Still Searching for a Compromise

DemConWatch, the Rain Man of primary delegate counting, today breaks down six different scenarios for how Florida’s and Michigan’s delegates could get allocated. If neither state’s delegates are counted, for example, Obama currently leads by 130 delegates. If you count Michigan but not Florida, that lead shrinks to 106. Count Florida but not Michigan, and it’s 107. (Notice how little difference there is between those two scenarios.) Count both contests, deny Obama any of the “uncommitted” votes from Michigan, and his lead shrinks to nine delegates.

The problem is, none of these scenarios is particularly plausible. Howard Dean says he plans to seat both Florida’s and Michigan’s delegations at the convention. To do otherwise, when it could affect Democratic morale in November, would be insane. But to fulfill that pledge, he needs to sit both campaigns down and hammer out a compromise. (Assuming one of the candidates doesn’t drop out.) Then the party’s “credentials committee,” which meets in mid-June once voting is done, needs to approve the compromise. But right now it looks like that committee, composed of delegates loyal to Obama, Clinton, and Dean, will favor Obama . So, really, a “compromise” will be approved only if it doesn’t hurt Obama so much that he could lose the nomination, which pretty much rules out counting either state proportionally.

Two scenerios that fit this definition are 1) a 50-50 split, which would be acceptable to the Obama-dominated credentials committee since it essentially nullifies both votes, and 2) an option floated by Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer that falls halfway between the 50-50 split and a proportional allocation. Under this second plan, Clinton would get 69 delegates in Michigan, and Obama would get 59. If you applied the same logic to the Florida vote—not quite 50-50, but not quite proportional—Clinton would get 102 pledged delegates, and Obama would get 83. (The proportional split was 60-40 if you don’t count Edwards, so these numbers come from a 55-45 compromise scenario.) 

A 50-50 split would preserve Obama’s 130-delegate lead, because it’s as if the two states had never voted. (Dean is happy, though, because at least the delegations get to attend the convention. Phew!) A 111-74 split in Florida and 69-59 split in Michigan pare Obama’s lead down to 91 delegates. For the Obama camp, this is probably too close for comfort, but it would at least also let them say they reached a compromise without giving up a dangerous number of delegates.