Dean Outlines Options For Fla., Mich. Dems

Appearing on The Early Show on Thursday, March 6, 2008, DNC chairman Howard Dean said that he'd love to see Florida and Michigan and the Democratic convention.
The former head of the Democratic National Committee said Thursday it was doubtful DNC Chairman Howard Dean would be able to get approval for a plan for do-over presidential nomination contests in Florida and Michigan.

"It'll be a hellacious battle," said Don Fowler, a former DNC chairman who sits on the party's rule-making committee.

Before the primaries started, "Howard Dean had enough votes to get most everything he wanted. Now that this thing has gone as far as it has and the lines have formed according to candidates. I'm not sure how that vote would shake out now," said Fowler, who has endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Now, everything is being viewed in terms of how it benefits a particular candidate, not the party or the process, Fowler said.

Nonetheless, Fowler said, something has to be done, "the rules be damned" to seat delegates from states Democrats have to and can win in the general election. "We're going to forfeit those two big states? What kind of fools would we be."

Dean has urged Florida and Michigan party officials to come up with plans to repeat their presidential nominating contests so that their delegates can be counted.

"They have two options," Dean said on CBS News' The Early Show. "One: they can come before the DNC rules committee and submit a process that does comply with the rules, that is fair to both campaigns and the other states, or they can simply appeal their denial to the credentials committee at the convention. One of those choices is a good choice. We'd love to see Florida and Michigan, but it's going to be done within the rules.

"All they have to do is come before us with rules that fit into what they agreed to a year and a half ago, and then they'll be seated," Dean said in another TV appearance.

The two state parties will have to find the funds to pay for new contests without help from the national party, Dean said.

"We can't afford to do that. That's not our problem. We need our money to win the presidential race," he said. The DNC offered to pay for an alternative contest in Florida last summer but was turned down, officials at the party say.

A full-fledged primary could cost as much as $15 million in Florida and a little less than that in Michigan, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes. A scaled-back, or "firehouse" primary, with fewer precincts would cut the cost in half, but it would also draw fewer voters.

Michigan is considering a caucus, which could be easier to organize on short notice, Cordes reports. But Florida Democrats, still stinging from the 2000 debacle, are adamant that it's a primary or nothing.

Another of Clinton's supporters, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, also called for a new Florida primary, but paid for by the national party.

Officials in Michigan and Florida have expressed renewed interest in holding repeat presidential nominating contests so that their votes will count in the epic Democratic campaign.

The Michigan governor, top officials in Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign, and Florida's state party chair all are now saying they would consider holding a sort of do-over contest by June. That's a change from the previous insistence from officials in both states that the primaries they held in January should determine how their delegates are allocated.

Clinton said she's waiting to see what proposal Democratic leaders in Florida and Michigan put forward.

She won both contests, but the results were meaningless because the elections violated national party rules. The DNC stripped both states of all delegates for holding the primaries too early, and all Democratic candidates - including Clinton and rival Barack Obama- agreed not to campaign in either state. Obama's name wasn't even on the Michigan ballot.

"I think it would be a grave disservice to the voters of Florida and Michigan to adopt any process that would disenfranchise anyone," Clinton told reporters Thursday at a news conference in Washington. "Therefore I am still committed to seating their delegations, and I know they are working with the Democratic party to determine how best to proceed."

She said it would be especially unfair to punish the 1.7 million Floridians who voted in the Democratic primary since the contest's date was moved up by the Republican-controlled state Legislature and the state's Republican governor.

"They clearly believed that their votes would count, and I think that there has to be a way to make them count," Clinton said.

Florida and Michigan moved up their dates to protest the party's decision to allow Iowa and New Hampshire to go first, followed by South Carolina and Nevada, giving them a disproportionate influence on the presidential selection process.

But no one predicted the race would still be very close at this point in the year.

"The rules were set a year and a half ago," Dean said. "Florida and Michigan voted for them, then decided that they didn't need to abide by the rules. Well, when you are in a contest you do need to abide by the rules. Everybody has to play by the rules out of respect for both campaigns and the other 48 states."