meaningful elections in michigan and florida

Whoever becomes the standard bearer for the Democratic Party, one thing is sure: the party cannot go into the November election without substantively involving Michigan and Florida in the Democratic primaries. From a purely political view, the Republican Party will shred us to bits over this. From a policy perspective, how can Democrats argue that we’re the one to mend the economy if we leave out Michigan, the economic and political relevance of which stretches across the north-central region if not the nation as a result of extensive ties between auto and other industries?

Attached please find an Excel spreadsheet that shows how the Democratic Party can hold primaries in Michigan and Florida, and, in so doing, achieve a variety of objectives to everyone’s mutual advantage. In a nutshell, party leaders should consider removing from consideration a portion of the total delegates in each state. Consider this the penalty for having skirted DNC rules.

For example, of Michigan’s 156 delegates, leaders might agree to remove 75 percent of the delegates, or 116 delegates, who then would be split evenly between Clinton and Obama. Then, a primary can decide the distribution of the remaining 40 Michigan delegates.

For purposes of analysis, assume Clinton wins 55 percent of the vote in Michigan, with Obama getting 45 percent.

At 55 percent of the vote, Clinton would get 22 of the 40 remaining delegates, with Obama receiving 18 delegates. Cumulatively, Clinton would get 80 delegates (i.e. 58 plus 22) to Obama’s 76 delegates (i.e. 58 plus 18), resulting in a Clinton margin of victory of 4. If 50 percent of Michigan’s 156 delegates were removed from consideration and shared equally, with the remaining 50 percent (or 78 delegates) up for grabs, Clinton could win by a margin of 8 candidates in the event she tallied 55 percent of the vote to Obama’s 45 percent. In this scenario, on a cumulative basis Clinton would get 82 delegates (i.e. 39 plus 43) to Obama’s 74 delegates (39 plus 35).

In contrast, if all 156 delegates were in play and Clinton won 55 percent to Obama’s 45 percent, then she’d get 86 delegates to Obama’s 70 delegates, for a victory margin of 16. However, the problem is that, since he’s in the lead, Obama has little incentive to encourage let alone take part in this kind of primary since downside risks far outweigh upside gains.

Yet, not holding primaries at all in Michigan and Florida could place the eventual Democratic nominee in grave danger come November. We already know that key battleground states can tilt by the slimmest of margins. Anyone remember Florida 2000? Or Ohio 2004? So, if you’re a Democrat, you’ve got to seriously ask yourself this question: “Why give the Republicans a cudgel with which to blast us this Fall?”

The approach discussed above reduces downside risks to Obama while simultaneously allowing a vote that let’s Clinton compete for a meaningful number of delegates if not add to her sizeable collection of large, battleground states, which, in my estimation, is the true value of these states to Clinton.

Deciding how many delegates to remove from consideration and share are key matters that Obama, Clinton, and party leaders must negotiate. Should leaders remove 75 percent from consideration, evenly share these delegates, and then hold an election for the remaining 25 percent? Or maybe leaders remove 66 percent, evenly split these delegates, and then hold an election for the remaining 34 percent? Or maybe remove and share 50 percent?

In short, the approach discussed here and in the attached Excel spreadsheet shows how party leaders can hold primaries in Michigan and Florida that take into account (a) Clinton’s desire to close the delegate gap and possibly add to her collection of large states; (b) Obama’s concern to not let Florida and Michigan be deciding states in the overall scheme of things; (c) everyone’s desire to substantively involve Michigan and Florida in the primaries; and (d) concerns about how Republicans will use the exclusion of Michigan and Florida to their advantage come November.

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