Obama camp willing to compromise on Florida

Speaking on behalf of Barack Obama, a Florida congressman signals the campaign's acceptance of a rumored deal concerning the state's delegation.

Published May 31, 2008 5:01PM (EDT)

The reports about a compromise concerning the question of how to seat Florida's delegates at the Democratic convention got a little extra credence Saturday morning.

Both the Clinton and Obama campaigns have designated a representative to present their case to the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee. The Obama presenter is Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.). During his statement to the RBC, Wexler said the Obama campaign would be willing to accept some of the terms asked for in one of the challenges, called "the Ausman petition" after Jon Ausman, the DNC member who brought it, that the RBC is considering.

Becoming animated, Wexler referred to the standard penalty called for in DNC rules, which would be to strip the state of half of the size of its delegation for violating party dictates about when primaries could be held. (This is also the penalty the Republican Party levied against its Florida delegation.) "We must find a way as Democrats... seeking to bring change to the ways of Washington to resolve this situation so that Florida may participate in this historic nominating process," Wexler said. "As the designated representative of the Obama campaign, and as an elected representative from the state of Florida, I ask this committee to restore Florida to representation at the Democratic National Convention in accordance with the Ausman petition. This action will involve extra delegates, up to 19 delegates, being awarded to Sen. [Hillary] Clinton. Sen. [Barack] Obama should be commended for his willingness to offer this extraordinary concession."

Here, Wexler was interruped by a loud roud of applause and a standing ovation from some members of the audience, including Ausman. Wexler continued, "Sen. Obama offers this concession in order to promote reconciliation with Florida's voters. Please, committee members, take note of what you have heard here today."

Ausman's petition concedes that the standard penalty is for half of the pledged delegate vote to be taken away, but asks that all superdelegates from Florida retain their full vote. Wexler opposed this, saying, "I also ask that you please reinstate the unpledged superdelegates from Florida with a partial half-vote for each, the same as for the pledged delegates." This remark prompted a little booing from the gallery, and the banging of a gavel from the committee chairs, but Wexler was able to continue, "This would be fair and promote unity amongst Florida Democrats and the national party."

During the question and answer session with Wexler, Clinton supporters who serve on the committee showed that they were less than happy about Wexler's position, and the exchange got contentious at times; there were some raised voices on both sides.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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