What's next for Clinton camp after delegates decision?

Delegate flap over Michigan, Florida is over for now, but her backers are miffed.

mike theiler/reuters
Decision day: Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee co-chairs James Roosevelt (l.) and Alexis Herman (r.) at their meeting Saturday in Washington.

Democratic leaders have addressed the lingering issue of Florida's and Michigan's rogue primaries, but the saga is not over.

Under compromise solutions adopted by the Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee on Saturday, both states will send delegates to the August convention in Denver after all, albeit with half votes each instead of full. But supporters of presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton are particularly angry that the Michigan deal gave her rival, Barack Obama, delegates they believe he did not earn.

If significant numbers of Clinton supporters remain angry and unwilling to vote for Senator Obama, the likely nominee, Obama's prospects for election in November could be damaged. The question now is how Senator Clinton handles herself going forward. She won Sunday's Democratic primary in Puerto Rico, but there is virtually nothing she can do to halt Obama's momentum toward the nomination.

If all goes according to plan for Obama, he will declare the nomination his after winning the final two primaries, Montana and South Dakota, on Tuesday. The remaining superdelegates, party leaders and elected officials who can back whomever they want, are under pressure to state their preferences as soon as the primaries are over, and Obama has been busy lining up their support in time for a victory announcement Tuesday.

The reinstatement of the Michigan and Florida delegations has increased the magic number of delegates needed to secure the nomination to 2,118. As of Saturday night, Obama had 2,052 and Clinton had 1,877, according to the Associated Press.

If Clinton decides to contest the Michigan compromise and withhold her support from Obama, that would send a signal to her backers to keep fighting. An appeal of the Michigan deal before the party's credentials committee would not take place until July or August, and then would face ratification by the Democratic National Convention in late August. Such a move could prove to be a big distraction to a party eager to unify and take on Republican Sen. John McCain in its quest to retake the White House.

The most ominous statement in a long, contentious day came from senior Clinton strategist Harold Ickes, a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which met in Washington: "Mrs. Clinton has instructed me to reserve her rights to take this to the credentials committee."

Mr. Ickes was reacting to the compromise crafted by the Michigan Democratic Party, which granted Obama delegates even though his name did not appear on the primary ballot on Jan. 15. Last year, the national party stripped both Michigan and Florida of all their delegates, after they scheduled their primaries earlier than party rules allowed.

Obama had taken his name off the Michigan ballot, in deference to the states authorized to hold early primaries. Clinton, the then-favorite to win the nomination, kept her name on the ballot. She won 55 percent of the vote, versus 40 percent who voted for "uncommitted."

In objecting to the Michigan compromise, Ickes asserted he was "stunned that we have the gall and chutzpah to substitute our judgment for 600,000 voters." Clinton's campaign had proposed that the delegates be allotted according to the primary result, with 73 going to Clinton and Obama receiving none, though with the 55 remaining delegates free to support him.

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