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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Obama Campaign: Primary Contest Will Soon "Come to a Close"

| Sat May 31, 2008 2:45 PM EDT

The Obama campaign has exhibited excellent message control throughout the primary process. Saturday's Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting was no exception. The campaign's two official representatives at the meeting, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) and David Bonior, a former member of Congress from Michigan, made sure to slip one telling claim into their testimony: that the primary contest will soon "come to a close." Even while they're arguing this issue out, the Obama people are still looking towards the general election.

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Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) Calls Out Harold Ickes (D-Clinton)

| Sat May 31, 2008 2:32 PM EDT

Harold Ickes, a rules committee member and Hillary Clinton adviser, just spent 10 minutes badgering Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in support of the Clinton campaign's Michigan position. The Clinton campaign says that it should get 73 delegates from the Michigan primary and the Obama campaign should get 0, with 55 going as uncommitted. Ickes said that the delegate allocation has to consider the principal of "fair reflection," with voters' preferences for "uncommitted" being accurately reflected. Since no one actually voted for "Barack Obama" on the ticket, that would mean Obama would get no delegates. But Sen. Levin told Ickes he had the concept of fair reflection all wrong. "You're calling for a 'fair reflection' of a flawed primary," Levin told Ickes, to massive applause. "What we're trying to do is to keep a party together so that we can win a critical state in November. And let me tell you the precedent that we set it seems to me is a good precedent if circumstances like this ever existed again. ... It's an unusual circumstance."

RBC Challenge: Michigan Has Been "Punished Enough"

| Sat May 31, 2008 1:24 PM EDT

Mark Brewer, the chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, told the Democrats' Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) Saturday that Michigan has been "punished enough" for violating party rules and moving its primary forward. Brewer, who is also a member of the RBC, said that the Michigan Democratic party believes that its proposed 69-59 delegate split accurately reflects Democratic voter preferences at the time of the primary. His challenge is asking the committee to allocate the delegates in accordance with its proposal.

The Michigan situation is trickier for the RBC to resolve than the Florida situation is. Neither Barack Obama nor John Edwards, who recently endorsed Obama, was on the ballot in Michigan. Instead, many Obama and Edwards supporters voted for "uncommitted." The Clinton supporters on the RBC argue that the uncommitted delegates should go to the convention as "uncommitted", meaning they would function essentially as superdelegates. The Michigan Democratic Party believe the vast majority of the uncommitted delegates should be assigned as pledged Obama delegates.

Both positions have serious flaws. The Michigan party's delegate allocation is based not just on the votes cast, but also on exit polls and the party's guesses about the names on 30,000 sealed write-in ballots. It's a sort of mishmash of the available information, and it's definitely not a normal election result. The problem with the Clinton camp's position is that the votes cast also don't represent a normal election result. It was an election that was essentially Hillary Clinton vs. Uncommitted. None of the ballots in the other primary states looked anything like that.

The Obama campaign supports a third option. In their plan, the delegates for the states would be divided equally between the two candidates, 64-64. They argue that the primary was flawed (Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who supports the Michigan Democratic Party solution, admitted as much in his testimony today). The Obama proposal says that while Michigan should still get a voice at the convention, neither candidate should get an advantage from the flawed contest.

We'll find out what the committee thinks later today.

Clinton Surrogate Says FL-MI Struggle = Civil Rights Movement

| Sat May 31, 2008 12:15 PM EDT

Arthenia Joyner, a Florida state legislator who is making Hillary Clinton's case to the Rules and Bylaws Committee, opened by comparing the struggle to get the Florida delegates counted to the civil rights movement and the fight against apartheid. Joyner should know; she was arrested in civil rights sit-ins and protested outside the South African embassy during the 1980s. Like Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who testified before her, Joyner cited examples of specific primary voters who are being "disenfranchised" by the DNC's decision to strip the state of its delegates. Echoing a common theme of the morning, Joyner pointed out that it was the Republican-controlled legislature, not Florida Democrats, who moved up the state's primary date and triggered the DNC's sanctions.

"You have an opportunity right here and right now to write the people of Florida back into this election's story," Joyner said, citing the U.S. constitution and natural rights in her argument for "righting that wrong".

When asked whether she supported full votes for delegates or the alternative proposal for half votes, Joyner smiled and said: "I've been taught that when you want something, you ask for what you want.... I want it all." Laughs and applause filled the room, especially when Joyner unintentionally echoed Mick Jagger: "in life, you can't always get what you want."

Dean Calls for Unity, Hints at Pro-Obama Solution to Florida-Michigan Mess

| Sat May 31, 2008 10:56 AM EDT

The Democrats' Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) is meeting today in Washington, D.C., to decide whether the delegates from Michigan and Florida's rule-breaking primaries will count in the race for the nomination. Both states lost all of their delegates as a punishment for moving up their primaries without DNC approval. Hillary Clinton's campaign has argued that the delegates from both states should be restored in full, a move that would net her some 40-odd delegates. Barack Obama's campaign has said it is willing to compromise, but will not accede to all of the Clinton campaign's demands.

A DNC staff analysis released earlier this week seems to indicate that the RBC cannot restore more than half of Florida and Michigan's delegates—it's supposedly an "automatic" penalty. The 30-member RBC includes 13 Clinton supporters, 8 Obama supporters, and 9 people who have not committed to either candidate. So Clinton only needs the votes of 3 of the 9 uncommitted members to force a decision in her favor.

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