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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Decision Day; More Rules Committee Coverage
Aired May 31, 2008 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D-FL): And for the sake of our prospects as a party in the November election, it is time for the campaigns and the Rules Committee to reach a dignified and high-minded resolution that brings Florida within our selection process and begins the unification of the Democratic Party in Florida and Michigan and throughout this nation. We are here, the Obama campaign to, participate in this unifying process and commend you for reconsidering the reinstatement of Florida's delegates. Thank you for the opportunity to address you today.
BLITZER: There is Robert Wexler, the Democratic congressman from Florida, south Florida, making the case on behalf of the Barack Obama campaign saying that all of the delegates from the pledge delegates and all of the superdelegates should be seated at the Democratic convention in Denver, but only should have half a vote, half a vote for the pledge and the superdelegates. Some of the other proposals is that the pledge delegates be seated with half a vote, but all of the superdelegates have a full vote. Let's listen into the Q&A, the question and answer session, and it could be interesting.
ALICE TRAVIS GERMOND (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Senator Joyner, this is an extraordinary morning and I, as secretary of the Democratic National Committee, am fully committed to calling for great state of Florida to cast our votes at the Democratic National Convention. No question about that.
I do have a question about those votes, however, and I just wanted to clarify a little bit what actually happened when some folks did come to the polls and some folks didn't come to polls, back when you had your event On January 29.
It is my understanding, and I really do applaud the folks who came out and voted on January 29. I think voting in a straw poll, voting when it will count, voting when it's nonbinding -- just plain voting is just plain America and I congratulate the folks who did come out and vote.
I do know that reality that there are some folks who may have believed us when we said that the presidential vote was non-binding and maybe that influenced whether or not they would go to the polls on January 29. It is my understanding that there was another statewide issue on the ballot, and that related to property tax issues that enlisted considerable passion, I am sure. For all of you who don't know, I come from California and I was there when Proposition 13 came out and a lot of folks came out to vote with Howard Jarvis, I did not. But, property tax issues do bring a lot of people to the polls.
So, I am wondering and hoping that perhaps you can speak to addressing the concerns of Governor Dean, our two wonderful co-chairs and many of us here are also concerned about. How do we redress, how do we respect the folks in Florida who believed us when they were told that the presidential vote would not count while there were 1.7 million folks, I believe approximately, who did turn out?
Florida, lucky Florida has over four million Democrats. State Senator Joyner, of course, I think we all allow that there would have been so many more voters potentially coming out if they knew that their vote was going to count.
Can you address to me and to the group of us here, how we might consider that as we try to be fair to all of the voters of Florida, who participated and those who believed us when we told them that this was a non-binding vote?
WEXLER: Thank you for the question. Please understand, I represent a congressional district where many people voted for Al Smith for president in 1928. They take voting very seriously and they have done so for many years. Senator Nelson was correct, I believe, when he answered the question and stated that this was in fact an extraordinary turnout, 1.7, approximately, million Floridians, Democrats came out to vote.
State Senator Joyner was correct if Senator Obama or Senator Clinton had campaigned in the state, undoubtedly hundreds of thousands of more Floridians would have come out to cast their vote. As extraordinary as the 1.7 million turnout was for Democrats, I respectfully suggest to you that I believe that Florida was the only state in the union where the Republican turnout was actually more than the Democratic turnout. One thing I will not accept is the suggestion that Democrats in Florida are less passionate about this election than are Republicans in Florida.
So how do we resolve this? We resolve it by doing what we are poe tigss for today -- petioning for today a compromise, a compromise that suggests that all of the parties have a valid point. But that we must reconcile as a party with the voters of Florida and the way to do that is to grant the Ausman Petition and to put our delegates at the convention according to that petion and to move forward, unified, into the general election campaign. That respects the view of all of those voters -- those that turned out, those that did not. The campaigns for one candidate, the campaigns for another, but most importantly, it puts the Florida Democratic Party in a position to honor Floridians and to win the state of Florida for our nominee in November.
ROOSEVELT: Thank you, congressman. As the grandson of the person who coined the phrase "the happy warrior" when he nominated Al Smith for president, I would like to send a special greeting to your constituents who I am sure are watching. And the next question is from Tina Flournay. HARTINA FLOURNAY, D.C. CLINTON SUPERDELEGATE: Thank you, congressman, and I have a question for you and then a point of clarification for the co-chairs -- question for the co-chairs. My question to you, congressman, is very simple. Would you oppose full restoration of Florida's entire delegation with a full vote?
WEXLER: Thank you for your question. We are here arguing for maximum number of delegates that your rules allow. Please understand, nobody was more upset with your, the committee's ruling last year to strip our delegates. Understand where we are today. The rule of your committee is that we Floridians have no votes. That is what this committee adopted. That's how you voted. We are here today asking that we be reinstated according to the petion of our Florida Democratic committeeman and to be reinstated in a fashion in which the party can unify. Let us unify. Floridians from all different sides of the equation are asking you to give us the power to be unified Democrats. We are asking that you reinstate with respect to the maximum delegates to Florida under your rules.
FLOURNAY: So you would not oppose full votes, full delegation? Would you oppose this?
WEXLER: We have answered the question...
FLOURNAY: I don't understand...
WEXLER: The issue is how do we become unified? You have an Ausman Petition before this committee, and the Ausman Petition provides for a formula of which only this committee -- not the Obama campaign, not the Clinton campaign -- you have the power to determine, according to the Ausman Petition, what the formula will be, and we will respect that decision, honor it and move forward.
FLOURNAY: Thank you, congressman. I think I understand your answer. And one clarifying point.
ROOSEVELT: Yes, I believe you had a clarifying point?
FLOURNAY: Yes. In your presentation, Congressman, you refer to the DNC staff or the DNC saying that the candidates did not -- weren't required to -- I forget your exact words -- participate in the slating process. I think because that has been put on the table, we need to clarify what that is. And I believe it is the memo of October 5, and if I read it correctly, I want us to be clear on it, since this has been asserted, it says accordingly, since the delegate selection plan was not in compliance presidential campaigns do not have to, it does not say they are forbidden, they may not, it says they "do not have to." Am I reading that correctly?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, that's correct. You are reading it correctly, yes.
FLOURNAY: So in other words, you could have participated in the slating process or you could have chosen not to, according to the memo that was referenced here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
FLOURNAY: Thank you.
ROOSEVELT: I think that congressman Wexler deserves a inopportunity to respond to the statement.
WEXLER: The Rules Committee informed the candidates in writing that the slating approval provisions of the noncompliance delegate selection plans of both Michigan and Florida were without effect. Again, the committee did this. The candidate who followed the ruling of the Rules Committee should be allowed the opportunity for delegate slating and candidate right of approval for the candidate's delegates, if the delegates are in fact reinstated. These rights are inherent rights for the candidates under the DNC's delegate selection rules.
FLOURNAY: Excuse me. Again, I don't want to belabor the point, but I really want us to be clear, because an assertion is being made that you followed the rules by not participating and that's not what the memo says.
ROOSEVELT: I think that the question has been asked and answered. I think when we get to the argument and discussion this afternoon, we can come back to it, if that is what you would like to do. Harold Ickes.
HAROLD ICKES, D.C. SUPERDELEGATE: Congressman, thank you, for your passionate presentation. Before asking my question I thought useful to note that four years ago when there was a full-blown hotly- contested multimillion dollar primary, 750,000 people voted. My question is as follows: you referred in your remarks in connection with the Ausman Petion that it was a concession, and you referred to the number 19. My question of you is what concession is being made, and you imply that a different standard, perhaps, should be used.
WEXLER: First point Mr. Ickes, and you know as well as I, if you are referring to the presidential primary of 2004 with respect to Senator Kerry, but at the time Florida voted in March, Senator Kerry effectively was the presumptive nominee. There was no contest like there has been this year.
With respect to the second part of your question, we could not be clearer, we support the Ausman Petition, that is the petion that you have before you. Also what could not be clearer is that you have power to partition and determine those delegates. What we are saying is that up to number of 19, which is the maximum amount allowable under the Ausman Petition and under your rules, we, the Obama campaign, will support that effort. And we do so -- we do so in an effort of unity. Why, Mr. Ickes, is it a significant concession? Because in the state of Ohio and the state of Pennsylvania together, Senator Clinton won a total of 19 delegates, and here we are today offering a resolution that brings Florida voters together that actually amounts to both the victories in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Let us unify. Let us move on.
ROOSEVELT: Mr. Ickes, do you have a brief follow-up question?
ICKES: Yes, congressman. I gather that you do agree with the concept of fair reflection under our rules.
WEXLER: The encoseptember of fair reflection?
Mr. Ickes, you will have to educate me on what the concept of fair reflection is.
ROOSEVELT: No? All right. We will tourn Ralph Dawson for the next question.
WEXLER: Did Mr. Ickes not respond?
ROOSEVELT: He chose not to respond further.
RALPH DAWSON, NY UNDECLARED SUPERDELEGATE: Congressman, thank you for your presentation. I want to clarify something. In the offer to support a plan that would provide 19 votes to Senator Clinton more than that of Senator Obama, does your plan, as you understand it, contemplate that there will be a reslating so that each senator gets to select those people who will represent them in this process?
WEXLER: I thought that I had answered that before. I want to make sure I've got this right. The Obama campaign takes the view that it did not have the opportunity that it would have had under an ordinary situation to review that slate. Today, of course, there are no Florida delegates that are authorized by your committee. Now, what the Obama campaign is saying is should, and we hope you do, reinstate Florida delegates today, that the Obama campaign and any other campaign, but the Obama campaign has the opportunity to then review that slate as it would in any other circumstance as it has complied with the rules. You should not -- you should not penalize the campaign for complying with your rules. That I think you would agree.
ROOSEVELT: I will just explain for our audience, for our audience that in the rules language, in rule-speak, "reslating" means candidate right of approval in a new process.
WEXLER: And I understood the congressman to say that this is their intent consistent with that.
ROOSEVELT: That is what I understood, as well.
WEXLER: Yes, thank you for the question.
ROOSEVELT: Yes. And the next question is from Alice Huffman. ALICE HUFFMAN, SUPERDELEGATE: Thank you Mr. And madam co-chair and from the panel, I have been enlightened today. I have a question that I am a little bit confused on, and maybe you can clarify it. There are some of us, here who, might truly believe that the Democrats were not at fault for what happened in Florida.
And as a member of the DNC Rules Committee and a Democrat might be inclined to say that there should have been no penalty, and what I am confused about is that if that were to happen, why would that be disunity rather than unity in Florida?
WEXLER: Respectfully, I wish you had asked that question last year.
This committee, if I understand the situation correctly, I vehemently disagreed with what this committee did last year. I, along with my colleagues, Democratic colleagues in the House met with Chairman Dean on several occasions. No one has been more vocal than my colleague, Ms. Brown, who supports Mrs. Clinton.
We, as a group, went and said, "No, don't do this to Florida. Don't do it," but you all unanimously, I believe except for Mr. Katz, decided to penalize Florida, not at 50 percent but 100 percent. And do not fault us, with all due respect, for creating unity in Florida amongst the competing camps for coming here with a plan to unify Florida's delegates to treat us just like the Republicans were treated in Florida, and give us the Ausman Petition.
HUFFMAN: Mr. Chairman...
ROOSEVELT: A follow-up question?
HUFFMAN: Congressman -- Congressman, you are very eloquent, and I was hoping that you would truly answer my question, because I am interested -- I am interested in the voters. I am not interested in either candidate. I am interested in the voters, and I am interested in having a tide of energetic turnout in Florida. So, I was not being cute and I was not trying to be confrontational, but I just don't understand if we were to vote -- no, I didn't ask the question a year ago, I couldn't foresee such a primary a year ago. I couldn't foresee such interest a year ago. I didn't have all of the knowledge today that I have to have asked the question a year ago. So, forgive me for not being able to see that crystal ball.
But, here we are today and here we are. I have gotten thousands of letters and e-mails from across the country, not just Florida and not just Michigan, requesting that they have their full vote. Indicating that the Democrats did nothing wrong. We are not the Republican Party, so we do not have to follow the Republican Party...
WEXLER: You bet. ROOSEVELT: All right. Let's allow him to answer, and we are out of time for this portion.
WEXLER: Understand the Ausman Petition is based on the votes that were cast. The division of delegates is based on the percentage that each candidate won. And if you give me the opportunity -- we have talked today about voters' rights. No one in the state of Florida has championed voters rights more than I. The irony -- the irony this voter verifiable bill that has been talked about today, there was one person respectfully in the state of Florida who for five years fought for the right of Floridians to have their vote counted and verified, and you're looking at him.
And when I lost and when I got beat, and when I got beat by that same Republican legislature and that Governor Jeb Bush in Florida I took my case to court. Every way up the state court, every way up the federal court, and we didn't prevail. Then finally, when we had a new governor, I prevailed upon that new Republican governor to give Floridians the right to have their vote counted by a voter verified paper trail. There is nobody more committed to that than that me, and that is respectfully may be one of the reasons why Senator Obama chose me to be here today, because we believe very deeply in this process, and we want Floridians to be -- to have their voices heard and that's why we want the Ausman Petition and we want to move forward in a unified way.
ROOSEVELT: We're out of time. Thank you. We're out of time for this portion of the program. Bust, just before you leave, Congressman, because Mr. Katz is not allowed to vote on this petion, because he is from Florida, I'd like to give him the privilege of speaking.
ALLAN KATZ, FL OBAMA SUPPORTER: All I would like to say is that I would like to thank my good friend, Congressman Wexler for coming and being eloquent as he always is. And I would like to say there are many people in Florida who are fiercely interested in voter rights, none more fierce since watching him on the barricades the election of 2000 and since then, than Robert Wexler. He is someone who passionately believes in what he is saying. And I believe what he has brought us here, today, if we chose to bring to us is an answer if we choose to accept it is a way to be unified for November. Now, we can keep fighting...
ROOSEVELT: Thanks Allan, we're going to save that (INAUDIBLE) later on.
OK, thank you very much, Congressman Wexler, and you have our appreciation.
BLITZER: All right. So, the Florida portion of this discussion has basically wrapped up. The Rules Committee has heard the respective positions of the Clinton campaign, the Obama campaign, as well as the state Democratic Party, Senator Bill Nelson making that case before the Rules Committee. All of them seem to agree that the pledge delegates, the elected delegates should be reinstated but only at half a vote each, not a full vote, at the Democratic convention, in Denver. There still seems to be some disagreement between the parties as to the status of the superdelegates in Florida, whether they should have a full vote at the convention or half a vote at the convention. Seems to be some disagreement on that point, and just to be precise on the superdelegates in Florida, we have been doing some checking. There are some 26 superdelegates in Florida right now under the current rules, they have no say. But, we have queried them and seven of them support Hillary Clinton, five of them support Barack Obama, 14 percent of them are uncommitted, at least right now.
Campbell Brown and the best political team on television has been watching this. We're going to check in with them. We're going to hear what's going on as far as Michigan is concerned. They'll be making their respective cases, as well, a much more complicated issue involving Michigan.
Remember, cnnpolitics.com is where you can see all of this going on without interruption, get much more information. Our coverage will continue right after this.
BLITZER: It is decision day for the Democrats in Washington, D.C., the rules committee meeting to determine what to do with those disputed delegates in Michigan and Florida, two key battleground states for the presidential race, come November.
We want to welcome back our viewers from the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting. Right now, we've heard the case from the Clinton campaign, the Obama campaign and the state Democratic Party in Florida. We are moving on to Michigan whereby all accounts, it is a much more complex issue to be resolved. This because Barack Obama's name was not even on the ballot in Michigan, as opposed to Florida where his name was on the ballot together with Hillary Clinton and the other Democratic presidential candidates, at the time.
Right now, neither Florida nor Michigan has any say whatsoever in the Democratic presidential nominating process, but they're trying to change that today and we're going to see what happens. Campbell Brown is watching all of this unfold, together with the best political team on television.
Campbell, an interesting expression of unity by the Florida Democrats, although there are still differences even among them.
BROWN: Yeah, a lot of emotion in that presentation that you saw from Robert Wexler, certainly, but as you pointed out, Wolf, Florida probably easier to resolve when we get to the debates that's going to come later this afternoon, the Michigan. And want to talk about that, right now with our political panel.
And let me reintroduce everyone. We've got Suzanne Malveaux, CNN correspondent; and senior CNN analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; Ron Kirk who is the former mayor of Dallas, Texas, joining us, who is an Obama supporter; and Robert Zimmerman who is a Democratic strategist and supporter of Hillary Clinton.
So, let's talk about that a little bit. You all heard, as everyone else did, that very passionate presentation by Wexler. But Michigan, it's probably going to be the real problem, here.
And that is going to come this afternoon because what people are talking about behind the scenes whether or not it is acceptable for Obama camp to go for 60/40 split. Sixty percent goes to Clinton and 40 percent for the uncommitted, those who said we would vote for the uncommitted voters, that would go for Obama, and what that requires is an alternative to the 50-50 split is getting the approval of Biden, Richardson and Edwards who also took their names off of the ballot so they would be part of that kind of uncommitted group.
MALVEAUX: It is really difficult to figure out who the voters are going for, but say the other candidate decided, well, that is a fair assessment, and that is something they are trying to work out and would that be acceptable to the Obama camp? They are working on seeing do they have enough superdelegates essentially to give him that pad so that she has, Hillary Clinton, the 60 percent, she'll get more of the pledged delegates and he gets the 40 percent and they believe they have that wiggle room, and he can make that gesture.
TOOBIN: Suzanne, may I ask for a clarification, is that 60/40 in half -- that each delegate would get half a vote like in Florida or is the full Michigan delegation that goes with 60/40?
MALVEAUX: They are just talking about 60 percent if it was a full -- not the half.
TOOBIN: Full. Well, that would net a lot of delegates for Hillary Clinton, because the Florida solution which really seems like it is close to done is that she wins in line with her election. The primary held there, but only half a vote for each delegate, so she only nets 19 delegates.
MALVEAUX: Not including superdelegates.
TOOBIN: Correct. But she only nets 19 delegates and with Obama ahead by 200, 19 doesn't matter. But 60/40 with full delegates in Michigan might simply be too delegates for the Obama campaign to abide.
RON KIRK, OBAMA SUPPORTER: But Campbell, separate from that, I think there is a huge difference in approach to Florida and Michigan. As we saw from all of the speakers, there is a great sympathy for Florida, because to some degree, this was a Republican -- well, a large degree, this was a Republican legislature and Republican governor and people feel like the Florida voters were not at fault.
A very different case in Michigan where you had a Democratic governor and a Democratic legislation and any solution for Michigan cannot enrich them greater than anything that would seem to be agreed on as it relates to Florida. MALVEAUX: All right. Robert, hold that thought and we will be back because we want to listen in on the state party chair, RBC member Mark Brewer speaking now.
MARK BREWER, MICHIGAN STATE PARTY CHAIR: That includes many supporters of both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, we all reached the conclusion that there was a reasonable compromise that we unify the party and fairly resolve this dispute in order for us to prepare for what we believe will be a tough general election fight in November. This proposal is what we will use at our June 14th state central meeting to select the balance of our delegation, so we are on track to do that. We enthusiastically support this proposal and want to follow it.
Now, I'd like to turn and talk briefly about each part of the proposal. Why should you seat the entire Michigan delegation? Simply put, Michigan's Democratic voters have already been punished enough for what has occurred over the last year and any further punishment will only hurt our ability to carry Michigan and its 17 electoral votes in November and our state is a must-win state for whoever the nominee is.
Due to the sanctions imposed by this committee last year while 54 states, territories and the Districts of Columbia have participated in one of the most competitive and exciting nominating contests in our party's history, Michigan has been completely bypassed.
From July of 2007 until just recently, Senator Obama was not in Michigan at all. During that same period, Senator Clinton made only two not public non-fund-raising events in Michigan. There was no official campaign staff or offices in Michigan. There was no advertising of any kind, no direct mail, no phone calls, no Internet activity -- no events or rallies, no voter re registration or I.D. work. No GOTV. We were completely bypassed in the process that is now drawing to a close, and that has been I think enormous punishment to the Democratic voters in Michigan.
But in addition to that, every time John McCain visits Michigan or Republican officials campaign on his behalf, they never fail to remind the voters of Michigan how the Democrats have ignored Michigan, don't care about Michigan and don't deserve the support of Michigan's voters in the fall.
A reduction in Michigan's delegates going forward to the convention would only add fuel to the Republican efforts and hinder our ability to win Michigan in the fall. Let me address briefly some items in the staff memo that indicated that this committee only has the authority to lift part of the penalty, and still has to at least cut us by half.
First of all, last year, we sought a waiver of those penalties based on timing of our event. That waiver was denied, but at the time we were here asking for the waiver, nobody questioned this committee's authority to grant such a waiver. In fact, this committee gave waivers to other states, the cycle who changed their dates of their processes in contravention of what the rules say. So essentially here today, we are asking again for a waiver, and that will enable you the seat our entire delegation. Secondly, the situation in Michigan is unique. The automatic 50 percent reduction was written and intended to operate as a prospective deterrent to states violating the rules on timing. It was not written with this situation in mind. To be a post-event remedy.
Here you face that situation that is not addressed by the rules. So for those reasons I believe you have the authority to reinstate our entire delegation. Now I want to address the rational for the allocation of 69 and 59. We all agree that the touchstone for allocation is the fair reflection of voter preference. For several reasons the allocation of 73 pledged Clinton delegates and 55 uncommitted delegates based on the primary is not a fair reflection of Michigan Democratic voter preferences at that time.
While our compromise allocation of 69 for Clinton and 59 for Obama, we believe is a far fairer reflection of the Democratic preferences in Michigan. First, as to the 55 uncommitted delegates, it is important that the committee understand what occurred in Michigan to understand what went on as people voted for those uncommitted positions. When four candidates, including Senator Obama, took their names off of the ballot, the Michigan Democratic Party as an institution concerned about the supporters of those candidates took the position that the best way for those supporters to support their candidates and express their support for those candidates was to vote uncommitted and to work to elect delegates who would reflect their preferences.
We produced written materials. We used earned media and publicize that advice that to the voters of Michigan. Obama and Edwards supporters in Michigan apart from the official campaigns, organized on a massive scale to educate their supporters to vote uncommitted in the primary. As a result, an extraordinary 40 percent of the January 15 primary vote was for uncommitted. I can't remember the last time Michigan had an uncommitted pledged delegate.
This was entirely due to the efforts of the supporters of those candidates to get their voters to vote uncommitted. Exit polls conducted that day confirmed that those voters were not truly uncommitted, but were supporters of Obama and Edwards in chief. Seventy five percent of the voters who voted uncommitted told exit pollsters that they supported Obama and most of the rest said they supported John Edwards.
At our subsequent district convention to elect delegates, these results were confirmed. Obama supporters in Michigan organized to elect 30 of the 36 uncommitted delegates at the congressional district level following through on exactly the advice we gave and the strategy they adopted.
Thus, it cannot be said that the 55 uncommitted delegate positions represent voters who are truly uncommitted. Those positions are a surrogate or a proxy for candidates who were not on the ballot, principally Barack Obama, and they should be allocated in that fashion which our proposal does. BLITZER: All right. Mark Brewer, the state Democratic chairman in Michigan making the case for reinstating the delegates from Michigan at the Democratic convention in Denver. We are going to break away briefly from his presentation before the Rules Committee of the DNC to speak with Congressman Robert Wexler, Democrat of Florida.
He is a supporter of the Obama campaign and you just heard his passionate statement before the Rules Committee suggesting that the Obama campaign would in fact now go forward and allow the reinstatement of all of the delegates of Florida, but only have half a vote at the Democratic convention in Denver.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us. Did I accurately summarize the bottom line of the Obama campaign's position today?
REP. ROBERT WEXLER, (D) FL: That is accurate, but the only thing I would add is that Senator Obama has asked for the maximum amount of delegates that can be awarded to Florida under the rules, and we do this in the hope of reconciling Florida's voters who have had an incredibly traumatic experience, and I hope that as people have seen today the Clinton campaign, and Senator Nelson on behalf of the Florida Democratic Party who support Senator Clinton and I on behalf of the Obama campaign have come together applauding and supporting the Ausman petition to begin the unification of the Democratic Party in Florida.
BLITZER: All right. So let's be specific. You want the pledge delegates to be seated but when the roll call comes at the convention they wouldn't have a full vote, each of those delegates, they would have half a vote. The superdelegates as well as the pledged delegates, is that right?
WEXLER: That is what the Ausman petition calls for. The Rules and Bylaws Committee would have to sanctify that, but of course the roll call you are talking about would occur in august. There may be a time that Senator Obama assuming he is the nominee gets control of this party that he might want to do something even more or additional. This is step one in restoring Florida's representation at the convention and I think we scored a big victory and I am hoping that the rules committee will follow through a big victory for Florida voters.
BLITZER: I thought I heard Jon Ausman who made this petition say before the rules committee say that the pledge delegates would have a different status than the superdelegates and that the pledge delegates would have half a vote, but the superdelegates in Florida would still have a full vote. Did you hear him say that?
WEXLER: You are correct, Wolf. That is the argument that Mr. Ausman made. I made a different argument as a congressman of the State of Florida, I want to be treated just exactly as are the other delegates in the State of Florida. I don't think that we should distinguish between superdelegates and elected delegates so we think that this is the fairest way to go in terms of the decision to be made today.
BLITZER: Because that is a pretty significant distinction potentially. Is it fair to say that you support the Ausman proposal when you have this major caveat?
WEXLER: Yes, because there are actually two parts. There are two Ausman petitions, e one that deals with the elected delegates and the one that deals with superdelegates and it is really the one that deals with the elected delegates because that is the controversy regarding Florida's primary that is truly at stake here.
BLITZER: Are you scared and I will ask the question bluntly, Congressman Wexler, as the supporter of Barack Obama's campaign and the designated hitter, if you will, for the Obama campaign, at this critical decision day meeting under way at the DNC in Washington right now that Hillary Clinton would get more of those superdelegates in Florida?
We are told there are 26 superdelegates in Florida right now by our estimate and seven of them are Clinton supporters and five of them, including you are Obama supporters and 14 are uncommitted, and is that your concern why you only want them to have half a vote at the convention as opposed to a full vote in that she would get more of those superdelegates?
WEXLER: No. I actually discussed this with Senator Bill Nelson, the senior senator from Florida early today who supports Senator Clinton. And I think we are all in agreement that the superdelegates from Florida want to be treated like the other delegates in Florida. But what you point out, Wolf, is the important part that in an attempt to reconcile with the Florida voters today, Senator Barack Obama has offered up a solution which nets Senator Clinton 19 delegates potentially, and that amounts to the same number of delegates that Senator Clinton won in both Ohio and Pennsylvania combined.
This is how serious Senator Obama is in terms of trying to resolve the fiasco in Florida so that we Democrats can move forward in a unified fashion.
BLITZER: There was some irritation you saw it and you felt it when you were asked why not let all of the delegates of Florida and Florida be reinstated with 100 percent of their vote as opposed to 50 percent of the vote, half of their vote, and you seemed reluctant to go that far even though someone who strongly supports the voting powers of the people of Florida -- why would you be reluctant if, and it is unlikely that the DNC would agree to this -- if they were to seat 100 percent of the delegates from Florida?
WEXLER: Well, the DNC lawyers earlier this week stated a ruling that said the maximum amount under the rules that were permitted to be awarded by this committee was the amount being asked in the Ausman petition. So to get into all of these hypotheticals, I did not want to even begin to do so, because the goal is to create unity and today, we have unity amongst the Obama campaign, the Florida State Democratic Party and there was large agreement with the representative from the Clinton campaign. So we don't want in any way to do anything other than come out of this committee as a winner for Florida and Florida's voters, and to unify our party.
BLITZER: You could feel the tension when Harold Ickes, a member of the rules committee and a Clinton supporter, a key strategist for Hillary Clinton, when he started to ask you a couple of questions, you could certainly feel the tension and we could feel it coming across the television screen as well, and you seemed to suggest that you are getting close to the unity on this issue with the Clinton campaign, but I didn't sense it in that exchange you had with Harold Ickes.
WEXLER: Ah, well, I respect Mr. Ickes an enormous amount. He is one of the brightest people in politics and of course I admire and respect Senator Clinton. What we are doing in Florida is we are unifying the Democratic Party in Florida, all of the camps, all of the people, all of the perspectives. And that is what I was pleading with the committee to recognize that if we in Florida, the Democrats can unify, give us the Ausman petition so we in fact can be unified to go forward and beat John McCain in November.
BLITZER: Congressman Wexler. Thanks very much for joining us.
WEXLER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Good luck to you and good luck to all of the people in Florida down there. We are going to be speaking to Bill Nelson shortly as well, and he is going to represent the state Democratic Party. We will get his sense. Elaine Kamarck is asking questions, now, Mark Brewer, the state chairman in Michigan. Elaine Kamarck, a former aide to Al Gore at the White House. Let's listen in as Michigan makes its case to try to be reinstated at the convention.
ELAINE KAMARCK, MASS., CLINTON SUPERDELEGATE: That in 1968 there were many delegates, and in the primaries the delegates bore no relationship to what the voters did in those primaries, so what I am uncomfortable with here is a present that we are setting that seems to be very much fundamental to the entire rules effort and the reform movement in the Democratic Party which is now more than four decades' old.
BREWER: I think that we find ourselves in a very unique and extraordinary situation. This is not the normal situation where you have a full complement of candidates on the ballot and that could be deemed as in Florida as a fair reflection of voter preferences. Every bit of evidence, scientific, anecdotal, political in Michigan indicates that those uncommitted voters are voting for Barack Obama or John Edwards. There is no contrary evidence to that whatsoever. So we believe it makes sense then to allocate the uncommitted delegates officially to Barack Obama.
JAMES ROOSEVELT, DNC RULES AND BYLAWS COMMITTEE: All right. I have got five questioners listed so far, and so I am going to ask for brief questions and brief answers. Don Fowler.
DON FOWLER, SC CLINTON SUPERDELEGATE: Mark, I appreciate what you are trying to do with your presentation. But I must say that I feel a little bit like "Alice in Wonderland," because on the one hand we have hard votes, and then in the other hand we want to discount the hard votes with exit polls. If we could do that, John Kerry would be president of the United States now. And I must say that I get a little bit of the same sense when we were dealing with Florida that we were questioning what would have happened if 300,000 or another 500,000 people had voted, we don't know. We have hard data from both of those states, and it is the best data we have to rely on and I think that we should accept those data.
BREWER: The exit polling data is used principally to award or allocate in our view the uncommitted delegates to Senator Obama. The other uncounted write-in votes I think are a very significant problem. Thirty thousand Democrats in Michigan wrote in for somebody and we believe Senator Obama and their votes are uncounted in this process.
BLITZER: We are going to break away once again from the Michigan presentation and the Q&A. Michigan trying to reinstate its delegate at the Denver convention for the Democrats. I want to bring in Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, he made a presentation to the Rules Committee on behalf of the Florida Democratic Party. Senator Nelson, thanks very much for joining us.
SEN. BILL NELSON, (D) FL: Good afternoon, it is, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Let me ask you a question, are you in complete sync with Robert Wexler with the Obama campaign, Congressman Robert Wexler, that the delegates should be reinstated and that they should all go to the Democratic National Convention but that the delegates, the superdelegates would have half a vote each as opposed the a full vote? Is that your stance as a representative of the state Democratic Party?
NELSON: Wolf, I will just repeat what I said to the committee on behalf of the state Democratic Party. My preference is that we seat the entire delegation, and that they reflect the vote that was cast by almost 2 million Florida Democrats, and they reflect that under the principle of one person, one vote. Let the votes be counted as they were intended.
Now I also said, but if the committee at a minimum decides that they are going to impose under their rules a penalty, then at a minimum, I would ask them to consider the half of a vote. I certainly want to see all of our delegates seated and Florida just wants to stop getting kicked around like they have.
BLITZER: Because the Ausman proposal as I heard it, senator, is that the pledged delegates, all of them would be seated, but only half a vote each, but that the superdelegates in Florida and what, there are 26 superdelegates in Florida, they would still have a full vote, is that your understanding? And is that what you want? Or do you want what Robert Wexler wants, the super and pledge delegates to be treated equally with half a vote each?
NELSON: I support the full seating of the delegation and at a minimum I support the Ausman proposal.
BLITZER: So in other words, you want the superdelegates to still have a full vote and the pledged delegates under the Ausman proposal if it came down to the need for this compromise, they would have half a vote, is that right?
NELSON: The ones who were elected by the people reflecting the people ought to be the ones who have most of the vote, Wolf.
BLITZER: Half a vote each?
NELSON: Well, of course I want them to have a whole vote. It is common sense.
BLITZER: But if you say you support the Ausman proposal, his proposal says that pledge delegates have half a vote.
NELSON: No, you are talking about Wexler, now, we are down in the weeds. The bottom line is that I am standing up for the people of Florida. To try to get their votes counted. We are pretty sensitive about this in Florida.
BLITZER: It is a very sensitive issue and not in the bottom of the weeds, with all due respect, senator, because the key issue right now is whether the state Democratic Party which you represent, and the Clinton and Obama campaigns have a unified stance to go forward to reinstate your delegates at the convention?
NELSON: Well, I will say it again. I support the full seating of the delegation. If the rules committee decides that they are going to impose a half penalty, then we would support that if they are seating the delegation reflecting the actual vote that occurred on January 29.
BLITZER: In other words, the percentage, the percentage that she received as opposed to the percentage that Barack Obama received, and when Robert Wexler ...
NELSON: One person, one vote.
BLITZER: Now, you are a Hillary Clinton supporter, so when he says Robert Wexler as he told us here on CNN and as he said at the hearing a few minutes before that, he says that this would net Hillary Clinton, the proposal he is willing to accept, speaking for Barack Obama, 19, a gain of 19 net delegates. Is that your understanding as well?
NELSON: Wolf, I don't know. This is not about a candidate. What I am testifying to on behalf of Florida and the Florida Democratic Party. This is not about a candidate. This is about the people of Florida and having their votes counted.
And I am trying to get that principle, and everybody wants to come in and try to divide on the specifics, but if the principle operates, then we are going to be OK and we are going to be able to unify.
BLITZER: It is a strong principle but as you know in politics a lot of times the devil is in the details, and that is what we have been trying to hash out.
NELSON: I understand. I understand.
BLITZER: Senator Nelson, thanks very much for joining us for a few moments and helping us try to better appreciate where you stand on this very, very sensitive issue. Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida.
When we come back, we will go back to Michigan, a much more complicated issue for the Rules Committee. They are going back and forth on that front right now. Much more of the coverage is coming up. Remember that cnnpolitics.com is where you can see these hearings stream continuously without interruption and get a lot more information as well. We will be back at the CNN Election Center right after this.
BLITZER: They are discussing Michigan right now at the DNC Rules Committee hearing in Washington, DC, trying to determine whether or if those delegates from Michigan should be reinstated. Earlier Florida was debated and now Michigan. They are asking questions of Mark Brewer, the state Democratic chairman in Michigan. Let's listen in.
THOMAS HYNES, IL, OBAMA SUPERDELEGATE: There were voters who did not vote in the primary, and therefore -- and we really have difficulty in gauging how many that is, and secondly, many of the people who did in fact vote, particularly those who might have gone out for a local election, if you go into a polling place, and you see on the line president of the United States and you see Hillary Clinton versus uncommitted, you are either not going to vote, you are likely not to vote, or you are going to vote for Hillary Clinton.