The most powerful people for the Democratic party, at least for this weekend, is the 30 members of the Democratic Rules and ByLaws Committee.
You can watch the Rules and ByLaws Committee deciding the fate of 2.3 million votes, for yourself on C-Span live.
The committee is meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington.
What exactly does Hillary Clinton want?
These thirty people will decide the fate of 2.3 million Democratic presidential primary votes that were cast in Michigan and Florida, but because the two states (and others) moved their primaries forward, Howard Dean and the Rules and ByLaws committee voted to change the penalties and strip all the delegates from those two states (not the others, thereby making the 2.3 million votes cast, meaningless.
Hillary Clinton won both of the states in the primaries, although in Michigan, Barack Obama had taken his name off the ballot, thinking it wouldn't count.
Today, the Rules and ByLaws Committee is hearing the argumants, deliberating and will render a decision as to what to do about the disenfranchisement of 2.3 million voters. (Something they should have though about when they decided to change the rules and the penalties to begin with).
The options for Florida are to 1) Leave it as is and allow none of the delegates to be seated at the convention. 2)Seat half of the delegates, which would have been the original penalty, before Dean decided to make a power play and try to force Florida and Michigan to change the schedule or 3)Seat all of the delegates and only give them 1/2 a vote or 3/4 of a vote.
Michigan is a harder challenge because hundreds of thousands of people voted for "uncommitted" since their candidate of choice wasn't on the ballot, those uncommitted may have voted for Obama had he not removed his name, or one of the other Democratic candidates that were still in the race at that time but had removed there name.
Also, believing the vote would not count, many people might not even have bothered to vote at all, already feeling they had been disenfranchised.
How do you divide that state when there are so many complications of how to award delegates if the committee is so inclined?
Some have proposed that the state's delegates simply be divided equally, 50/50, yet that again would give Clinton a reason to appeal this decision and force it to the floor of the convention.
Complicating the matter a bit are the hundreds of protesters outside the committee meeting, holding signs saying "count every vote" and other sayings with the same theme. (The protests were discussed previously here)
You can watch the committee for yourself on C-Span live.
What is at stake is the popular vote. Barack Obama is in the lead with delegates. Even with the best case scenario for Clinton at the outcome of the Rules and ByLaws decision, she cannot overtake Obama's delegate lead, although she could make a good dent in it.
Clinton's argument is that if Michigan and Florida count, she will be in the lead with the popular vote. That argument is true enough, although how much it would help Clinton with garnering superdelegate votes is another matter entirely..
The scene is set, the protesters are there, the arguments have been made, but what does Hillary Clinton really want?
Does she want the R&B Committee to really give Michigan and Florida all of their delegates back, make them all count?
Or does she want a reason to appeal the decision of the committee, so she can take this fight all the way to convention, even though Democratic party leaders have described that scenario as a "train wreck"?
I am seeing predictions outlining the thought process of those who think this is all one elaborate trap set for Obama by Clinton, setting it up so she has a reason to appeal and a reason to take this fight to the convention.
The rules meeting is a trap. Clinton wants the RBC to give Florida and Michigan not the full votes she is fruitlessly advocating for and which would in any case not translate to a win for her but the half-vote compromise she is publicly advocating against. When the committee does award half-votes, she will have cause to extend her campaign through the summer, guaranteeing a divided Convention and possibly killing Democrats' chances of capturing the Oval Office in November (and of preventing pro-life , pro-Imperial Presidency Republicans from replacing the two remaining Democrats on the nine-member Supreme Court).
It's a trap, and the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party are about to walk blindly into it. No one seems to be noticing that -- let alone implementing the equally counterintuitive, Aikido strategy that would stop Clinton's game: letting her have her way tomorrow, 100 percent, so that she lacks grounds to appeal, and Obama, instead, becomes the one holding the "I could appeal!" trump card.
It's a trap. Will Obama and the DNC open their eyes in time?
Interestingly enough, although many thought that after June 3rd, when the remaining primaries would be held, Clinton would be forced to bow out, yet she has extended her traveling press corps schedule through June 6, 2008, which gives further support to the argument that Clinton might just appeal any decision that does not give her 100 percent of the votes counted in Florida and Michigan.
Jay Carson, Clintons campaign spokesperson, when asked about that very subject, said, "There are a lot of places for us to go between June 4 and November."
The issue of disenfranchisement is not only worrying Clinton voters though as one of those protesters outside the Marriott Wardman Park hotel is an Obama supporter, Sharon Clark of Orlando, Florida. She voted for Obama in the primary but wheres a black T-shirt with other members of her group, that says, "This is a Democracy, Be a Democrat."
Even though seating the state's delegates probably would help Clinton, she believed Florida's vote should count especially given the state's spotty history on voting.
"I'm tired of it. I want to go and vote and know my vote is going to count," she said.
With all the players, the stakes being the highest ever and all the complications, the question still remains, what does Hillary Clinton really want?
Does she want the votes to count and be awarded 100 percent according to the primaries, as they were held or does she really want the Rules and ByLaws Committee to split them, disenfranchise them or award them and just give them half of a vote, thereby giving her the strategic "reason" needed to take this fight to the convention floor?