May 31, 2008 / 5:15 AM / 12 years ago

Democrats seat half Florida and Michigan delegates

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic Party backed a compromise to seat half the disputed delegations from Michigan and Florida on Saturday, rejecting Hillary Clinton’s call for a full seating and dealing another blow to her faltering U.S. presidential campaign.

Delegates gather around a table at the Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting in Washington May 31, 2008. REUTERS/Jason Reed

The votes sparked an angry outburst from Clinton supporters and loud cheers from backers of rival Barack Obama who packed a Washington ballroom for a raucous meeting on settling the controversy over the two delegations.

“Denver, Denver!” chanted Clinton supporters, naming the site of the August nominating convention in urging Clinton to carry her fight all the way through the summer.

The panel rejected Clinton’s proposal to seat all the Florida delegates on a 15-12 vote, then backed compromises seating both the Michigan and Florida delegations but cutting their voting power in half.

Clinton had made the issue a rallying cry for her campaign, and the furor has gained prominence because of the tight presidential race and the likelihood it represents her last chance to gain ground on Obama.

Harold Ickes, a Clinton adviser and committee member, said “it is not a good way to start down the path of party unity.”

The votes essentially eliminate Clinton’s last chance to gain significant ground on Obama, who has a big lead in the Democratic presidential nominating race.

At issue was a rules committee decision last year to strip the two states of their delegates because they held nominating contests, both won by Clinton, earlier than party rules allowed.

Officials said Democrats could pay a price in the November election against Republican John McCain if the delegations from the two election battlegrounds are not seated and the results counted.

“If you turn your back on the voters of Michigan or Florida, you are flirting with a McCain victory,” said former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard, appearing on behalf of Clinton.

(Editing by Patricia Wilson and Todd Eastham)

To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/

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