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Decision Day; Final Segment of the DNC Rules Committee Meeting; Wrap Up of the Day's Meeting

Aired May 31, 2008 - 19:00   ET


EVERETT WARD, NC, OBAMA SUPERDELEGATE: By the name of Ella Baker, formed what was called the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

WARD: And when Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker went to the Democratic National Convention, it was because the rules of the Democratic National Committee blocked people who looked like me out of the process.


WARD: So, I do not come to this process to play games. I come because there's a lineage and a history that says if we abide by the rules that there is fair play.

Now, there has been some propaganda and some words used, thus far, by one of my colleagues that seem to suggest that the motion that my colleague, Mrs. Raleigh (ph), has put forth, may hijack this process. This motion puts an opportunity for the people of Michigan, supported by the Michigan Democratic Party, to have an opportunity to participate in this process. Not anywhere in this motion does it say that the unpledged delegates will go to Senator Obama. Not in the motion.

So, for a colleague who exercises selective amnesia conveniently too often...


WARD: To sit at this table, and try to suggest that we are doing something that blocks voters and hijacks a process, I find it somewhat subjective. And I would just encourage my colleagues, as we continue this process, to continue to do it with honesty and truly in the spirit of Ella Baker, that we do it openly and honestly. And I hope that you will support this motion and that we will end, Madam Chair and Mr. Chair, at the beginning of this process, any further political posturing that suggests we are doing otherwise.


JAMES ROOSEVELT, DNC'S RULES AND BYLAWS COMMITTEE CO-CHAIR: The time for debate has expired. But as a matter of personal privilege, because he cannot vote on this motion, I'm going to ask the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party -

ELIZABETH SMITH, DC, CLINTON SUPERDELEGATE: Mr. Chairman, I have had my hand up for a very long time.

ROOSEVELT: Yes, but there are six other speakers actually who did before you and the time has expired.

SMITH: No. I was up before Don Fowler, but you called on Mr. Fowler.

ROOSEVELT: OK. I didn't see that, but -

SMITH: May I have one moment?


ROOSEVELT: Without objection, I'll allow one minute for Ms. Smith and then Mr. Brewer and then I'll accept the motion. OK.

SMITH: Fellow members of the rules committee, I personally want to address this to my friends in Michigan. I have had a very long association with the state of Michigan. Congressman Bonior I have known since, well, I've known for a long time, and Carl Levin, Senator Levin, Debbie Dingell, all of the people involved in this.

And when I came here today -- and I think they also know that when they applied to go outside the window, I was a supporter of letting Michigan go outside the window. I think it's a state that represents a lot of what's right with this country and what needs attention. And I fully intended to come here today and support them.

I thought the motion was going to be in two parts, one, to seat 50 percent of their delegation, and I would have happily supported it. But I cannot support the position of the Michigan Democratic Party on this challenge as far as the allocation of the delegates.

When I was speaking with Congressman Bonior this morning, I told him that I'm a Democrat with a capital "D" and I believe in Democracy with a small "d." And to me, the Democratic process is all about the voters in America, voters rule.


SMITH: They are -- they are the highest government of this country. And I cannot accept a compromise that ignores the will of the 600,000 voters who cast their votes even though it was in a party primary and not in the general election in the name of unity. We will have unity in this -- as we go into this fall election. This party will be unified. But this is not the way to do it. And I regret that I have to vote against the Michigan motion.


ROOSEVELT: Mr. Brewer?

MARK BREWER, MICHIGAN DEM. PARTY CHMN: Thank you, Mr. Co-chairman. On behalf of the Michigan Democratic Party, I'd like to thank the committee for its very thorough and thoughtful consideration of a very difficult situation and circumstances we find ourselves here in Michigan. And I pledge to you on behalf of the Michigan Democratic Party that if this motion passes, we will do everything we can to unify the Democratic Party in Michigan and carry Michigan for the Democratic nominee and for the next president of the United States.


ROOSEVELT: Mr. Johnson?

All right. We will proceed to a vote on this motion. And I'm going to ask the maker of the motion to read it again, because it is -- we need to have it specifically in front of us.

MAME REILEY, VA., CLINTON SUPERDELEGATE: I move the all pledged delegate positions in Michigan be restored provided that each pledged delegate shall be entitled to cast one-half vote. The pledged delegate position should be allocated as follows -- Senator Clinton, 69 delegates, casting 34.5 votes; Senator Obama, 59 delegates, casting 29.5 votes. All in pledged delegates as allocated by the call shall be entitled to cast one-half vote.

The Michigan Democratic Party shall conduct a process to fill the pledged delegate positions in accordance with rules five, six, seven, and 12 of the delegate selection rules, including candidate right of approval.

ROOSEVELT: Would all those in favor of the motion signify by raising your hand.



ROOSEVELT: Thank you. There are 19 -- there are 19 votes in favor. All those opposed to the motion, please signify by raising your hand.



ROOSEVELT: There are -- there are -- there are eight votes against. Are there any abstentions?

There are no abstentions. The motion carries.



MARTHA FULLER CLARK, NH, OBAMA SUPERDELEGATE: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Mr. Co-chairman, Mr. Roosevelt, I do not believe that everyone was able to hear due to the raucous in the halls what the pro, the yes, vote was. So, would you remind, once we can have it quiet -

ROOSEVELT: Please have the courtesy -- please have the courtesy to allow people to hear what the vote was. CLARK: I would request that you would repeat -

HERMAN: Could we ask the security at the door to please secure the doors? The meeting (ph) is still at session, I would respectfully request that we keep the doors closed.


CLARK: Mr. Chairman, I would request that you repeat the vote for the yes vote and the vote for the no vote. Thank you.

ROOSEVELT: The vote -- the vote on the motion regarding Michigan was 19 in favor, eight opposed, and no abstentions.

Now, we have no further business before the meeting today.

Pardon me?

Before I talk about the future business of this committee -- I know.

I'm getting to that.

Before -- before I talk about the future business of this committee, I'd like -- I'd like to recognize Mr. Fowler.

DON FOWLER, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Mr. Chairman, Madam Chairman, I want to extend personally to the two of you my thanks and the thanks of this entire committee for a job well done.


ROOSEVELT: Thank you, Don.


FOWLER: I would be less than honest if I told you that everything we did pleased me, because it hasn't. But I can fully assure you and everybody in this crowd that your service and your leadership has been in the best interests of the Democratic Party, and it's the kind of leadership that will make us win in November. Thank you.

ROOSEVELT: Thank you very much.


ROOSEVELT: I appreciate and my co-chair I'm sure also appreciates all of you and your participation and all of the testimony that we heard here today, as well, all of which spoke to how we fully hear points of view as Democrats and then we reach a conclusion by a majority vote.

So, thank you very much, Don, particularly coming from you. I'm particularly grateful for that statement.

Now, this committee has the further duty of making a final report to the credentials committee prior to June 29, and that will take place at our next meeting. It's anticipated that that will be a telephonic meeting.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And so there it is. The Democratic National Committee has finally reached what some will certainly say is a Solomon-like decision, to cut the baby in half, if you will, in both Florida and Michigan, give them all the delegates but only allow them to go to the Denver convention and they have half a vote, not a full vote.

This is not going to satisfy certainly the Hillary Clinton supporters, and you heard Harold Ickes, one of her top strategists, a member of the rules committee, and his presentation, very angrily by pointedly saying that Hillary Clinton authorized him to reserve the right to take this issue to Denver, meaning the Democratic convention in Denver at the end of August. If, in fact, that happens, that would be a severe, severe blow to many of the party leader who is want this thing resolved in the coming days, let alone continue through the credentials committee, continue through the convention.

Right now, the goal posts have been changed. Earlier, going into this meeting today, the magic number was 2,026. The number of pledged and superdelegates needed to name the Democratic presidential nominee. Ninety-two have been added by this new formula that includes Michigan and Florida. And as a result, the new number needed, the new goal post, if you will, is 2,118 delegates needed to secure the nomination. That will prolong the process maybe only for a few days, maybe longer. We don't know.

Still three contests remaining tomorrow in Puerto Rico, then Tuesday in Montana and South Dakota. Right now, we estimate that Barack Obama -- if you include the new numbers that we have calculated, go to him as a result of this decision by the DNC rules committee for Michigan and Florida -- he now has, we estimate, 2,050 delegates; Hillary Clinton has 1,877 delegates. The magic number: 2,118 needed to clinch the nomination.

What a day. A lot of excitement there, but the DNC has finally reached their decision. We'll see how serious this threat is from Hillary Clinton's campaign that there will be a challenge at the credentials committee, and this could, potentially, if you listen to Harold Ickes from the Clinton campaign, potentially could go all the way to the convention in Denver.

We have a lot to digest.

Our coverage will continue from the CNN Election Center. John Roberts is here over at the magic wall. Campbell Brown is here together with the best political team on television. is where you can get additional information if you want to go to the Web.

We'll continue our coverage right after this.


BLITZER: It's over. The DNC, the Democratic National Committee, its rules committee has now made its decision what to do with those disputed delegates in Michigan and Florida. And we now know what they want.

We'll see what the Clinton campaign decides to do. There was a threat, as you heard it, from Harold Ickes -- a member of the rules committee, a top strategist for Hillary Clinton -- that this could be challenged and maybe go all the way to the credentials committee at the convention in Denver.

John Roberts is here at our magic wall.

I guess first and foremost, John, we've got to take a look at the numbers because as we've been saying, the goal posts have just moved.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: This is the important number. This is the new finish line here: 2,118 delegates needed to win. The way that Barack Obama is right now with 2,050 - and, please ignore these numbers because they have not been updated yet -- but the overall number, Barack Obama at 2,050.

BLITZER: And that includes what we estimate each receive as a result of the Michigan and Florida compromise.

ROBERTS: Yes, we count the Michigan and Florida (ph) vote, that's what he'll have now; Hillary Clinton with 1,877.

So now, Barack Obama is 68 away from crossing the finish line. You remember, he was 42 under the old formula.

So, what contests do we have left? We've got Puerto Rico left, Montana, and South Dakota. Puerto Rico, tomorrow; Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday.

Puerto Rico, Hillary Clinton is leading by a substantial margin. So, if we say, gave it a 60/40 split with 55 pledged delegates, that would give her 33 to Barack Obama's 22. So let's add in some of those delegates here.

Now, let's go over to Montana and South Dakota. Barack Obama is ahead...

BLITZER: But (ph) in the polls.

ROBERTS: In the polls. But just for this scenario, let's split them evenly, all right? So, we'll give each candidate 11 delegates there. It turns green because it's a tie. Because there's an odd number here in South Dakota -- we can't quite apportion them evenly -- we'll give Barack Obama one more because he is ahead in the polls.

Now, let's take a look at where we are -- 2,086 for Barack Obama, 1,921 for Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama closing in now, he's within just a few of that. Let's take it over to our linear graphic here, and you can see how close he is to that finish line there.

BLITZER: Even under the new goal post.

ROBERTS: And how far away Hillary Clinton is. So, we have 14 delegates remaining on the pledged side.

This is John Edwards, six that had been allocated from Florida, which have not yet been apportioned. He is throwing his support behind Barack Obama. So, there is a pretty good chance that most if not all of those will go his way. There are others remaining from other tests that have yet to be updated in our computer.

BLITZER: But before we get to the superdelegates, after our estimate for the three remaining contests, Barack Obama would have 2,090, Hillary Clinton would have 1,925. Both shy of the 2,118 needed.

ROBERTS: Both shy of 2,118 needed. So, let's take this and roughly split them in half. Let me see if I can pull out -- there's four. Well, we'll give Barack Obama four of those and we'll give the rest to Hillary Clinton. He is still way out in front.

Two hundred and three superdelegates remaining.

BLITZER: Undeclared.

ROBERTS: Undeclared superdelegates.

So, now the case will be made by both of these candidates that they're the ones who can go to the November election, they're the ones who can beat John McCain. Barack Obama will say I've won more contests, I have more pledged delegates. Hillary Clinton will say I've won bigger states, I have won in the heartland.

BLITZER: How many of those undeclared superdelegates will Barack Obama need in order to win -- to get to the magic number of 2,118? Not many.

ROBERTS: Fourteen.


ROBERTS: Let's give him - sorry, 24, I mean. He just needs that many to cross the line, 24 out of that pool that are left. Even if Hillary Clinton gets the rest of them, she doesn't make it to the finish line.

So, out of those superdelegates who are left, both been making those arguments. Again, Hillary Clinton saying I've won in the big states, I won in the heartland, I can win in the rural areas, I can go up against John McCain in places like West Virginia, Ohio, and the I-4 corridor, in Florida where you need to win, and she will say that she has, at the end of August, got the popular vote on her side -- therefore the superdelegates should do go with her.

But as you can see by this math, she needs to make a very compelling argument because she needs to win about 75 percent of those remaining superdelegates.

BLITZER: So, based on this math that you'd just showed us, he only would need about only 24 of those remaining couple of hundred superdelegates after the three remaining contests in order to go beyond the 2,118 number. ROBERTS: Based on these numbers. And I didn't quite allocate the remaining -- the miscellaneous pledged delegates quite accurately, but he needs somewhere between about 20 and 24 to cross the finish line.

BLITZER: So, when he addresses his supporters in St. Paul, Minnesota, Tuesday night, which happens to be the site of the Republican convention in September, he's pointedly decided he's going to go there -- if he can get another 20 or 30 superdelegates by Tuesday night, he still might be in a position to claim victory.

ROBERTS: But don't forget, though, we heard Harold Ickes say at the DNC meeting, "We reserve the right to take this to the credentials committee." So, even if Barack Obama were to theoretically go over the line, they could say and challenge -- the credentials committee isn't even struck until the end of June. So, that argument wouldn't happen until July.

So, we could still be in limbo and it could go all the way to the convention. But there is a chance for Barack Obama if he can get those superdelegates, and some have told us -- because we stay in touch with these undeclared superdelegates -- that they will not make up their minds until the morning of the 4th of June. So, it may not be until a day or two after that we find out which way those superdelegates are breaking.

But there is a possible scenario between now and Tuesday at midnight, at least 24 of these superdelegates declare for Barack Obama that he could declare himself across the finish line to the fact (ph) to be the presumed nominee for the Democrats.

BLITZER: And we'll see what -- whether or not that threat from Harold Ickes at the end of his presentation is a real threat, a hollow threat, how serious the Clinton campaign might be because that's a exactly the nightmare scenario that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Governor Howard Dean, the chairman of the party, they are dreading that.

ROBERTS: It was pretty ominous language that he used. He said, "I have permission from the candidate, from Hillary Clinton, to take this to the credentials committee or to say reserve the right to take it to the credentials committee."

BLITZER: Those of us who have covered Harold Ickes for a long time, I go back, way back to '92 when Bill Clinton was running for president, I can -- I can say very simply, and you know this, John, that was vintage Harold Ickes.

ROBERTS: It was but the problem is, do they want to fight that battle, because it could be a scorched-earth policy. If Hillary Clinton decides to take this all the way to the convention, Howard Dean has said -- we don't want to go into the convention divided. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have said -- we need to be you united before we go to this convention.

There was not exactly unity in that meeting today. So, if they take it to the convention, and the party -- there is disunity in the party -- many people believe that that would be just handing the election to John McCain. Chris Dodd told us, he said, "We go in divided, John McCain wins the election."

BLITZER: All right. And as you heard Harold Ickes say as much as he thought the allocation of Michigan delegates was unfair because she wouldn't get enough, he didn't think that Barack Obama should get any of those delegates since his name was not even on the ballot.

ROBERTS: You know, when you do the math though, even if he got none, he's still way out in front.

BLITZER: He's still - math would still be in his favor.

All right. We'll see what goes on. We have a lot more to discuss. Campbell Brown is still here to digest all of this with the best political team on television -- lots to assess.

This meeting has been adjourned but the fallout will only just be beginning.

We'll be right back.


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And we are back. What a day it has been. We've got the best political team on television tonight to digest it all with me.

And let's talk about Harold Ickes -- one angry man. Top adviser to Hillary Clinton who says, and I should say that the Clinton campaign just now put out a statement underscoring what he said in the committee meeting a short time ago, "We reserve the right to challenge this decision before the credentials committee and appeal for a fair allocation of Michigan delegates that actually reflects the votes that were cast." Is this going to happen? Is Hillary Clinton going to take this all the way to the convention, Robert?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, CLINTON SUPPORTER: Harold Ickes is one of the great warriors in presidential politics and one of the most brilliant tacticians in presidential politics. That being said, I think it's interesting to note how many of the supporters of Senator Clinton on the committee voted with the majority and did not vote with Harold's position. So, I think it's premature to reach that conclusion. Howard Wolfson earlier in the day said and was quoted in "The New York Times" saying it's not the intention of the Clinton campaign to go to the convention. I believe they're going to focus on party unity and ultimately the primary voters and superdelegates are going to tell the story in this process.

BROWN: Was anybody else surprised by the level of anger in that room from some of the Clinton supporters when the decision was announced?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANALYST: I actually wasn't surprised. It's been a real visceral, emotion reaction from both sides, but especially the Clinton supporters who really feel like they have been cheated by this process. The people outside of the building and people inside the building. And it's been visceral. It's been that way for months now.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN ANALYST: But let's focus on the bottom line of what matters. Today is the day Barack Obama became the nominee of the Democratic Party.

BROWN: We've said that before.

TOOBIN: No, no, no. This is not -- this is over now.

BROWN: But we mean it this time.

TOOBIN: First of all, I have never said it. There are other members of the best political team who may have said it, but I've never said it. There is no way she can catch up anymore because this removed the last obstacle, the last chunk of delegates in play as John and Wolf showed. He has to win about a quarter of the remaining superdelegates. He's been getting three-quarters of the superdelegates. The numbers simply aren't there. The legal issue isn't there. The Clinton supporters, as the vote today illustrated, were falling away even on this committee. It's over now.

MALVEAUX: And by the way, the Obama people, they already believe they got the superdelegate, that they'll have them by Tuesday. Not a matter of making up people's minds. Just making an announcement.

BROWN: Waiting until all the voting was done. Go ahead, Ron. Sorry.

RON KIRK, OBAMA SUPPORTER: No. Yes, I think it's -- I'll say it. I'll join my friend Mr. Toobin ...

BROWN: Let me clarify for those who are just joining us, Ron is an Obama supporter and Rob is supporting Hillary Clinton.

KIRK: There are several questions. Was I surprised by the passion in the room. No. I mean, this scenario today lent itself to more theater than it did calm reflection. So, one, I wasn't surprised by the reaction of the audience. I was very proud of the members of the committee, though. You remember when they came in, we were all commenting on their body language. And they spoke of the fact that they had gone through a very tough, deliberate, but thoughtful process, and it yielded a result that they all believed was fair and one that they could live with.

BROWN: Not all. Harold Ickes ...

KIRK: Well, Harold is a special case. And we love him. But iIve got to believe -- and we love him. But I've got to believe -- you know, at some point, I hate to use a sports analogy. That's like -- you know, that's using all three of your time-outs when you're down by 21 points and there's 20 seconds left on the clock. I mean, that's somewhat of an empty threat.

ZIMMERMAN: I don't want to ruin a great story line for the best political team and the best political journalists in the universe. However, I still believe in the process. And I think we can leave it to the voters and the superdelegates in the process to really resolve who will be the nominee. I think it really is very counterproductive, and I think also this rush to judgment, we still have a process, we still have voters coming in three contests.

I know it's considered very naive and I know it's considered kind of quaint to talk about the voting process, but I think it should be respected. Likewise with the committee that met today. I really think run is correct. They are to their credit -- ultimately, the reality is voters were cheated. This was an imperfect solution, yet it was the fairest solution possible under this situation.

TOOBIN: Forty eight states have voted. I would not characterize that as a rush. That's a lot of states.

ZIMMERMAN: I would say to you there are still 200 unpledged superdelegates to be decided, and 85 delegates to be chosen in the primaries. I think we should respect process and let their voices be heard before we make the decision for them.

BROWN: Guys, let me ask you, though, if you're a Republican right now and you watched this today, are you not just high fiving, jumping up and down?

TOOBIN: Absolutely not.

ZIMMERMAN: Quite to the contrary.

TOOBIN: Absolutely not.

BROWN: No. Why?

TOOBIN: This story has gone away.

KIRK: Because you can go to the grocery store and see all those signs that say $4.79 for gas and milk at $5 a gallon.

BROWN: But let's talk about the politics of it.

TOOBIN: The politics of it, this is not a fight that looks like it's going to continue. What you saw was many of the Clinton delegates break off and support Obama. There is no prospect, I would submit, a zero prospect of a convention fight. That's what the Republicans want and they're not going to get it.

ZIMMERMAN: You saw the Clinton supporters in the committee as we talked about through the course of this day for party unity. I think it's an important distinction.

BROWN: That's a fair point. They all went out of their way.

ZIMMERMAN: What was traumatic for Republican Party officials watching this event was to see people of diversity coming here instead of meeting in a country club over cocktails. It had to be a little difficult for some of the Republican establishment to see an open process work and to see party unity achieved.

MALVEAUX: And it was messy. Remember South Carolina the debate and how vitriolic, the two camps, Obama and Clinton, how they went after each other, it got really ugly, there was so much tension in the room, there was a lot of energy, a lot of passion. You knew there were two people who are fighting for this job. And then it dissipated. They calmed down, they pulled away and you saw a different kind of tone. I think you're going to see that after this.

BROWN: Go ahead.

KORK: There's nothing for the Republicans to take comfort from because the sooner our Democratic nominee is settled, then the focus again shifts between the extraordinary differences in policy between either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton and John McCain. I keep going back to the sports analogy. One of my friends democrats are trying to decide if we want to put in the race a BMW or Mercedes and the Republican candidate is still going to drive in his old battered old car to the starting line and we start out so much stronger ...

ZIMMERMAN: We prefer American cars first and foremost, but I think the point Rob is making is so critical and that is the issues that are going to dictate these election results are going to be issues about our international security, our protection at home, our economy, our health care.

BROWN: When does that conversation begin? You've got Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Howard Dean saying essentially -- what did they say this week? After Tuesday's primaries they're going to end this. I'm not quite sure how ...

TOOBIN: It's now Saturday night. The last primary is Tuesday. It's going to start on Wednesday. There is not long to wait for this thing to be over and resolved. We're talking three days.

KIRK: I would only disagree. I think those conversations have started right now. The only reason to delay those conversations would have been had the committee done something extraordinary and given Hillary Clinton all of the votes from Michigan that she wanted and Florida, but with the decision of the Rules Committee today, I believe those conversations are happening as we speak.

BROWN: Let me bring in our own Roland Martin, with us as well. He's in Houston, Texas. Let me get your take on everything, Roland.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, Campbell, I'm not surprised or shock had the committee made this decision because their goal, frankly, is to keep this party together. If they wanted to stay so hard, and that is to say, you know, look, you broke the rules, forget about it, they knew there would be problems. This frankly was the best decision the Democrats could come up with because they do have to move on. They cannot continue to be embroiled in a battle in June and July and August because the window is far too short between the end of the convention and the beginning of the election.

BROWN: Roland, while I have you, I want to shift gears and remind people of another story we were covering earlier today, another important and big development in the campaign which is Barack Obama announcing or sending a letter, rather, to his church where he is resigning from his church congregation. And Roland had reported earlier on this. Roland, what else do you know?

MARTIN: First, I also have, Campbell, the statement from Trinity United Church of Christ. This comes from the senior pastor, the Reverend Otis Moss III, saying, "Trinity United Church of Christ was informed that Senator Barack OObama and his family will no longer be members of our church. Though we are saddened by the news, we understand it is a personal decision. We will continue to lift them in prayer as former members of our Trinity community. As in the prayer for the Ephesian, our entire Trinity family asks that the entire nation entrusts them to God's care and guidance to so that Christ may continue to dwell in their lives their hearts and in their works. We ask for peace to be with him." And there is a quote of scripture. Quote, "'Now for him who is able to do immeasurably more and all we ask or imagine according to his power that is a work within us', Ephesians Chapter 3, verse 20.""

Also, Campbell, in talking with a source that is familiar with the deliberations, this particular source tells me as it relates to the decision that this is something that the Obamas frankly have been discussing for weeks between the both of them. They also said that they were praying over this decision with their pastor, that they decided a while ago to make this decision but decided on yesterday to notify Trinity of that decision. So, it is something that, again, the source says has been on their minds, they've been praying about it, talking about it and decided on yesterday to actually notify Trinity of their decisions to resign as members of Trinity United Church of Christ.

BROWN: We should also mention ,there was another incident, Roland, of the course of the last week, involving Father Pfleger during the last week who did a mocking imitation of Senator Hillary Clinton during a sermon at that church that was extremely embarrassing for Senator Obama as well.

MARTIN: Yes. First of all, it was embarrassing for Barack Obama and the church but also for the UCC because the reason Pfleger was giving the sermon because it was part of the UCC's national conversation on race. They announced that I believe it was Sunday, May 18. They were having this national conversation, all of their churches, on the issue of race. That's what that sermon was actually about. And again, this particular mocking of Clinton, that became far more prominent than anything else that Father Pfleger has said. He has been a longtime supporter of Senator Barack Obama and also was part of Catholics for Obama. It was interesting that Cardinal George in Chicago released a statement yesterday that Father Pfleger has told him based upon their discussions, heated at times, that he will no longer be making any political statements, will not be backing any candidate publicly.

So, certainly, this goes beyond just the presidential campaign. It also potentially affects that particular church where Father Pfleger has been a long time pastor.

BROWN: All right, Roland. We're going to take a quick break. We've got a lot more to tell you about coming up. Stay with us. We'll come right back.


BLITZER: Two major developments happening today. Breaking news on both fronts. The Democratic National Committee, its Rules Committee has decided to seat the delegates from Michigan and Florida, the disputed delegates after all, albeit not at full representation. They will be getting half a vote at the Democratic convention, but they will be allowed to go to Denver and participate with half a vote at the Democratic National Convention.

The other major story we're following is Barack Obama has written a letter to his longtime church, the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago saying he and his family would no longer be members. We're watching both of these stories. One of the most interesting aspects of the first story, the decision by the DNC to go ahead and seat Michigan and Florida under these new circumstances, causing a threat to be issued by one of Hillary Clinton's top supporters, a member of the Rules Committee himself, Harold Ickes. He ended his presentation with these ominous words.


HAROLD ICKES, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I am stunned that we have the gall and the chutzpah to substitute our judgment for 600,000 voters. Was the process flawed? You bet your ass it was flawed. Mrs. Clinton has instructed me to reserve her rights to take this to the credentials committee.


BLITZER: A very bold threat there, a threat, we don't know how serious, but a threat to take this to the credentials committee. And that could, in fact, set the stage for a floor fight at the Democratic Convention in Denver at the end of August. A real threat coming in from Harold Ickes right there. By the way, Harold Ickes will be among my guests tomorrow on LATE EDITION.

LATE EDITION airs at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. We'll speak to Harold Ickes and press him on how serious this threat is. It comes in the face of warnings from other Democratic Party leaders. They want this thing resolved long before Denver. They'd like it resolved in the coming days so the Democratic nominee the start getting ready for the fight against John McCain. LATE EDITION airs at 11:00 Eastern. That will set the stage for our coverage tomorrow of the Puerto Rico primary. The Puerto Rico primary has the poll closings at 3:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. We have exit polls in Puerto Rico, exclusive exit polls at CNN. We'll start sharing some of those numbers. Exit poll numbers in Puerto Rico with our viewers during LAT EDITION. Lots of news going on.

Robert Wexler is joining us now, the congressman from Florida, a Democrat, very much involved in all of this. He's a key supporter of Barack Obama. In fact, made Barack Obama's representation, presentation before the Rules Committee earlier today. Let me get your reaction, congressman, on this bottom line. It wasn't exactly what the Obama people wanted, certainly wasn't what the Clinton people wanted. But the Rules Committee voted in favor of it. What do you think?

REP. ROBERT WEXLER, (D) FL: Well, this was an extraordinary compromise. And with respect to Florida, what is so important is that there was a unanimous vote by both Clinton and Obama supporters to reinstate the Florida convention delegates and to base those delegates on the vote. This is an extraordinary, historical achievement that respects Florida's voters and allows the Florida Democratic Party to unite for the November election.

BLITZER: But that was in marked contrast, congressman, marked contrast to Michigan, where it wasn't unanimous. There was anger in those words. And you heard that threat from Harold Ickes potentially to take it to the credentials committee, maybe eve on the convention in Denver.

WEXLER: Well, certainly I take Mr. Ickes at his word. I believe there's a long time, 30 days, between today and then I think a lot of things will happen that will allow people to unite in Michigan as we are now uniting in Florida. The important part for me as a member of Congress from Florida is that we have put the fiasco that we have had in Florida behind us, and we truly respected Florida voters in the process. I'm thrilled. The Clinton supporters are thrilled. And hopefully we will be able in the Michigan situation to come up with a comparably successful result. I still think many people from Michigan are very satisfied with the situation.

BLITZER: While you were in there having that meeting, word surfaced, we reported it here, that Barack Obama and his family are now leaving their longtime church in Chicago, the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in the aftermath of the latest uproar resulting from a Catholic priest's mocking of Hillary Clinton at services there last week. Your reaction to this decision.

WEXLER: Well, that's obviously a decision, a personal decision, made by Senator Obama and Mrs. Obama. And I think it's one that I respect enormously. And I think it bodes well for us in the general election that we can put whatever issues there were behind us with respect to the church.

BLITZER: Is it at all realistic, congressman -- -- and I ask this question to someone who's been very supportive of Barack Obama for a very long time, namely you. Isn't it at all realistic, the bad blood, the length of this campaign, to think it's possible Barack Obama might yet try to unify the party and ask Hillary Clinton to be his running mate?

WEXLER: I think anything is possible, and quite frankly, Wolf, today, here at the DNC, we proved that unity is possible in Florida. All of the parties -- the Clinton people, the Obama people, the Florida Democratic Party -- came together and presented a joint position that was voted on unanimously by the Clinton and Obama supporters on the DNC committee. I believe this is a model for how the Democratic Party should be unified in November.

BLITZER: Will he be in a position, based on the numbers that you're crunching, Congressman Wexler, Tuesday night, when he speaks in St. Paul, Minnesota, at that stadium site where the Republicans will hold their convention in early September, will he be in a position to say he has crossed the new threshold, the new number that's need to be the Democratic presidential nominee?

WEXLER: Wolf, I don't know if he'll be in position on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning or precisely what time. But what is clear is that, based on comments by Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid, the number of superdelegates that will make their commitment as soon as all of the primaries and caucuses are over this week will be substantial. And when that happens, the Obama campaign is quite confident that it will have achieved the number of delegates to make Barack Obama is presumptive nominee.

BLITZER: We're out of time. But how would you personally, Robert Wexler, feel about an Obama/Clinton ticket?

WEXLER: I think it would be an exciting ticket. I know there are many people that have presented it as a very terrific option. And I think it would be exciting. I think that, of course, will ultimately be up to Senator Obama and Senator Clinton.

BLITZER: Robert Wexler, the longtime congressman from South Florida joining us. You delivered a passionate address today before that committee. It seemed to have had an impact with the 30 members of the Democratic National Committee's Rules Committee. Thanks very much for joining us.

WEXLER: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Let's go back to Campbell Brown and the best political team on television. Campbell?

BROWN: That's right, Wolf. We just want to get their final thoughts on the day. I'll start with you, Robert.

ZIMMERMAN: It was actually an historic day for the Democratic Party. Obviously, from my perspective, it was frustrating. Voters -- not every vote was counted or honored, but we saw the Democratic Party come together in a unified fashion, Clinton and Obama supporters together, to try to bring a resolution to a very difficult situation. And I think it bodes very well in terms of showing the Democratic Party's united and focused on victory in November.


KIRK: I'm going to be brief -- I agree with Bob. I think it was an extraordinary day, and it was a great opportunity for Americans to really get a first-hand look, to come inside and see how the parties run their business. It was a tough day, but I'm proud of the way the committee conducted themselves. And I think they came up with a fair and a just result.

BROWN: Did either of you think there's any chance of a Clinton/Obama ticket?

KIRK: I think anything's possible. You know, we look at everything in such a lens of now that we forget the enmity that existed between the Clintons -- the Kennedys and LBJ or Ronald Reagan and George Bush. You can't ignore the passion of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that they have brought to the table. You butt the two of that together, that could be a fairly potent combination.

ZIMMERMAN: It would be an extraordinarily powerful ticket. It would be a winning ticket. But I think both of them -- it's very personal decision for both of them to make, but what's most important is how unified they are around the principal issues that are really important for Democrats and really moving our country forward.

BROWN: Jeff?

TOOBIN: There were a lot of winners today. One winner was the much- maligned Howard Dean who will wind up leading I think a united Democratic Party. Two big heroes for the Democratic Party were James Roosevelt and Alexis Herman, who tamed to that very divided committee and I think did a remarkable job pulling that thing together. The biggest winner was Barack Oama because today is the day it all ended.

BROWN: Quickly Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: A lot of work to be done with the Obama campaigns and the Clinton campaigns. The word is unity. We've got a lot of things to do to bring the party together and they that's what they'll be focusing on. But it will take a lot to get that unhappy screaming audience back together.

BROWN: Let's send it back to Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Campbell.

I want to go right to Tom Foreman over at the hotel in Washington where the Democrats has their meeting. Tom, give us a sense of what's going on right now. I take it there are still a few protesters out there.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there are, Wolf. There are many people who came out this very, very, very angry, and in almost my entire time in politics I've never seen anything quite like it, a lot of people yelling they will take this to Denver, yelling they felt robbed of their vote, some people crying. Very, very angry. Some of the Obama supporters saying they were shocked at how angry the Clinton supporters were. But nonetheless, many people leaving here tonight feeling this really isn't eve even though the Rules Committee says it essentially is.

BLITZER: It's a dramatic moment. Are they angry because of the setback for Hillary Clinton in Michigan? Is that why they're angry?

FOREMAN: A lot of them will say they're just upset over a general sense that they feel democracy isn't being ordered here or honored here, and perhaps many feel that way, but a lot of them also are clearly very, very upset. Also a lot of women here, they felt this was a personal affront on a gender line, that they are very concerned about that obvious lay lot of work for this party to unite around whatever candidate they ultimately wind up with. Wolf?

BLITZER: They've got their work cut out for them. Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

And just to recap, the Democrats made major decisions today at the Rules Committee hearing in Washington, DC on the decision to go ahead and seat the delegates. The pledged delegates as well as the superdelegates from both Michigan and Florida but they won't get full voting rights. They eat get half a vote for each of the delegates. There was pretty much agreement that this was a good compromise between the Clinton and Obama campaigns as far as Florida was concerned. There was not agreement. There was no consensus between the Clinton and Obama camps as far as Michigan was concerned. And the threat that was made, a bold threat from Harold Ickes, a top Clinton strategist, a member of the Rules Committee, to go ahead and say the senator, Senator Clinton, has authorized him to say this could go on to the credentials committee, meaning there could a challenge as far as Michigan is concerned. Harold Ickes, once again, will be among my guests tomorrow on LATE EDITION. LATE EDITION airs at 11:00 a.m. Eastern. We'll set the stage for the Puerto Rico primary. The polls close in Puerto Rico at 3:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. We'll have extensive coverage throughout the day setting the stage for Tuesday in Montana and South Dakota. Stay with CNN for continuing coverage.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center. Thanks for joining us.