Clinton Campaign Statement On The RBC Ruling

In an e-mail addressed from Maggie Williams, the Clinton campaign sends along this statement:

Harold Ickes and Tina Flournoy made the following statement this evening:

Today's results are a victory for the people of Florida who will have a voice in selecting our Party's nominee and will see its delegates seated at our party's convention. The decision by the Rules and Bylaws Committee honors the votes that were cast by the people of Florida and allocates the delegates accordingly.

We strongly object to the Committee's decision to undercut its own rules in seating Michigan's delegates without reflecting the votes of the people of Michigan.

The Committee awarded to Senator Obama not only the delegates won by Uncommitted, but four of the delegates won by Senator Clinton. This decision violates the bedrock principles of our democracy and our Party.

We reserve the right to challenge this decision before the Credentials Committee and appeal for a fair allocation of Michigan's delegates that actually reflect the votes as they were cast.

Certainly sounds like they're prepping for a fight over Michigan, doesn't it? I was actually fairly shocked that they decided to seat Michigan as they did but seriously, why are Ickes and Flournoy bitching? This is about as good a result as Clinton could have hoped to get. Sure Obama took himself off the ballot in Michigan, but everyone knows a good chunk of the uncommitted vote was for Obama, so if the Clinton team is really making an intent of the voter argument then they should be pleased with this result.

What were your reactions to the results of today's meeting?

[editor's note, by Todd Beeton]Slightly edited from original version of this post.

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On The Ground In Puerto Rico

Arrived here in humid San Juan, Puerto Rico this morning and in my own limited straw poll Hillary Clinton is up 2-0 (i.e. my cab driver who offered up the candidate whom he and his brother will be supporting tomorrow.)

Last night Clinton spoke at a night-time fiesta in Old San Juan and today she held a townhall in Caguas and then ventured out on an all day caravan around the San Juan area, beginning in Catano and ending tonight in San Juan. It was difficult to pin down when and where exactly each stop on the caravan would be so my attempt to meet up with the caravan in my rental car met with little success until, of course, I had given up and decided to head back to my hotel when all of the sudden I heard sirens and loud music coming down the street. There it was, the elusive Clinton caravan, a series of white vans and trucks, some with people standing and waving to bystanders, some equipped with huge speakers blaring festive music, all emblazoned with white Hillary signs. The caravan, which was escorted by local police as well as tell tale black SUV secret service mobiles, was about 15 or so vehicles long, pretty impressive. I got the location of the final stop tonight, so hopefully I'll actually get to see Clinton speak as opposed to speed by in a blur.

Driving around, I saw a ton of Clinton and Obama signs, and actually, I'd say overall I saw about an equal number of each candidate's, but there was far greater diversity among the Obama signage. I saw a bridge overpass Obama sign, I saw one hanging from someone's car, seemingly secured by the trunk, as well as a bunch of "Obama Presidente" signs along the road. I would say I probably saw Obama signs in more spots, but where the Clinton signs were they made more of an impression because they tended to be in clusters.

Polls close at 3pm Eastern tomorrow after which Clinton will give what presumably will be a victory speech, which I'll be attending. As always, there will be some exit polls earlier in the day but CNN will be the only network to have them.

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Rules and Bylaws Miscellany

It's clear what the Clinton campaign wants out of tomorrow's DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee meeting:

Also on the conference call, the campaign repeated what it said it earlier in the week: that it wants the full Florida and Michigan delegations to be seated; that it wants them seated according to the January primary votes in each state; and that the "uncommitted" votes in Michigan can't be given to Obama -- they must remain uncommitted.

"We are hopeful and confident that after hearing all the arguments and hearing all the facts ... that all the delegates will be seated and all of them will have a full vote," Ickes said.

Greg Sargent clarifies Ickes's point:

Ickes' position is apparently not that these delegates never go to a candidate. It's that the Committee can't pick which candidate they go to -- at the Convention, the uncommitteds can support whomever they wish. Of course, under this scenario, they wouldn't count in Obama's column in the short term, while hers would count.

Does anyone really think Clinton will get what she wants? Not even Clinton supporter Lanny Davis appears to as he has proposed some alternate solutions for Michigan's delegates.

The fairest would be to allocate those 57 [uncommitted] pledged delegates, to Clinton and Obama by the same ratio of their standing to one another in the average of the most recent Michigan statewide polls prior to the Jan. 15 primary. Or perhaps one Solomonic compromise, more generous to Obama than to Clinton, would be to divide the remaining delegates approximately 50-50 between the two of them, 28-27 (giving Clinton the extra delegate since she led in all the latest statewide polls prior to Jan. 15).

Marc Ambinder seems to think the latter is the most likely scenario.

Based on reporting and some guesswork, here is one possible scenario... and note, the numbers aren;t exact, but they're approximately correct: Florida's delegation is restored in full. Each delegate gets a half of a vote; in this scenario, Hillary Clinton would pick up 62 votes and Barack Obama would pick up about 43 for a net gain of 19.

More later on the various FL/MI scenarios/behind the scenes machinations. I'm at the airport in between flights, on my way to Puerto Rico. Will be able to catch up and update later tonight.

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Declaring Victory

According to McClatchy, Barack Obama is preparing to declare victory "after next Tuesday's final primaries in Montana and South Dakota." It's unclear when exactly that would be, but according to Obama himself, it's simple: he'll do it whenever he gets the requisite number of delegates to win the nomination.

Obama said the nominee would be clear "after Tuesday.""I am sure we will have discussions with Senator Clinton and her team," he said.

He predicted that after the last primaries, "whatever remaining super delegates will make their decisions pretty quickly after that."

"If we've got the number of delegates to secure the nomination," Obama said, "then I'm the nominee."

"It is technically not over until we have the number of delegates that are needed to secure the nomination. Once we have that number, then we'll focus on the general election," he said.

So when might he have the magic number? Well, that depends what that magic number is.

As of now, in a world in which Florida and Michigan don't count and 2026 delegates are needed to win the nomination. According to DemConWatch, Obama has 1981 delegates to Hillary Clinton's 1781. 45 to go (note: the Obama campaign's count is 1985 as of this writing.)

In this world, looking just at the pledged delegates he is likely to win in Puerto Rico on Sunday and in Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday (using Obama's projected delegate spreadsheet as a guide for estimate's sake) Obama would leave Tuesday with 42 more pledged delegates than he has today, for a total of 2023 and Clinton would win 44 giving her a total of 1825. Obama would need 3 superdelegates to put him over the 2026 threshold, which, considering Obama's daily superdelegate rate, should not be a problem. Under this scenario, Obama would likely declare victory on Tuesday.

Now let's recalculate according to what is probably the most optimistic result from Saturday's RBC meeting: the Michigan and Florida delegations seated at half strength.  

Again, according to DemConWatch, splitting the difference between the current non-MI & FL threshold (2026) and the full strength threshold (2209) we get a new threshold of 2117.5. Which means on top of the pledged delegates Obama is likely to get from the three remaining contests, he would need 94.5 delegates to clinch the nomination. Subtract the 34.5 Florida delegates he'd be awarded under this scenario, then he'd need only 60 between the RBC's Michigan delegate allotment and any superdelegates who may declare for Obama in that period, a "few dozen" of which are reportedly ready to do so after Tuesday's votes. In other words, it's difficult to see Obama not clinching and declaring mid to late next week.

There's a possibility, of course, that Clinton may dispute his declaration, for any number of reasons including her assertion that 2209 is actually the threshold of victory. Will she continue to assert such a threshold even if the DNC rules that it's not so? According to Obama, it won't really matter much.

In a question and answer session Wednesday night with reporters on his campaign plane between Denver and Chicago, the Illinois senator dismissed the idea that rival Hillary Clinton's stated willingness to take her fight for the nomination to the party convention in late August would matter.

"When Dukakis won the nomination, you know, Jesse (Jackson) was still running until the convention," Obama said. "When Bill Clinton was running, Jerry Brown was still technically in it. As far as I can tell, this is fairly standard fare."

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The Meaning of Half

As we learned yesterday from The AP, DNC lawyers have confirmed that the Rules & Bylaws Committee is not authorized to restore the full delegations of Florida and Michigan even if it were inclined to do so:

A Democratic Party rules committee has the authority to seat some delegates from Michigan and Florida but not fully restore the two states as Hillary Rodham Clinton wants, according to party lawyers.

Democratic National Committee rules require that the two states lose at least half of their convention delegates for holding elections too early, the party's legal experts wrote in a 38-page memo.

"Lose at least half" is a slightly different scenario than FL DNC member Jon Ausman suggested this week was the likely result of Saturday's meeting:

"I think we're moving toward half votes for everybody," DNC member Jon Ausman said of his appeal to be heard Saturday by the DNC's rules and bylaws committee. That would mean superdelegates would have the same vote as pledged delegates.

In other words, Florida Democrats would have the same say in the presidential nominee as Democrats in Guam, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands.

Considering just Florida, it's interesting to look at the difference between these two scenarios: cutting the delegations in half vs. giving the full delegations half votes. As Chuck Todd points out, the distinction has real world implications:

As for the actual meeting itself, there's one more angle you ought to be aware of: a 50% cut and a halving of the delegates is not the same thing. For instance, if Florida delegates are seated in their entirety, but only have their vote counted as a .5, then Clinton will net approximately 19 delegates out of the state. But if the delegation is cut in half, that's done in every congressional district as well as statewide, then suddenly Clinton's advantage is only a net of six. That's right, the complicated nature of the DNC delegate selection process will be a good reminder to math majors everywhere that a 50% cut is not the same as a halving of an individual number.

Of course, whether Clinton nets 6, 19 or the full 38 FL delegates  she hopes to get out of Saturday's meeting, she still won't catch Obama in the overall delegate count. As DemConWatch's handy chart demonstrates, even with FL & MI fully counted, Obama still leads Clinton by more than 100. But then again, for Clinton, the Michigan/Florida crusade ceased to be about delegates a while ago.

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