Sunday, March 9, 2008

Michigan and Florida -- Who will step up?

Here's a great column about the Michigan-Florida delegate mess by Tom Foreman, of CNN's Washington bureau. In his words:

With so many states angling for a bigger say in the election process, if they didn't stop these two big players, they feared an avalanche of others would follow.

Christmas caucuses. Halloween primaries. Who knew where it would stop?

But even back then, other troubling questions were rising: Are you really going to tell all those Democrats they can't play? Don't you worry that they'll be angry and will punish the party in the general election? And for crying out loud, doesn't Florida in January sounds a lot nicer than New Hampshire?

But they went ahead, and now they are paying. They left the basement full of oily rags, matches and 5-year-olds, and now they are surprised that it's burning.

Putting out the blaze around these two states now is possible -- but so problematic it almost defies rational discussion.

Foreman goes on to list the potential solutions -- and the problems they create in their own right -- and adds one more problem to the list for good measure:

"I'm also not sure which national level Democrat has the muscle and courage, given the raw feelings rising around this election, to step in and lead the charge toward a compromise," Foreman says.

This is a huge opportunity for the Obama campaign and for Obama himself to demonstrate the kind of leadership some are saying he is too young to have. I wrote in this week's column that the best solution is likely going to involve a revote in both states. It can be done via mail -- as if everyone votes absentee -- for about $6 million in Florida; the figure would likely be lower in Michigan. The candidates have raised $90 million between them, so they can certainly afford to pitch in for the revote. Using those results to seat delegates would solve the problem, and it would make a veritable hero out of the candidate who proposes it.

And as for someone with "muscle and courage" who could make it happen, check out this story about what happened to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's congressional seat this week -- and why.