THE BLOG
03/05/2008 04:57 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Primary Concern: Florida and Michigan

At her campaign celebration last night in Ohio, Hillary Clinton

raised the specter of a nasty, divisive fight at the Democratic

National Convention, claiming that she should be the party's nominee

based on her big state victories, rather than on the pledged-delegate

count. It was a slick and sophisticated attempt to change the rules

in the middle of the game and declare herself the winner.

She said, "You all know that if we want a Democratic president, we

need a Democratic nominee who can win the battleground states just

like Ohio. And that is what we've done." Then, she listed the states

she "won," boldly including Florida and Michigan in the litany.

Weeks before her boast, Julian Bond, the Chairman of the National

Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and one of my

heroes, penned a letter to DNC Chair Howard Dean noting that he is

"deeply concerned" about the "will and intent of the Florida and

Michigan voters."

But, both Clinton and Bond leave several important facts off the

table.

First, the rules. They were known and agreed to by everyone

involved, well before the first votes were cast in Iowa. All the

campaigns, including the Clinton campaign, pledged to honor the

"early window" that included only four states: Iowa, New Hampshire,

Nevada and South Carolina. Enforcement of the primary timing rule

against Florida and Michigan was necessary to prevent the 2008

nominating calendar from falling into chaos. Moreover, a decision to

overturn this action by the DNC could destroy our nominating process

for 2012 and future years, as states realize that there will be no

penalty for violating the primary timing rule.

Second, the DNC's Rules Bylaws Committee gave both Florida and

Michigan a full and fair hearing, plus an open and transparent vote,

and their efforts to "jump to the head of the line" were soundly

defeated. No other state party organization or Rules Committee

members supported them. None of the campaigns--including the Clinton

campaign, which is very well represented on the Rules Committee--spoke

up for the principle of allowing Florida and Michigan to go ahead of

the other states.

Third, the new 2008 primary calendar was painstakingly worked out for

the very purpose of increasing early voting diversity. Along with

Iowa and New Hampshire, most Democrats agreed that both Latinos and

African Americans should be added to the early voting equation.

Adding Nevada and South Carolina to the early calendar increased

regional and racial diversity while protecting the grassroots, small

state nature of the early primary process. The DNC was right to

protect these two states from encroachment in the calendar by Florida

and Michigan.

Fourth, since there was no campaigning in either Florida or Michigan,

and neither the names of Obama nor Edwards even appeared on the

Michigan ballot, the idea that the votes cast there represent "the

will and intent" of the people is nonsense. We must not allow the

uncontested primaries in Florida and Michigan to "nullify" the will

of the large mass of voters in all of the hotly-contested primaries

and caucuses around the country where the candidates did campaign and

the voters had the chance to meet the candidates, ask questions, hear

their message and make an informed decision on who would be the best

nominee for the Democratic Party.

Finally, I want to be clear that this is a disagreement between the

DNC and the Florida and Michigan State Democratic Parties. This is

not--and should not become--an argument between Senator Obama and the

voters of Florida or Michigan. Senator Obama will reach out to the

voters in Florida and Michigan as the presidential nominee of our

Party, and will work hard to carry these two important states for

Democrats in the November election.

Congressman Jackson is serving his seventh term in the US House and

is a National Co-Chairman of the Obama for President Campaign.