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First thoughts: Resolving FL and MI

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Resolving Florida and Michigan: After 51 sanctioned contests over the last five months, there are just two dates left on the Democratic primary calendar, and they both occur within the next four days. Sunday is primary day in Puerto Rico (where 55 delegates are at stake and where polls open at 8:00 am ET and close at 3:00 pm ET). And on Tuesday, Montana (16 delegates) and South Dakota (15 delegates) hold their contests. But before those dates comes Saturday's DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in DC, where committee members will most likely decide what happens with those Florida and Michigan delegations. Here are two nearly indisputable predictions about Saturday: 1) something WILL be done and 2) the entire delegations from both states will NOT be seated. So the current magic number of 2,026 will not be in effect by Sunday June 1, and we know the magic number will not be 2,210, as hoped for by the Clinton campaign. It's likely to be either 2,118 or 2,131, depending on whether the Rules committee decides superdelegates should be penalized in the same vein as pledged delegates. The question then is how will the Florida and Michigan delegates be allocated. Keep in mind that DNC hard-liners on the Rules committee, who may be the swing vote between the Clinton and Obama forces, are more intent on figuring out a way to punish Michigan more than Florida.

*** Possible scenario I: We've hesitated reporting on every rumor we've heard about a potential compromise, but here's one plan circulating that seems to be gaining momentum: It would halve the votes for all of the Florida delegates, netting Clinton 19 and, more importantly, counting that popular vote. But Michigan's primary results would not be accepted and instead that state's delegates would simply be split 50-50 between Clinton and Obama. All of the delegations, under this compromise, would be seated in full, but each delegate's vote would be counted as 0.5, including the superdelegates. (Keep in mind, when the nine -- cut to 4.5 in this scenario -- Edwards' pledged delegates are factored in for Obama, that reduces Clinton's net to 14.5.) Should this compromise pass, it would mean the new magic number for nomination would be 2,118. And according to our math (bringing Obama's delegate total to 2,060 with the Edwards delegates, and Clinton's to 1,876.5), that would put Obama 58 total delegates away from the nomination. Assuming that Obama gets 43 of the 86 remaining pledged delegates from Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota, he would need just 15 more superdelegates to clinch the nomination under this scenario.

*** Possible scenario II: Another resolution would be cutting both state delegations by 50% according to how the primary vote went (and giving Obama Michigan's uncommitted vote). That would give Clinton a net of 19 in Florida and nine in Michigan for a total of 28. The magic number here also is 2,118, and it would put Obama 62.5 delegates away from clinching the nomination. Assuming Obama splits the remaining pledged delegates, Obama would need 19.5 more superdelegates to clinch the nomination.

*** Possible scenario III: Another scenario floated is a 50% cut of the pledged delegates in both states according to the primary vote, but keep superdelegates at 100%. That would make the magic number 2,131. Obama then would be 65.5 delegates away (and Clinton 242.5). Indeed, the maximum Clinton could pick up as a result of Saturday's Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting is 91. That's what Clinton would gain if she gets the delegates seated according to the discounted primary results in Florida and Michigan -- and Obama gets zero out of Michigan, because he doesn't get any of Michigan's "uncommitted" vote. If that maximum solution were to happen, Obama's 161 pledged delegate lead would be cut to 70. But such a scenario at this point seems like, well, a fairy tale. It's just not going to happen.

*** The agenda: The DNC meeting begins at 9:30 am ET with remarks by DNC chairman Howard Dean and then Rules committee co-chairs Alexis Herman and James Roosevelt. Afterward, Florida's Jon Ausman presents his challenge (arguing that the DNC was wrong to strip the state of 100% of its superdelegates and more than 50% of its pledged delegates), followed by Florida's Democratic Party and the Clinton and Obama campaigns. Next, Michigan presents its challenge, followed by the state party and -- once again -- the Clinton and Obama campaigns. Then the committee adjourns for lunch. And after that, the members sit down to reach some type of resolution, which requires a majority of those present of the 30-person panel (13 who back Clinton, eight who support Obama, and nine who are uncommitted, including Herman and Roosevelt; the assumption is that Clinton does not have a working majority). A DNC source tells First Read that the meeting COULD run into Sunday, but they're hopeful that a resolution is hammered out on Saturday. One other thing to watch: Clinton supporters hold a rally/protest, co-organized by Women Count PAC, outside the hotel beginning at 7:00 am and ending around 4:00 pm ET.

*** Obama's new pastor problem? So the number of clergymen that McCain and Obama have distanced themselves from now stands at four -- two for each of them. Of course, for Obama, both of his troubled clergymen were a lot closer to him personally than the two McCain had to toss under the bus. Obama's latest pastor problem comes from Father Michael Pfleger, an Obama friend who said at the very least some unflattering things about Hillary Clinton at Obama's church this past Sunday. Obama released this statement:  "As I have traveled this country, I've been impressed not by what divides us, but by all that that unites us. That is why I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger's divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, which doesn't reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause." So how big is this for Obama? The timing isn't helpful. Just as Obama is trying to reach out to Clinton supporters, here is a supporter mocking her using some horrendous language. At a minimum, this will likely have some Democrats wondering (and some Republicans hoping) that the 24-7 camera that apparently is running at Obama's church never runs out of memory. Seriously, this only adds to the CW that the Pew poll underscored yesterday, Obama's problems are all personal while McCain's problems are all issue-based and political.

*** One other thought here: While the right will attempt to tie this Jeremiah Wright, perhaps the correct frame here is by connecting it to today's Boston Globe op-ed by Geraldine Ferraro. Pfleger and Ferraro represent the difficulties in bringing the party together, as the two have voiced the extreme negative views about the other candidate. This will be a challenge for the Democrats in November.

*** McCain's McClellan problem? The DNC, meanwhile, has released a new Web video linking McClellan -- and his statement about the "propaganda campaign" to sell the Iraq war -- and McCain's own advocacy for the war. 

*** Where we stand heading into the weekend: The chairman of the Texas Democratic Party and his wife, also a DNC member and superdelegate, have now endorsed Obama. This brings Obama to a 200-delegate overall lead. Obama is ahead in pledged delegates per the NBC hard count (1,649 to 1,500), Edwards' pledged delegates (12-0), superdelegates (323.5 to 284.5), overall delegates (1,984.5 to 1,784.5), the popular vote (16,728,123 to 16,294,435), and the total number of contests won (32 to 18). Note: We're not including Texas in this contest count, given that Clinton won the primary but Obama won the caucus and netted the most total Texas delegates. A bit more on the popular vote... Without adding Florida and Michigan, as noted above, Obama leads by 433,703 votes. Adding Florida to the mix, he leads by 138,931 (17,304,352 to 17,165,421). And adding Michigan but not "uncommitted," Clinton leads by 189,220 (17,493,572 to 17,304,352). But do note that the "uncommitted" vote was 238,168.

*** On the trail: Clinton heads to Puerto Rico, where she holds an early evening rally in Old San Juan; McCain has a media avail in Milwaukee, WI and then raises money in Mill Neck and Woodbury, NY; and Obama is in Montana, where he attends a rally in Great Falls. Also, Bill Clinton stumps in South Dakota.

Countdown to Puerto Rico: 2 days
Countdown to Montana, South Dakota: 4 days
Countdown to Election Day 2008: 158 days
Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 235 days
 
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