Milwaukee Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton desperately wants meaningless wins in Florida and Michigan to turn into votes she can count on. It won't be easy with the Democratic National Committee rules standing in her way.
The DNC is refusing to back down from the tough sanctions it imposed on the two states, which held early contests in violation of party rules. They have been stripped of all their delegates to the national convention in August where either Clinton or rival Sen. Barack Obama will be nominated for president.
The DNC has offered Florida and Michigan a couple ways out in compliance with party rules. First, they could hold second nominating contests, but Democratic leaders in both states reject that idea. Or they can appeal to the DNC's credentials committee, a 186-member body that usually operates in obscurity and has a complicated membership and rules process that will require deft maneuvering in this divided campaign.
Just like the some 800 superdelegates, this committee could hold the cards in helping decide the Democratic nominee if the race stays close.
Obama said Friday that he wants Michigan and Florida - two key states in the general election campaign - to participate in the convention without affecting the outcome of the election. He did not provide specifics about conditions except to say it wouldn't be fair for Clinton to get the majority.
"I want to make sure that the Michigan and Florida delegates have the means to participate," he said at a news conference. "There are probably a whole slew of different solutions that could be come up with that would both achieve the interests of making sure that Michigan and Florida delegates participate without skewing the delegate count."
Clinton's campaign insists the delegates should be seated in accordance with more than 2 million votes cast in the two states last month.
"I think that the people of Michigan and Florida spoke in a very convincing way, that they want their voices and their votes to be heard," Clinton told reporters. "The turnout in both places was record-breaking and I think that that should be respected."
Clinton did not object to the DNC stripping the states of their delegates when the decision was made last year. Some of her backers were on the committee that made the decision to do so and actively supported it.
"Now, when they believe it serves their political interests, they're trying to rewrite the rules," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said in a call with reporters.
As of Thursday, the delegate count stood at 1,276 for Obama and 1,220 for Clinton. If the DNC were to award Michigan and Florida's 313 delegates based on the vote in their primaries, she would be ahead because she won both states.
That would be unfair, Obama said, because the candidates had promised not to compete in those renegade states.
"I think even my 6-year-old would understand it would not be fair for Senator Clinton to be awarded delegates when there was no campaign," he told reporters Friday.
Clinton's operatives want DNC chairman Howard Dean to come up with a resolution, but Dean is staying out of the fight for now.