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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Decision Day: Superdelegate Convention

Aired May 31, 2008 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You're looking at live pictures of a room over at the Marriott Wardman Hotel in Washington, D.C. This is decision day for the Democrats, an important day to determine whether or not those delegates from Michigan and Florida, two critical battleground states will actually be seated at the Democratic Convention in Denver at the end of the summer.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting together with Campbell Brown and the best political team on television.

Campbell, this is a day that could be make or break for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: So much at stake for Hillary Clinton at this stage of the game. And a lot of speculation about what may happen today, about what the Clinton campaign is really hoping to get out of this. Whether, in fact, there is a compromise that they'll be able to reach or whether, as some cynics out there may say that the goal here is to create chaos so that she can push this on to the convention. But, we'll see, it's ...

BLITZER: And no one ...

BROWN: ...let the competition (ph) begin.

BLITZER: And no one is ruling out, Campbell, any option right now. What we do know is this. At around 9:30 a.m. this morning Eastern time, 30 minutes or so from now, Howard Dean the chairman of the party will gavel this meeting into order. And then, there will be representatives from the Florida state delegations as well as the Michigan state delegations. There will be speakers representing Hillary Clinton, speakers representing Senator Barack Obama. They will make their respective cases on what to do.

We do know, Campbell, that they met way into the night last night behind closed doors and based on the accounts that both Clinton and Obama supporters provided us, they failed to reach an agreement.

Tom Foreman is over there at the hearing room, on the scene for us. Tom, update our viewers on what happened last night and set the stage for this morning.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, as you mentioned, the meeting will take place in the doors right behind me over here. And it is expected to be a wild one in many, many ways, precisely because of what you said. They met for a long time last night, more than five hours. And when they emerged from that very late into the night, very early in the morning, the fact is they had not reached any kind of agreement. There's no indication that they've worked out any deal.

Take a listen to what some of them had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAROLD ICKES, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Well, it was a full discussion. And I think there was some agreement on some issues and still some disagreements on others. Basically, it was a useful discussion because there were some misconceptions, some people didn't know some of the facts. And so, it was a very useful discussion.

ALLAN KATZ, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Both Michigan and Florida, their desire to have proceeded. There is, I think, a consensus that they should be -- lose half the delegation. We're still stuck on the so-called allocation questions.

There's a strong push from the Clinton campaign to try and make believe those primaries were real primaries that everyone competed in just like they did in everything else and there's a strong push back I think by those of us in the Obama campaign. Some of them saying well, the rules, we told everyone that this was not the way we were going to select the delegates.

So right now, what we have to do is just to figure our way through all of this. And I believe we will and I believe we'll come up with something tomorrow. There'll probably be a little sort of tussling, but we're Democrats, we sort of do that. And so, I think that tomorrow, we'll be able to leave the room with an accommodation for both states, which will have everyone a little grumpy, but that's part of being up to 1:30 in the morning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: The question is what constitutes a little grumpy, when you think about that. The latest read I'm getting on the ground here talking to a Florida superdelegate is that all the hopes for this ending at 2:00 or 3:00 this afternoon and in an amicable way seem to be out the door right now.

Apparently, what they're basically hearing among the superdelegates is that this could easily run deep into the evening and the read right now seems to be that the real sticking point is Michigan. That Florida seems somewhat willing to make a deal right now, but Michigan seems to be pushing harder to say that they actually want to have a say at the convention and a hearing there in Florida can't accept their deal if Michigan's going to get something better -- Wolf, Campbell?

BROWN: And Tom, there has been a lot of talk at this stage about one of the possibilities. At least from the people on the committee that we had heard from is that maybe that they would give a half a vote. Send the whole delegation to the convention, but give everybody a half a vote. Is that something you're still hearing? Or has that gone out the window as well, too? FOREMAN: No, that seems to be very alive, particularly for the Florida folks, (INAUDIBLE) everybody gets a half a vote, everybody gets to go. But that doesn't address the issue of the campaigns, I mean, that addresses the issue of the delegates and how the states feel about it.

But that's more of a general election thing, that does nothing to address the issue of the Clinton camp saying they need to squeeze every possible vote out of this because the problem is, a 50 percent solution still leaves her so far behind Obama that there's no practical way that she can catch him.

The Obama people are only agreeing to the solution because they know that. The Clinton people know it too. What's being discussed right now to some degree, and I will tell you, Clinton and Obama team members are meeting right now. They've been meeting almost every minute before going in here to the open meeting to see if they can reach any kind of accommodation.

But the problem is still the numbers. It's been the problem in the numbers for her almost since Super Tuesday and it remains the problem. And this half delegate thing might satisfy the states, maybe, might help them in the general election, get these people back in the tent and not making them so disaffected. But it will do nothing to satisfy the argument between the campaigns.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, standby, we're going to be checking back with you.

Bill Schneider is on the scene for us as well at the CNN Election Express. That bus is parked right outside the hotel where this meeting will be taking place.

Here's what's at stake for these two campaigns in a nutshell, Bill. And I want you to elaborate because right now, the goal posts based on the rules, 48 states plus the territories, not including Michigan and Florida, both of which are being penalized for moving up their primary right now.

2,026 delegates pledged and superdelegates, any combination thereof, is enough to clinch the nomination either for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, and right now, Barack Obama is only 40 or 50 votes shy -- delegates shy of that.

If they were to include both Michigan and Florida at their full numbers, the goal post would be moved to 2,210. Now, that's unlikely to occur given the fact that they want to penalize them, at least by cutting off half of their delegates.

But what this means in effect, even though Barack Obama has a significant advantage, Bill, this could prolong this entire discussion if, in fact, they move those goal posts once again.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And Hillary Clinton has said she doesn't intend to get out of this race. Or regard the race as resolved in anyone's favor until someone, either she or Obama reaches the majority of delegates. And as you indicated, the number to reach a majority changes according to how they do the rules today. If they cede 50 percent of the delegates, then the number you need to win a majority will be in between. I think the number's 2,118.

But here's something interesting, no matter which of those three goal posts you reach, no matter how they resolve it, zero delegates from Michigan and Florida, 50 percent or 100 percent, Obama will still be ahead of Clinton.

There's only one way in which Clinton will be ahead at least in popular votes. And that is -- and this is the thorniest issue before this committee. What do you do with the 40 percent of the voters in Michigan who voted for an uncommitted slate? Do you count those as votes for Obama delegates because the Obama people in Michigan were arguing to voters vote uncommitted, Obama's not on the ballot. Or do you not count them at all? In which case, do you give Obama zero votes and zero delegates in Michigan?

Michigan is different from Florida. That's the problem. You could treat Florida and Michigan the same way, but the events were totally different. Florida was a level playing field, nobody campaigned there, everyone's name was on the ballot. Michigan, no one campaigned, but almost all the candidates except Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, I think took their names off the ballot. You could not vote for Barack Obama. So, if you treat them equally, they weren't equal situations.

BLITZER: And the Obama campaign can be magnanimous right now since they are way ahead of Hillary Clinton in terms of the pledged and superdelegates. But we'll see what happens.

All right, standby, everyone. We're only about 20 minutes or so away from Howard Dean, the chairman of the DNC ringing this meeting to order. And then, there will be speakers galore as we point out. This could end today, maybe not. Could continue on to tomorrow.

Outside, there are demonstrators already. Clinton supporters, Obama supporters, they've gathered outside the hotel. A lot of women there, specifically Hillary Clinton supporters who are angry, very angry that she supposedly has not been treated fairly.

Our continuing coverage will resume right after a short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures at a committee hearing room in hotel in Washington, D.C., the Marriott Wardman Hotel. Specifically -- where within about 15 or 20 minutes or so, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean will walk in together with 30 members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee. Their goal is to try to figure out what to do with those disputed delegates from two critical battleground states: Michigan and Florida. They're going to hope -- they're trying to resolve this matter today.

But it's by no means a done deal. And the stakes for the Democratic Party are enormous right now, whether or not they resolve this in a way that satisfies a lot of voters in Michigan and Florida, or whether it alienates a lot of those voters could affect what's going to happen in November in the general election.

There are protestors outside the hotel that have gathered, demonstrators who are supporters of Barack Obama, supporters of Hillary Clinton. But we're being told a lot more Hillary Clinton supporters have gathered there to make it clear that they think she is being treated unfairly right now as a result of these delegates from Michigan and Florida at least so far not -- repeat, not being included.

Campbell Brown is here together with the best political team on television. Campbell, this is an important day. It's what we're calling "Decision Day" here at CNN for the Democrats. Although it's by no means clear there will be a decision today.

BROWN: I was going to say, Wolf, many are hoping there will be a decision by the end of the day. And we want to bring in our panel and get their thoughts on that. I've got Suzanne Malveaux with me, who is of course CNN correspondent, Jeffrey Toobin, who is a senior analyst for CNN, along with Ron Kirk, who is a Obama supporter and former mayor of Dallas, Texas. And Lisa Caputo, who is a Clinton supporter.

Welcome to everybody. And the stakes are huge for Hillary Clinton, aren't they? How high are they?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This means a lot to her, obviously. And one of the reasons why we're seeing Barack Obama's camp negotiate here is because of all of those women that you saw outside of the hotel. They are obviously trying really, really hard here to win over some of those voters. There's a lot of anger, there's a lot of resentment between these two camps.

She needs to prove that she's got a reasonable case here to make to the superdelegates that she's strong enough to move forward after Tuesday. That that's really going to settle the score. But you know, this may not do that today. And the Obama people are just hoping, hoping that if they can make some sort of deal, if they can be generous or magnanimous, they're saying that they can win over some of these folks and shut this thing down.

BROWN: What constitutes a victory for her, Jeff?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: I think the struggle here is not about who gets how many delegates. The struggle here is between chaos and order. And Hillary Clinton, if she really wants to fight this thing out, has got to count on chaos. If she really thinks she can get the nomination at this point, she should not agree to anything. She should keep these balls in the air, send it on to the Credentials Committee, send it on to the convention. But if she wants to be a good Democrat, she will agree to something today.

BROWN: So, what do you think -- where do you think her head is?

TOOBIN: Well, I think there's difference of opinion within the Clinton campaign. I think there are some who are true believers who want to fight on and keep this all going. And there are others who say, look, it's time to make a deal and do what's right for the party.

BROWN: Lisa, where is her head? You would know better than anybody else here at this table.

LISA CAPUTO, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I honestly think that she really wants to -- she feels a responsibility to her supporters. It's why you see so many women in particular mobilized outside of the meeting. And she feels a deep seated responsibility to the 17 plus million people who have voted and to carry this thing through and wants to see the votes of Michigan and Florida represented.

I mean, let's remember. Ron and I were talking about this earlier. Remember that in Florida, it's a unique situation because it was the Republican state apparatus there that forced the hand here to have the primary early. I mean, that's -- and so, you have the Democrats being penalized in some respect because of the Republican Party machine. So, I would hope that Florida gets seated and that those votes are counted.

BROWN: The only thing I would question a little bit here, Lisa, is if she didn't care about these votes until it became politically advantageous for her to care about these votes.

CAPUTO: I -- Campbell, I -- respectfully, I disagree. That's not her. That's just not the way she's operated. Now, have there been people in her campaign who've said it's all about the delegates early on? Yes. No one is going to dispute that. But the candidate herself has always fundamentally believed in the fact that everybody should have a right to vote and we should see the process through to the end.

BROWN: What do you think -- what the Obama campaign really wants to come out of today?

RON KIRK, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I think more than anything, I go back with Jeff, what we'd like is resolution of it. Because I think no matter -- whether we get a resolution that's more favorable to us or to Senator Clinton, the most important thing is it's going to take time to heal some of the wounds that come from a decision in a campaign that's been this extraordinarily passionate.

But in a big picture, that's a good thing. We -- I don't know in my lifetime we've had two candidates that have endeared themselves to their base as much as Senator Obama has and Senator Clinton. And the only way we're going to have time to do that healing and reconciliation is we need to bring this to a close. So, I think first and foremost, we'd like to see some resolution.

BROWN: But Ron, couldn't the Obama campaign get resolution by just giving her everything she wants? I mean, you will still be ahead in the number of elected delegates at the end of the day in all likelihood if you do.

KIRK: Yes. BROWN: So why not just say, you know what, take it all?

KIRK: You could do that. And every household in America could have peace if we just gave our kids everything they wanted. And we didn't have rules, you know, and you just give them what they want. There is a broader picture here. The Democratic Party does have a responsibility by my candidate's count to those other 55 (ph) states you know to say, hey, you played by the rules.

BROWN: Right.

KIRK: And as Lisa was saying, the more difficult situation really is Michigan because you have the Democratic leadership that didn't get what they wanted and went ahead and defied the party and said we're going to do this. And there is as much pressure from those other states that stood in line that said hey, we didn't do this. So, it is -- I mean, it's more than just giving the Clintons what they want.

And one more issue if I can, because I do think to some degree the future of the party's at stake. A lot of the people that we see standing outside protesting are long time Democrats party leaders. But there's this whole universe of new young people that have been attracted to our party for the first time. And they're watching this, too.

BROWN: Right.

KIRK: And whatever we do, we can't turn them away for the sake of short-term gain.

BROWN: All right, guys, we're going to take a quick break, but we are going to keep a close eye on that hotel room or that conference room down in Washington, D.C. where the meeting is about to get underway. We'll be back shortly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: And we are back. You're looking at a live picture right now of protestors who are gathered outside the Rules Committee Meeting down in Washington, D.C. They are there to support Hillary Clinton.

As we are waiting for this meeting to get underway, scheduled to start about 9:30, we want to bring in some of our panel who we were talking to just a moment ago. But also, we've got Hilary Rosen who is a Hillary Clinton supporter joining us from Washington along with Jamal Simmons who is in D.C., as well. Jamal is an Obama supporter in addition to being a Democratic strategist.

But Hillary, let me get start with you because I understand that you have a little information to share with us regarding Florida and some of the discussions that have been underway.

HILARY ROSEN, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I do, Campbell, and I have to say this is not an authorized Hillary Clinton campaign. I'm not a spokesperson for the Clinton campaign. I'm reporting this just as a CNN contributor here.

But what I understand is that they're very close. There was a meeting obviously that went late into the night, at 2:00 in the morning where all of the Rules Committee folks had their say and it looks like there's a building consensus today to have this deal in Florida, which would be a half a vote per delegate, seat the whole delegation.

It would net Senator Clinton -- 19 votes, and the most important piece of this is that it looks like the Florida delegates, the Florida challengers will end up by the end of the day probably going along with this deal. That's the critical thing, of course, not whether the candidates agree, but whether the challengers to the rules agree. And that, of course, is the delegations themselves.

BROWN: But that's still, of course, leaves Michigan hanging out there, right?

ROSEN: Michigan's hanging out there. And then, you know, what will end -- if this happens and by the end of the day, there is some deal on Florida and still a dispute of Michigan, which we don't know, they might have a deal on Michigan, too. Then, the Michigan delegation has an opportunity to challenge this at the Credentials Committee, which normally wouldn't meet until the convention. Senator Clinton's campaign obviously has the opportunity to participate in that challenge as much as they want.

My guess is that the chairman of the party, Howard Dean would end up trying to convene a Credentials Committee earlier than the convention if there's no result on Michigan so that they can resolve it well before the convention.

BROWN: But Hilary, you know as well as I do that she -- what she wants is -- she has the ability to be enormously influential with the delegations in terms of what she wants. So, what do you think she'll say to people? What sort of guidance or direction she'll give them? And I know I'm asking you to speculate.

ROSEN: Yes, I don't think the Clinton campaign is going to concede anything. I don't -- I think, you know, we're going to hear all day that the Clinton campaign wants one vote per the full ratio of the primary in Florida and that they want the votes in Michigan to count. I actually don't think that they're going to make any concessions today. I think that the real issue is what ends up happening with the committee themselves and what kind of decision they come to.

But the campaign, they're about to go into Puerto Rico tomorrow, they may end up with this popular vote qualification that they're looking for, and then, you know, the next step is where they get the rest of the delegates, even if they do get the delegates from Florida and Michigan. And Senator Clinton is hoping that the superdelegates are going to come to her side based on judgment that the case she's making to them about who's going to be a better candidate in November. That's not going to end today.

BROWN: Jamal, Jamal, let me bring you into that. What do you think of what Hilary just said?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, I think Senator Clinton's got to figure out a way to coast this airplane back to a smooth landing. Otherwise, if we take this into the convention, it's really a kamikaze mission, both for Senator Clinton and for the Democratic Party. There's just no reason for us to still be having this debate going into August. This is something we can get resolved now.

I think the Barack Obama team has shown that they are willing to negotiate, willing to come up with a solution that's probably going to advantage Senator Clinton a little bit because of Florida. And Michigan, it's a completely different mixed bag. I'm from Michigan, a lot of the people who are part of this are friends of mine. People in my family who went out and voted uncommitted in Michigan just so that Hillary Clinton wouldn't get the majority or super majority of the votes out of that state.

But none of them thought that those votes were going to count. It was all an exercise in political theater. So now, here we are sort of debating this and it's like we're trying to add in new numbers at the end of the game to say that maybe the practice shot that we took place earlier ought to count in the actual game. And that's just not the way it works.

ROSEN: I'll just say ...

BROWN: Go ahead, Hilary.

ROSEN: Two quick things though on this, Campbell, which is that Jamal makes a good point. This shouldn't go to the convention. And I don't hear anything from the Clinton campaign that says it will. When I said there may be a credentials fight, that might take place within the next several days. I don't think Howard Dean or the leadership or Senator Clinton wants to take this to the convention. So, people just need to stop accusing her, I think, of wanting a fight at the convention. She wants this resolved, as well.

The second piece is that there's just, you know, no scenario under which the rules can be changed. This is all about the delegates. The superdelegates are going to have the final say this week.

BROWN: All right, guys. We're going to take another quick ...

ROSEN: ...from my audio.

BROWN: We're going to take another quick break. Hilary Rosen and Jamal Simmons both reporting to us from Washington. We're waiting again for the DNC Rules Committee Meeting to begin. Expected to start very shortly. We'll have a lot more coming up right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Only minutes away from this hearing of the Democratic National Committee. The Rules and Bylaws Committee, they're getting ready to meet Howard Dean the chairman will convene this meeting, 30 members, their goal to try to figure out what to do with the delegates from Michigan and Florida, the disputed delegates. Right now those delegates won't be counted in the search for a Democratic presidential nomination.

Welcome back to the CNN ELECTION CENTER, I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting together with the best political team on television. This is decision day for the Democrats. They're trying to figure out what to do about Michigan and Florida. As we just heard from Hillary Rosen, our analyst down there, looks like they're getting close, perhaps, to a decision what to do with Florida, maybe include half of their delegate count. But there is no decision yet on Michigan, that's that much more serious problem.

There are delegates -- there demonstrators, that is, outside this hotel in Washington, D.C. where -- protesting, many of them Hillary Clinton supporters who feel like their vote haves not been counted and they are angry, right now. You can see some of the debates going on, right now. In fact, maybe we can listen into this one -- little debate going on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No disagreement on Florida...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, so what are you saying about Michigan?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I'm saying is give -- listen, give our...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should you. You're getting 60 percent of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wasn't a final count, 60/40?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was close to 60.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. So, whatever the (INAUDIBLE) was, 60/40...

WOLF: All right, so the passion, you can see among the demonstrators, Hillary Clinton supporters, Barack Obama supporters, intense. But the stakes for the Democrats, right now, are significant, especially given the importance of these two states, Michigan and Florida in November. They could certainly help decide who the next president of the United States will be.

Our man, John Zarrella, is down in Broward County in Davie, Florida, sort of between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, right now. He's at a restaurant talking to Democrats down there.

There's a lot of interest, especially in Florida right now, what they're going to do. Give us a sense, John, of what you're picking up?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question about it, Wolf, and we're certainly in Broward County, Florida, the heart of Democratic country in the state of Florida. And there has been a lot of anger over the course of the last few months as to how this has all unfolded and taken so long to come to a resolution.

We're at a watch party. We expect during the course of the day, many, many Democrats to come in here and voice their opinions to us. And we are joined, this morning, by Diane Glasser, first vice chair of the Democratic Party of Florida, an uncommitted superdelegate.

Diane, we are hearing a lot of rumors there may be a deal that, seat the entire delegation and everybody gets half a vote. How's that sit with you?

DIANE GLASSER, DEP. CHMN. FLORIDA DEM. PARTY: Well, as far as I'm concerned, I would be happy with that. If we can seat all of our delegates and they could have a half a vote, I think that would be fine. That would we solve the problems we have in Broward County at the moment, probably throughout the state of Florida.

ZARRELLA: What about the candidates have you talked to them about this?

GLASSER: Yes, I had the advantage of being with Obama on Friday, when he was down here at the Bank Atlantic, and I did have a private meeting with him and we did discuss this. And he said at that time he would be perfectly satisfied to seat all the delegates and let them have a half a vote.

By the same token, I got a telephone call at home, Saturday, from Hillary, that's a week ago today, and we spoke and I asked her the same question and she assured me, as well, that she would be happy with all the delegates being seated and each one having a half a vote. I think that would satisfy many, many people if not most.

ZARRELLA: You know, so both candidates, at least at the last time you talked to them were on board with this idea. You think that's what is going to happen now, today?

GLASSER: Well, I have to take them at their word. If they do anything else, then they've lied to me and I don't think they've done that. I think that maybe they've resolved this within their own field of people. And I think that that's probably what you're going to see happening today. I'm assured that probably that will happen.

ZARRELLA: Diane, thank you very much. Those are great insights. And Wolf, we're going to be here all day today testing and checking the pulse of Democrats here to see how they're feeling about what may well be the resolution, finally, at long last, to the issue here in Florida -- Wolf.

BLITZER: One question I'd like you to ask Diane, if you have still have here there, John, before you let her go. Would the superdelegates in Florida, under this compromised scenario, and the pledged or elected delegates, be treated equally? In other words, would they each have a half a vote? Or are we talking about a half a vote compromise for only the pledged or elected delegates, and the superdelegates would still get their full vote. Just clarify that one nugget.

ZARRELLA: Wolf is asking would this pertain to everybody, the superdelegates or the pledged delegates, you know, who would get the half a votes, who would get -- would superdelegates still get a full vote or is that clear yet?

GLASSER: It's not clear to me, to be honest with you. I thought that we would get a full vote, but it may be we fall in line with the rest. It depends on what they decide, today. The results of today will tell us what they're doing.

ZARRELLA: So Wolf, there you have it, still no clarification, at least Diane doesn't have it, as to how that would shake out.

BLITZER: All right, maybe we'll check with Hillary Rosen and some of the other people on the scene, whether the superdelegates in Florida would be treated the same as the pledged delegates. John, thanks very much. Thank Diane for us, as well.

And there you see the former senator Bob Graham of Florida in the middle of your screen, right now. He's obviously got a high interest in this meeting that's going on in the Wardman -- Marriott Wardman Hotel in Washington, D.C. They're getting ready to convene. Howard Dean will be chairing this session. There will be two -- he will be opening the session. There will be two co-chairs, Alexis Herman and James Roosevelt. They're going to be watching this very closely.

We're only minutes away from the start of what could be an acrimonious meeting. We'll take a quick break. More from the CNN ELECTION CENTER right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures of a meeting room at a hotel in Washington, D.C. where the Democratic National Committee's Rules Committee will be convening shortly to determine what to do with the disputed delegates in Michigan and Florida. Right now they have no say, repeat no say, in who becomes the Democratic presidential nominee. But, that should change in the coming hours depending on what is decided at this meeting.

Welcome back to our coverage from the CNN ELECTION CENTER. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting with the best political team on television. Former congressman, David Bonior is there, he's a Barack Obama supporter, he's from the state of Michigan.

Congressman, what are you hearing? We hear they seem to be getting close to working out some sort of compromise on Florida, but your state, Michigan, much more problematic. What are you hearing?

DAVID BONIOR, FMR U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, people are working very hard to provide the unity that we need to go forward in the fall, Wolf. And there are discussions going on, right now. We believe, in the Obama campaign that, in fact, that we should live the sanctions on Michigan in terms of the 100 percent no participation that the committee came up with. They should seat the delegation. At what weighted strength half delegate each is to be determined. But as you know, the rules of the party state, as such, that there shall be that level of penalty. The delegation should be seated.

BLITZER: You're going to be making the case before this panel on behalf of the Obama campaign. Give us, in a nutshell, what you're going to say. What case are you going to make for Michigan being seated? What's the specific allocation that you as the Obama representative would like to see?

BONIOR: Sure. What we'd like to see, Wolf, is that the Michigan delegation be split between both the senators Clinton and Senator Obama. And the reason for that is that the primary that was held in Michigan was done so in a way we don't think reflects the will of the people or the opportunity for the people...

BLITZER: You want 50/50, is that what you're saying you want? You want 50/50?

BONIOR: We want 50/50, and there's basically three or four reasons. I'll give them to you very quickly. No. 1, Senator Clinton, herself, said in New Hampshire, right before the Michigan primary, that Michigan would not count, No. 1. Secondly, none of the candidates campaigned there. Thirdly, and almost as importantly as anything, four of the major candidates took their name off the ballot in Michigan.

And if you look at what the Michigan Democratic Party did in coming up with the proposal on a apportioning these delegates, they even decided recently that they wouldn't use the Michigan results from the primary. They took an arbitrary form of what they put together. There were a lot of people who didn't vote because of all of this.

They voted for Republicans, they voted for, because it was an open primary, they voted for the Republicans, some of them thought they would do to be the best person to run against in the fall. Some of them voted absentee ballot in Michigan and those weren't counted because of the rules requiring people to having to solicited, put their name in front of the election commission in advance. I mean, it just didn't work, so we think 50/50 is the best.

BLITZER: Fifty-fifty, but the state would lose half the number of total delegates. Is that the compromise you would like to see also?

BONIOR: No, we want to see all the delegates seated and the weight of each delegate's vote will have to be determined through the rules...

BLITZER: So all the delegates, the pledged delegates -- if you had your way all the pledged delegates and the superdelegates would be seated, but they wouldn't necessarily have a full vote, they might have only half of a vote, is that right?

BONIOR: Well, that's for the committee to determine, what level they have. They have rules in which they have to follow and one of the rules is designed, as I understand it, through a staff memo that came through, you have to have a 50 percent reduction, yeah.

BLITZER: You see Howard Dean seated, now. He's going to be convening this session. He's got two co-chairs to his right, to the left of our screen. You don't see her now, but there she is Alexis Herman, former Cabinet secretary in the Clinton administration. Another of the co-chairs, James Roosevelt from Massachusetts, the other co-chair. There are 30 members altogether.

We'll be hearing from representatives from the two disputed states, Florida and Michigan and more specifically, from Clinton and Obama supporters in each of those states as well as representatives of the states themselves.

They're getting -- trying to get this thing started. David Bonior, if I still have you over there, a quick technical point, we've been trying to figure out. The superdelegates, would they be treated, in these two states, the same as the pledged or elected delegates? In other words, would the superdelegates have a full vote or are we talking about stripping half a vote from the pledged delegates?

BONIOR: No, we believe the superdelegates ought to be treated the same as the pledged delegates, so we believe that there ought not to be any discrimination in that regard.

BLITZER: All right, that's a good clarification. At least that's the point from the Obama campaign. There's Alexis Herman and she's about to convene together with -- let's listen to hear what she says.

ALEXIS HERMAN, DNC RULES CMTE. CO-CHAIR: ...Pamela Hayes, your credit card portfolio has just been found. Pamela Hayes.

BLITZER: All right, something's going on there, but we'll see when Howard Dean actually convenes this session. We're told he will have some opening remarks and set the stage. This is a nerve wracking moment for the delegates, because they really, really would like to see this thing resolved, at least Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, over the next few days, so that they can begin the process of gearing up for their convention at the end of August and the general election in November. There's a lot of concern, at least among these party leaders, that if it drags on the eventual Democratic nominee, whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, would be at a disadvantage.

You see these demonstrators, there outside this hotel in Washington who have gathered, mostly Hillary Clinton supporters who don't like what's going on. They think that she's being cheated as a result of this. So, they are making their views very well known. Once again, Alexis Herman.

HERMAN: I dare say as I gaze about this room, this is probably the largest Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting that we have ever had. Usually we are applauding the fact that our members are participating and here in full force. But at any rate, we certainly welcome those of you who are here today.

As always, we thank, especially our members for your participation, for your hard work. We welcome the guests who are here today, our presenters that we will hear from. We do have an overflow room, so to those of you in the overflow room, we invite you to listen in and hopefully to learn from this process as we intend to do, today.

Before proceeding with additional comments, I would like to ask my co-chair, Mr. Jim Roosevelt, if he would first call the role so that we can determine that we do, indeed, have a quorum, today -- Mr. Roosevelt.

JAMES ROOSEVELT, DNC RULES CMTE. CO-CHAIR: Thank you, Secretary Herman. And I'd like to join in the sentiments you just expressed and, indeed, invite all of those watching on C-Span, CNN, and MSNBC around the world to learn as we do, today.

We will proceed to calling the role. And as we do that, I'd like to ask members to practice what they're doing to do throughout the day, turn on your microphone when you speak, and turn it off when you're not speaking.

(LAUGHTER)

For the record, Alexis Herman.

HERMAN: Present.

ROOSEVELT: James Roosevelt, present. Donna Brazile.

DONNA BRAZILE, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Present.

ROOSEVELT: Mark Brewer.

MARK BREWER, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Present.

ROOSEVELT: Martha Fuller Clark.

MARTHA FULLER CLARK, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Present.

ROOSEVELT: Ralph Dawson (ph).

RALPH DAWSON, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Present.

ROOSEVELT: Tina Flournay.

HARTINA FLOURNOY, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Present.

ROOSEVELT: Carol Khare Fowler. Carol Khare Fowler. We'll come back to her. Donald Fowler.

DONALD FOWLER, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: Yvonne Gates.

YVONNE GATES, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: Alice Travis Germond.

ALICE GERMOND, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: Carman Gonzales has given his proxy to Tina Flournay. Janice Griffin.

JANICE GRIFFIN, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Present.

ROOSEVELT: Alice Huffman.

ALICE HUFFMAN, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Present.

ROOSEVELT: Thomas Hynes.

THOMAS HYNES, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: Harold Ickes.

HAROLD ICKES, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: Ben Johnson.

BEN JOHNSON, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Present.

ROOSEVELT: Elaine Kamarck.

ELAINE KAMARCK, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: Allan Katz.

ALLAN KATZ, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: Eric Kleinfeld.

ERIC KLEINFELD, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: David McDonald.

DONALD MCDONALD, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Present.

ROOSEVELT: Mona Pasquil.

MONA PASQUIL, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here

ROOSEVELT: Mame Reiley.

MAME REILEY, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: Garry Shay.

GARRY SHAY, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: Elizabeth Smith.

ELIZABETH SMITH, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: Michael steed. Sharon Stroschein.

SHARON STROSCHEIN, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Present.

ROOSEVELT: Sarah swisher, whose daughter is getting married today in Iowa and we would like to wish her and her future son-in-law and her daughter all the best -- has given her proxy to Martha Fuller Clark. Everett Ward.

EVERETTE WARD, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: Jerome Wiley Segovia.

JEROME WILEY SEGOVIA, DNC RULES CMTE. MEMBER: Here.

ROOSEVELT: And let me return, Carol Khare fowler. We definitely have a quorum.

I'd also like to introduce staff members who are here with us today. Our staff director for the Rules and Bylaws Committee, Phil McNamarawith.

(APPLAUSE)

Our parliamentarian Helen McFadden.

(APPLAUSE)

Our deputy staff director, Patrice Taylor.

(APPLAUSE)

And the general council of the Democratic National Committee, Joe Sandler.

(APPLAUSE)

HERMAN: We will now stand for the pledge of allegiance.

ALL: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

ROOSEVELT: Before we move on, Secretary Herman and I would like to thank all of the members of the committee for their hard work throughout this election season. All of us around the table have spent a great deal of time on the phones at our computers, and talking to Democrats across the country. I know we are all committed and ready to work to take back the White House in November.

(APPLAUSE)

And now I'd like to introduce the person who is leading our efforts as we move toward victory in November, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Governor Howard Dean.

GOV. HOWARD DEAN (D), DNC CHAIR: Jim, let me thank you very much and Alexis for your extraordinarily hard work. I don't think anybody on this committee had any idea 3-1/2 years ago when I made these appointments that they were signing up for today and I really appreciate the extraordinary hard work that all of you have been putting in. And Jim and Alexis, your extraordinary leadership.

As you know, there have been meetings that have gone on to all hours of the night to try to resolve all of this. And thank you very, very much. We are going to nominate, either the first woman or the first African-American to be the nominee of our party. And the person that we nominate will become the next president of the United States in January.

(APPLAUSE)

And we have been extraordinarily grateful. I am extraordinarily grateful. And we have been extraordinarily fortunate to have a terrific group of candidates who ran in this race. And I want to thank all of them. But I, of course, particularly want to thank Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama for their extraordinary leadership.

This has been a very long and hard fought race. And throughout the course of this campaign, these two candidates have helped to transform our party. They have proven that when we show up everywhere and talk about our values, that Democrats can win everywhere. They have made our parties stronger, and I want to thank them very, very much. Because of all compared to the work even that the rules committee has done, the work they have done has been extraordinary.

I'm not going to gloss over the challenges of the extended primary. Although, I must say when we design the 50 state strategy, I'm not sure we meant every single one of the 50 states would have a hard-fought primary. But, it has been extraordinary. From Mississippi to Montana to Ohio, to Oregon, Americans, women, men, Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, native Americans, young people, veterans, homemakers, educators, healthcare workers students, retirees, Democrats, Independents and even Republicans of all shapes and sizes have come out to support our two outstanding candidates and the values that we share.

Thirty-five million people have come out to support Democrats in these primaries in every state and territory of the United States of America. And it has already paid dividends. Let me remind you of the two extraordinary congressional victories and special elections we had last month in Mississippi and Louisiana.

(APPLAUSE)

In state after state, women represented over half of Democratic voters, sometimes as many as 16 percent.

(APPLAUSE)

Young voters have tripled and in some cases quadrupled previous turnouts.

(APPLAUSE) In fact, 58 percent of voters under 30, in this country, now identify as Democratic or leaning Democratic while 33 percent associate themselves with the Republican Party.

(APPLAUSE)

Consider that in Ohio, twice as many people participated in the Democratic primary as the Republican primary 2.2 million people voted in the Democratic primary compared to one million for the Republicans. Thousands of Ohio Republicans, and this also happened in Pennsylvania and many other states, switched parties to vote in a Democratic primary and they will be back with us in November.

In seven counties in Ohio, Putnam, Brown, Shelby, Belmont, Warren, Delaware and Claremont, the vote totals for our two Democratic candidates in the 2008 primary exceed the vote totals for our nominee in the 2004 general election in Ohio. We are ready to win and the American people are ready for change. And we will have that change.

(APPLAUSE)

And in Texas, this year, more people voted in the Democratic primary than voted in the 2004 general election on the Democratic side. Texas is ready to turn blue.

(APPLAUSE)

So, this has been a very long, tough, difficult campaign. But it has made our candidates and our party much stronger. And while the media tried to tell the American people what to think and what to do, you stood up and spoke loudly and had your voices heard and you made us all listen. The race continues to the final contest in Puerto Rico, and on Tuesday, in South Dakota and Montana. And to every one of you who has voted and who will yet vote, I say thank you, but I remind you that our work is just beginning.

We need your help, we need you to stay involved in this election and get involved in other races that are going on in your community and your state. We need you to knock on doors and make calls and talk to your neighbors about what's at stake in this election. And together, state by state, door by door, precinct by precinct and vote by vote, we will take our country back and we cannot do it without everybody in this room, everybody who is watching this and the 35 million Americans that voted with us in the last six months.

I want to thank all of those who are not on the rules committee who came to this today as Secretary Herman staid, it's unusual to have a group this large. And we appreciate it. The cynics in the media and elsewhere will look at today's proceedings and look for the conflicts. They will not recognize your extraordinary commitment to this country. And they will not talk about your energy and your passion for your candidates and your enthusiasm. And we thank you that you are willing to come here, even to express disagreements because that is what makes the Democratic process strong.

We are strong enough to struggle and disagree and even be angry and disappointed and still come together at the end of the day and be united.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to tell a very short story about something that happened to me during my campaign. Some of you have heard it, and for those I apologize. As you know, my campaign was also a very interesting -- it was a little shorter than this one, but it was very hard fought with some deep enthusiastic feelings and some deep emotional feelings. And it was, there were some things done in the campaign that aroused people's passions as there has been in this campaign.

And as I was struggling, as you know, Vice President Gore had endorsed me, and I had talked to him from time to time during the campaign, and as I was struggling along I was very, very angry at my party for some of the things that had been done, and I remember getting a phone call from Al Gore in the middle of the night, in Wisconsin, walking up and down the floor in the dark, talking to him, ranting and raving, saying: "What do I owe the Democratic party? Tell me why I should be a Democrat? Tell me why -- what I owe this party after the way I've been treated?" And I went on like that for about 20 minutes, and finally Al said to me, Howard, you know, this is not about you, it's about your country.

(APPLAUSE)

And -- at the time, nobody could have said that to me, even my wife, except for Al Gore. Except for Al Gore who would who, whatever I had been through, he had had the presidency of the United States snatched from him 40 days before the election by five intellectually bankrupt Supreme Court justices who did the wrong thing.

(APPLAUSE)

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