Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, The Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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At DNC Meeting, Obama Rules

| Sat May. 31, 2008 6:17 PM PDT

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The rule-breaking Florida and Michigan primaries will count, but not as much, and not how Hillary Clinton wanted them to, the Democrats' Rules and Bylaws Committee decided Saturday in D.C. The Clinton campaign had asked that both states' delegations be seated in full, with full votes, according to the results of the states' January primaries. Instead, the 30-member RBC, citing party rules and the possibility of setting bad precedent for next primary season, voted to seat Florida and Michigan's delegates with a half-vote each.

In addition to halving the votes of Florida and Michigan delegates, the rules committee endorsed the Michigan Democratic Party's compromise 69-59 split on Michigan delegates. It was a move that especially enraged Clinton supporters. The Clinton campaign had asked for the 73 delegates it says she won in January's disputed primary, with 0 delegates going to Obama, who was not on the ballot. In Clinton's plan, the 55 remaining delegates would have been seated as "uncommitted" delegates, and would function essentially as superdelegates.

Not even the Clinton campaign's best-case scenario would have netted her enough delegates to catch Barack Obama in the delegate race. Still, today's decision, which netted Clinton just 24 delegates, was clearly a disappointment to the New York Senator's camp. But the Clinton campaign still had a choice. They could calmly but strongly express their disagreement with the decision, as Clinton adviser and rules committee member Harold Ickes did after the vote on the Florida delegation didn't go his way. Or they could cast aspersions on the legitimacy of the decision and accuse the rules committee of "hijacking" the will of the voters. That's what Harold Ickes did after his side lost the vote on the allocation of the Michigan delegates:

"I am stunned that we have the gall and the chutzpah to substitute our judgment for 600,000 voters," Ickes said. "Hijacking four delegates is not a good way to start down the path to party unity," he added. Then came the kicker: "Mrs. Clinton has instructed me to reserve her rights to take this to the credentials committee."

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Harold Ickes Is Not Happy

| Sat May. 31, 2008 4:40 PM PDT

It seems obvious now that there is majority support for the solution supported by the Michigan Democratic Party. That would mean 69 delegates for Hillary Clinton and 59 for Barack Obama (with each delegate getting one-half vote).

But Harold Ickes (and, by extension, Hillary Clinton) are very unhappy. "I am stunned that we have the gall and the chutzpah to substitute our judgment for 600,000 voters," Ickes said. He used the word "hijack" a lot, and said "Hijacking four delegates is not a good way to start down the path to party unity." The big news of the day was the final words of Ickes' argument: "Mrs. Clinton has instructed me to reserve her rights to take this to the credentials committee." If the crowd in the meeting room is any indication, Mrs. Clinton's supporters want her to exercise that right.

It could be a bluff. But make no mistake: if Hillary Clinton takes this dispute to the credentials committee, she'll be going to the mattresses. Most of the top leaders of the Democratic party have indicated that they do not support this process extending to the convention. If Clinton wants to go down that road, she'll face a lot of opposition.

Before the final vote, Michigan Democratic Party chair Mark Brewer got a final chance to speak in favor of the motion supporting the party's 69-59 split. He thanked the committee for its consideration and promised to work hard for the Democratic nominee.

The measure passed, 19-8.

Now it's time to wait and see how the Clinton campaign responds. If Ickes' speech opposing the motion was any indication, they won't respond well.

Denver! Denver! Denver! Denver! Denver! Denver!

| Sat May. 31, 2008 4:28 PM PDT

The Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting is getting fairly raucous. When the motion to fully seat Florida's delegation failed, the crowd started shouting: "Denver! Denver! Denver!" The debate is being constantly interrupted by heckling. But Alice Munro, speaking in the debate over giving the Florida delegates half-votes, called for unity. After having supported the first motion, Munro said: "The world's not perfect, but it's good. What this party needs is unity." Ickes echoed her sentiments.

The motion to give the Florida delegates half votes passed with 27 yes votes.

Rules Committee Votes Against Fully Seating Florida

| Sat May. 31, 2008 4:09 PM PDT

The RBC returned after a three-hour lunch with a motion that Florida's delegates be seated in full with their full votes. The Clinton supporters on the committee apparently forced the vote. In support of her motion, committee member Alice Huffman emphasized that the Florida Democrats were not responsible for changing the date—that was the Republican-controlled legislature.

David McDonald, who opposed the motion, agreed with Huffman that it was not the fault of Florida voters that their primary didn't count. Yvonne Gates, who also opposed the motion, said "What we were trying to do was to respect the rules. It was not the voters fault. But when you have rules, they must be followed. And if they're not followed you have chaos."

Tina Flournoy, who is one of the two most avowed Clinton support, said she planned to "strongly support" the motion although it "has no chance" of passing.

Other committee members spoke in favor and against, but it was obvious that the motion was doomed from the start. It failed, 15-12.

Remember That "Smoke-Filled Room" Everyone Told You About?

| Sat May. 31, 2008 3:19 PM PDT

That smoke-filled room you've heard so much about is apparently where the members of the Democrats' Rules and Bylaws Committee are as of 5:30pm on Saturday. They adjourned for lunch at 3:00 and have yet to return to the meeting room. Rumors of back-room deals are flying about. We could be waiting a lot longer, too: the committee members had "5 1/2 hours of cocktails, chicken dinners, and coffee" last night, according to James Pindell. Then again, they were up until 1:30. Maybe they're just catching some collective shut-eye.

Somehow I doubt it. I'll get you more news as soon as the meeting resumes.

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