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Half-Vote Florida Solution: A Mixed Semi-Ending

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Florida finally got its long overdue recognition, but the Democratic National Committee's decision to give its delegates one-half a vote got mixed reviews. The decision left many local party activists less than happy and supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton combative.

There is growing sentiment that only a Clinton vice-presidential nod could energize Sunshine State voters for November. Florida's senior senator Bill Nelson made a point of calling for both Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama to be on the ticket in November as he made the Sunday TV talk show rounds.

Meanwhile, typical remarks included the terms "stupid," "downright insulting," and other equally distasteful expletives, as Floridians watched in dismay as the DNC -- in a nationally televised meeting of its Rules Committee -- slashed Florida's voting power in half because it broke party rules by holding a primary on Jan. 29, seven days ahead of Super Tuesday.

Party stalwarts such as State Chair Karen Thurman and DNC member Jon Ausman of Tallahassee put out statements with a positive spin. Thurman -- in an email sent statewide -- had this to say: "This 'brings closure to a dispute that that has gone on much too long. Florida is a national battleground and the Democratic nominee -- no matter who it is -- is going to have a strong opportunity to win."

Not everyone was so benevolent, claiming it was unfair to penalize Floridians because the state's Republican-controlled legislature and governor decided to move up the primary, which culminated in the DNC punishment and the Rules Committee verdict.

However, Broward County-based Dolphin Democrats President Justin Flippen said that although the "inequality" of the DNC's action bothered him, "it was a step in the right direction. It could energize us and have a positive effect on the general election, now that we have a seat at the table."

Several others, however, said that only a ticket with both Obama and Clinton now could salvage Florida in November.

"It is interesting to hear the spin from Chairman Thurman and others, but the bottom line is that Howard Dean and the Rules Committee have done a disservice to Florida by halving its vote," said one State Committeeman, who joined thousands in watching the nationally televised hearing. "Sure, they'll probably give us the full vote by the Denver convention, but by then, a nominee will already be chosen and Florida's impact will be meaningless."

"It was all just theater," another Democratic activist said, in describing the Rules Committee hearing on Michigan and Florida. "It was all scripted in advance."

Several Floridians said they accepted the punishment for Florida but were upset at the way the Committee handled Michigan. The Committee awarded to Senator Obama not only the Michigan delegates won by "Uncommitted," but four of the delegates won by Senator Clinton. It is expected that such an allocation will be appealed to the Credentials Committee at the convention. Key West State Dem Committeeman George Maurere said he had "no quarrel" with the punishment given Florida but was upset how the DNC handled Michigan, calling it "stupid and unfair."

Just how this all will play statewide in Florida in November is still a question. Despite the snub from the DNC, most Floridians believe their electoral vote superiority will be a major factor in 2008. Florida, with 27 electoral votes, is the fourth-largest state in the nation and the only one of the top four in population considered a swing state -- neither red nor blue. The others -- California and New York for the Democrats and Texas for the GOP -- are expected to vote as in previous presidential elections.

Chairman Thurman and the Florida Democratic party saw emails flood their inboxes within minutes of the Rules Committee vote. "Alone, Florida Democrats can stop John McCain. He cannot win the White House without our 27 electoral votes," added Congresswoman Thurman.
"Those 27 votes are what we must focus on from now until November 4th," was the announcement sent by a number of activists as the Internet filled with messages Saturday evening and all day Sunday.

But it appeared that the Democrats will have a huge amount of work to do in Florida in the coming months. A large number of irate political insiders felt the decision by the Rules Committee not only disqualified 1.75 milliion votes in Florida, but was the nail in the coffin of the Clinton presidential run, and some said "an outright gift to Obama."

The majority, however, said they will support the Democratic nominee, despite what they termed "the humiliation" by the Rules Committee.

Frustration with the party is already being used by Republicans, who say they will make an issue about the DNC's decision as evidence the Democrats don't care about the State. GOP Governor Charlie Crist, often mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate, entered the fray, calling for 100 percent of the delegates in both parties to be seated. He failed to mention that the GOP also only gave half its Florida delegation status, even though it doesn't much figure into the designation of the nominee-in-waiting Sen. John McCain.

The matter may now be settled, but there is still frustration aimed at the National Committee's bungling. Arguments are even now going back and forth that Florida was supposed to get 211 delegate votes at the Aug. 25-28 convention in Denver. However, once one of the candidates, presumably Obama, becomes the nominee, he will force the Credentials Committee to restore all of Florida's votes, putting it on par with the other states.

The "winning" number of delegate votes has been publicized by the media for months as 2,025 excluding Florida and Michigan. With Florida and Michigan in the mix at half vote, a nominee now needs 2,118.

"We are not happy with one-half a vote," says delegate Barbara Effman, president of the West Broward Democratic club, the largest Dem-club in Florida. " But half a vote is better than none." She said that she would be less inclined to be angry if Clinton were the vice presidential nominee.

Effman, a Clinton supporter, and Percy Johnson, an Obama delegate, joined with State Sen. Steve Geller and filed a federal lawsuit last week, asking the court to recognize the more than 1.75 million Democratic voters who went to the polls in January and to have their votes counted in selecting the nominee. It is still pending although the courts have thrown out three similar suits.