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Fla., Mich. Leaders Renew Convention Efforts

With both Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.)and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) vowing to press on in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, party leaders have begun new discussions over the best way to resolve how — and whether — to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates.

Opinions still vary widely over those two states, both of which were sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee because they broke party rules by moving up their primary dates, essentially turning those elections into beauty contests. In both Michigan and Florida, Clinton carried the popular vote, and Members in those states have been upping the pressure for weeks to ensure voters get their say in Denver.

But that intensity hit a new high Wednesday when members of the Florida and Michigan Democratic delegations from both sides of the Capitol met to discuss possible outcomes.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, laid out a laundry list of hurdles both states face if they seek to hold new primaries. In Florida alone, the estimated cost of another election ranges from $18 million to $20 million. A vote-by-mail primary would cost about half that much.

“The governor doesn’t just have $18 million set aside for a do-over,” Hastings said, referring to Gov. Charlie Crist’s (R) recent suggestion that he would be open to allowing Democrats to hold another primary.

It also is unclear whether the governor could authorize a new primary without the approval of the state Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans.

Hastings said the group, which includes such party elders as Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.) and House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (Mich.), planned to discuss those hurdles and their options for how to move forward.

“The pressure is going to come to the Michigan and Florida people to cut a deal,” Hastings said. “Nobody can disenfranchise Floridians. We do a pretty good job of that ourselves.”

Florida and Michigan Senators agree, and reiterated their vow Wednesday to ensure that voters get a seat at the table.

Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.) said he will “continue to insist that Florida delegates be seated,” adding that their presence at the convention would not change the overall outcome between Clinton and Obama. Nelson noted that only 38 delegates separate the two candidates, and that both had an opportunity to compete in Florida’s primary contest.

Nelson dismissed talk of a do-over and said that if the issue goes unresolved until Denver, it would “be a disaster.”

Levin said he didn’t attend Wednesday’s meeting, but he added that Michigan is going forward with its delegate seating process. Unless the two presidential candidates and the DNC can come to an agreement on a way to count them, Michigan Democrats will press on with plans to go to Denver.

“The only way to change that course is if both candidates agree to a process,” Levin said.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean issued a statement Wednesday praising the two governors for their efforts to resolve the dispute and said their public overtures are “good news.”

“The rules, which were agreed to by the full DNC, including representatives from Florida and Michigan over 18 months ago, allow for two options,” Dean said. “First, either state can choose to resubmit a plan and run a party process to select delegates to the convention; second, they can wait until this summer and appeal to the Convention Credentials Committee, which determines and resolves any outstanding questions about the seating of delegates. We look forward to receiving their proposals should they decide to submit new delegate selection plans and will review those plans at that time.”

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