DNC Strips Florida of Delegates

The DNC has stripped Florida of its delegates to the party convention unless it quickly moves its primary at least a week after New Hampshire’s as required by party mandate.

The Democratic National Committee sought to seize control of its unraveling nominating process yesterday, rejecting pleas from state party leaders and cracking down on Florida for scheduling a Jan. 29 presidential primary. The DNC’s rules and bylaws committee, which enforces party rules, voted yesterday morning to strip Florida of all its delegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver — the harshest penalty at its disposal. The penalty will not take effect for 30 days, and rules committee members urged officials from the nation’s fourth-most-populous state to use the time to schedule a later statewide caucus and thus regain its delegates.

By making an object lesson of Florida, Democrats hope to squelch other states’ efforts to move their voting earlier, which have created chaos in the primary structure that the national party has established. But the decision to sanction such a pivotal, vote-rich state has risks. The party punished Delaware in 1996 for similar rules violations. But Florida, a mega-state that has played a pivotal role in the past two presidential elections, is different. The clash leaves the presidential candidates in limbo about how to campaign there.

Stacy McCain entitles his roundup of the story “DNC to Florida: Drop Dead” and that seems to be the bipartisan conventional wisdom. Susan Duclos wonders whether the party has a “death wish.” Chris Bowers sees a possible disaster scenario.

AllahPundit is a bit more cryptic, just assessing the fallouts this could have on the individual candidates. He says in passing, though, that “the DNC had to get tough.” That’s my take on this as well.

I’ve noted countless times how silly the current selection process is. It simply makes no sense to give Iowa and New Hampshire, two tiny, unrepresentative states, so much power. Forcing candidates to divert so much time and money to camping out in Des Moines and Manchester kissing babies, flipping pancakes, and otherwise acting as if they’re running for mayor is simply asinine and provides no insight whatsoever on what kind of president they’d make.

But them’s the rules.

The DNC set out the guidelines long before this race started. New Hampshire and Iowa get to go first. No delegates can be awarded before those two states hold their contests. Period. I’m a policy wonk, paying only casual attention to the mechanics of delegate selection, but I’ve know that for as long as I can remember. Presumably, then, so did the Florida Democratic Party officials who decided to flout the rules to get an advantage. One imagines that they will figure out a way to move their primary to after New Hampshire’s. If not, well, too bad.

Will some significant number of Florida Democrats stay at home or vote Republican next November in pique over this, as Ed Morrissey suggests? One can only hope. But I seriously doubt it.

In the meantime, if Florida Democrats learn a little something about following the rules, that’s a bonus. Lord knows, they need to.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    This entire affair just baffles me. Is the national Democratic Party so disconnected from the state parties? Were Florida’s interests (and presumed intentions) taken into account when the rules for this time around were formulated?

    The time for preventing embarrassment is in anticipation not after the fact and however this nonsense turns out it will prove embarrassing. So unnecessary.

  2. Dale says:

    I read on another blog (Daily KOS I think) that there is a referendum of some sort that will also be held on 1/29 when the republican primary is held. I guess that if any Dems want to voice an opinion about that referendum they’ll have to vote on 1/29.

    I also read and interesting comment posted on this topic there as well (there usually aren’t too many of those at daily KOS). The commenter suggested that the U.S. do several regional primaries between March and June. I don’t know about the feasability of this – trying to get all of the states of a given region together might prove to be difficult but it would be better than having this race to see who is first. If this keeps up Iowa and NH will be holding their primaries next month.

    This idea would also take care of the problem of two little states having so much pull in the primaries. I’m a registered Iowa voter and always have been but I’ve never understood why we are the first caucus in the nation for a presidential election.

  3. just me says:

    I figure at some point they will have to come to some kind of solution.

    I don’t think in the end this hurts the dems much-I am not sure even how Florida’s primary is voted-is it open, closed, or what?

    In the end, maybe some people in the middle might swing GOP, but I figure those most dedicated to voting in the dem primary are going to be voting for the dem candidate come November-I don’t see a mass stay at home for the general, maybe for the primary.

    As for NH and Iowa-you have the added problem of NH at least having a consitutional requirement that their primary be the first in the nation.

    In the long run, I figure they will have to come up with a workable solution. I have seen doing regional primaries, and rotating which region goes first, so that one region doesn’t end up with far more power than the other regions.

    I think the one thing missed is that while Iowa and NH seem to have a lot of power, and I am not really sure they do have as much as perceived, the kind of campaigning required for those regions is very different than what is required in large states. My concern is that a move to eliminate any influence the small states have by giving the big states more front loaded power, is that it will turn the whole primary season into campaign by television commercial with a few very expensive appearances here and there only in the large Cities.

  4. James,

    You’re missing three points.

    1- When’s the last time a convention mattered in the selection of a party nominee? I’ll wager that in 2008 the nominee will again be sown up long before hand.

    There’s reality and the West Wing or The Best Man. I think you’ll agree we live in the former

    2- The DNC and RNC by threatening Florida, is also indirectly effecting local politics down here. A major property tax referendum that is to have consequences for all Florida homeowners is to take place the same day as the primary. Also some municipalities are changing their elections to January. If Floridians feel there is no reason to vote in the Presidential primary, they may not show for the other races. If the convention decision is meaningless on the national front, it isn’t on the state and local front for Florida.

    So if Democrat primary voters stay away, that is not good for other party candidates and positions the Democrats support

    3- You wrote

    In the meantime, if Florida Democrats learn a little something about following the rules, that’s a bonus. Lord knows, they need to.

    In reality it was the Republican controlled legislature and a Republican governor who passed the primary date change into law. The GOP controls both the State House and Senate by comfortable margins. Some Democratic legislators supported the date change, but even without them, the law would have passed.

    Bill

  5. Dale says:

    Just Me: Good point about the primaries turning into campaign by television commercial. It is certainly true that the candidates have to get out and grip and grin in Iowa and NH. Something you can’t do very much of in LA or NYC.

    I don’t know that IA and NH really have that much “power” really rather these two states for whatever reason tend to set the tone for the rest of the primary season.

  6. James Joyner says:

    When’s the last time a convention mattered in the selection of a party nominee?

    2004? The convention is where nominees are made. Sure, the primary process controls the selection of delegates to the convention, making the outcome a fait accompli. But this move would strip Florida of its convention delegates.

    A major property tax referendum that is to have consequences for all Florida homeowners is to take place the same day as the primary.

    So, why not have the referendum and the primary both on a day that follows the party rules? It’s not as if this comes as a shocking surprise to the Florida legislature.

    My concern is that a move to eliminate any influence the small states have by giving the big states more front loaded power, is that it will turn the whole primary season into campaign by television commercial with a few very expensive appearances here and there only in the large Cities.

    Why is that a bad thing? We live in a continental sized country with 300 million people. Why should presidential candidates run a mayoral style campaign? Television is the most effective mechanism for reaching mass audiences.

    I don’t know that IA and NH really have that much “power” really rather these two states for whatever reason tend to set the tone for the rest of the primary season.

    They set the tone because they go first. The winners there are certified as “winners” whereas the losers are “losers.”

  7. 2004? The convention is where nominees are made. Sure, the primary process controls the selection of delegates to the convention, making the outcome a fait accompli. But this move would strip Florida of its convention delegates.

    Like the Florida delegates are going to matter?

    Most states are rebelling because 2 or 3 states have plus non-elected National party leaders have a disproportionate influence on who will be the next president.

    Bill

  8. Anderson says:

    If the DNC had rolled over, we’d see a thread where the Dems were ridiculed as spineless wusses (if that’s not redundant).

    The whole primary thing seems broken to me; I’d rather see primary by 4 or 5 national regions (South, Northeast, West, Midwest), or a national primary.

    But the Florida Dems knew damn well what the rules were, chose to ignore them, and should now have to explain to their fellow Floridians exactly why they thought doing whatever they pleased was such a great idea.

  9. Michael says:

    2004? The convention is where nominees are made. Sure, the primary process controls the selection of delegates to the convention, making the outcome a fait accompli. But this move would strip Florida of its convention delegates.

    And who did we have left to vote for in Florida’s 2004 primary? It was already decided that Kerry was the Democratic nominee before we got a chance to vote, everyone else had already dropped out.

  10. just me says:

    They set the tone because they go first. The winners there are certified as “winners” whereas the losers are “losers.”

    Bill Clinton and George Bush both lost the NH primaries.

    They both went on to win the nomination.

    I think sometimes the “power” these states appear to have is percieved that way by others.

    And why do their opinions not matter? Essentially the argument is that small states are small, and their opinion shouldn’t have much weight compared to larger states.

    I am not sure that is a good argument to make.

    The one thing NH and Iowa tend to do is force candidates to actually interact and mingle with people.

    I have lived in KY, VA, NC, SC, AL and NH. The only state I have lived in, where it is easy, and without much effort to meet and greet presidential candidates is NH. The face to face interaction is very different from the TV. Every other state really is campaign by TV commercial while the party leadership does the meet and greets.

    It really is a very different style of campaign thatis required.

    If big states go first, or at the same time, the world won’t end, but I doubt a cash strapped candidate is going to do much more than buy some ad time in the small states, while hitting up the faithful for $500 a plate luncheons in the big Cities and larger states.

  11. ocdemocrat says:

    ANDERSON: As the Florida Masochist said: Both houses and the Governor are Republican. How come no one mentions that the bill that changed the date of the primary also contained, as it’s most important provision, for a paper trail for all votes. I know. this is a minor exclusion from your “rational” dissection of Democrats. This was a loaded bill to try to make Democrats look bad either way they voted.

    Whats sad about Florida, and especially all the southern states is that the tail is walking the dog when it comes to Southern politics and their influence on the Electoral College.

    Lets get this out in the open. The Dems controlled pre 1948 southern politics because that’s where the racists wanted to hang out. Good ole boy Strom Thurman was the first break between southern Dems and the rest of the country’s Democrats.
    Is it just coincidental that after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, so many southern Democratic officials started to go to the Republican party, and that by 1972 the southern states were now Republican? I think not. The racists left the Democratic party and joined the Republican party, and took all of their sickies with them. That’s why the Republicans control the southern vote. And don’t give me the excuse that the Dems have lost contact with what is important to southerners. Maybe they just opened their eyes a little and realized that southern politics wants the glory days of the Pre Civil War era where white is white, and black is black, and each knew where they stood in the big scheme of things in the south.

    That’s my opinion of Southern Republicans. When you scream back at me, try using other theories instead of name calling, which Repugs sure enjoy doing!!

  12. Vito says:

    It is becoming increasingly apparent that what is good for America ranks far down the list of imperatives for both political parties. America should face the fact that what both parties are about is gaining power for the sole purpose of controlling the spending of the nation’s tax wealth — and for their own particular partisan purposes.

    It is enough to make thinking citizens puke!! Jefferson was correct: “a little revoluion now and then IS a good thing!

  13. SDM says:

    it was the Republican controlled legislature and a Republican governor who passed the primary date change into law.

    Good point. The Floridems are in an unusual bind here – they can’t abide by both state law and DNC rules even if they wanted to.

  14. Based on what I heard on the news, the committee doesn’t have the power to actually strip the delegates; this vote was only on whether to recommend the delegates be stripped. Actually stripping them will require a floor vote at the nominating convention.

    If that’s the case, it will be interesting to see if the Dems vote to actually strip the delegates, particularly since by the time the vote occurs all of the primaries will be over. They may just take the stance of trying to look like they’re putting down their foot without actually doing anything about it.