Hillary Clinton's potential trump cards Florida and Michigan may not deliver at the Democratic convention this August, as her party may cut their delegate strength to at least half in punishment for early holding of primaries, a media report has said.
The rules of the Democratic party call for Florida and Michigan to lose at least half of their delegate strength at the Denver convention to select the presidential nominee, an analysis by lawyers of the party, reported by the New York Times, said.
This outcome could close off Hillary Clinton's last opportunity to cut significantly into frontrunner Barack Obama's lead in delegates, it said today.
The legal analysis, sent late Tuesday to the party's rules committee, is expected to guide a meeting this weekend where the committee will try to settle one of the most contentious issues remaining in the Democratic presidential race: what to do with delegates from Florida and Michigan, which violated party rules by moving up their primaries ahead of February five, the paper said.
Clinton, it added, had hoped for the full Florida and Michigan delegations to be seated, and for their votes to be apportioned according to the results in their primaries, which she won.
But the lawyers' analysis said that as punishment for the primaries' being held early, party rules allowed the states nothing more than that their delegations be cut in half, or that the full delegations be seated with each delegate getting only half a vote.
As a result, Clinton would appear to need all the more superdelegates to swing her way if she has any remaining hope for the nomination.
To that end, the paper said she stepped up her appeal yesterday to superdelegates, the Democratic officeholders and party officials who could ultimately decide the nomination.
In a letter, she argued that she would be a stronger nominee than 47-year old Obama against Senator John McCain in the fall.
Clinton, 60, leads in polls in swing states, the letter said, has support from regions and demographics that the Democrats need and is ahead of McCain in Gallup national tracking polls while Obama is behind him, and is better positioned to win in the Electoral College, mainly because she leads McCain in polls in Ohio and Florida.
The Democratic nominating battle has only three primaries left, and all take place over the next week, in Puerto Rico on Sunday and in Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday.
Obama may be poised to claim the nomination after those contests, though he will need additional superdelegates to do so, the Times said.
Obama, according to the paper, is now a mere 51 delegates short of the 2,026 needed for the nomination. Those numbers do not count Florida and Michigan, and so they could be altered somewhat by the results of the rules committee's meeting.
The committee is to convene Saturday at a Washington hotel.
Demonstrations, the paper said, are expected there on Clinton's behalf; the Clinton campaign has said it is not organizing them but has not discouraged them, it added.
David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, was quoted as saying that the Obama camp had advised against rallies, despite calls on the Internet for counter-protests.
The campaign did not want to contribute to a chaotic scene, which, he said, would not serve the interests of party unity.