. Also unclear is whether the Florida delegation would attend regardless of whether the delegates are to be counted.
Mr. Levitt concluded that "It is incongruous to believe the DNC has not already designated a hotel for the 210 Florida delegates. There is no magic wand available to immediately produce so many hotel rooms once the DNC reverses its decision to deny recognition to Florida's delegation. You can bet that a hotel has already been selected but the DNC is trying to be mysterious to punish Florida." Indeed, the Florida Democratic Party's website states that "The hotel hosting the Florida delegation is still being worked out."
So, it remains unclear whether Florida's accommodations are still being worked out or whether they already have been worked out. What is clear, however, is that the likelihood that the Florida and Michigan delegations will be shut out altogether is slim. It should be noted that none of these hints at seating the delegates appears to be a result of Clintonian influence. Rather, party officials are likely hoping that the nomination resolves itself soon, without the need to wage the war over the banned Florida and Michigan delegations. If that does happen, and we come to find that blocks of hotel rooms have magically freed up, there will be new questions about whether the DNC ever truly intended to make good on its promise to strip the scofflaw states' delegates or whether the threat was always an empty one.
Ed. Note: This article, as originally published, incorrectly quoted Ms. Wyeth as saying delegate hotel registration could be completed online.
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