WASHINGTON (CNN) - Representatives for the Clinton and Obama campaigns squared off over the Michigan delegate dilemma Saturday in front of an increasingly rowdy crowd on hand for the Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting.
David Bonior laid out the Obama campaign's view: Michigan delegates should be counted - but only in a way that doesn't count. The Illinois senator's campaign has called for delegates to be divided evenly with half going to him and half to Hillary Clinton, who won the unsanctioned January 15 contest.
"Due to all these circumstances, the unfortunate reality is that this primary that happened on January 15 was not anything that came close to a normal primary election, and cannot allocate delegates in a normal fashion as a result," the former Michigan congressman said.
"This does not mean that Michigan should be not represented at the national convention - it does mean that the delegates should be split evenly between the two remaining candidates, out of simple fairness," said Bonior, who pointed to Clinton's statement in a fall 2007 interview that the vote in Michigan would not count.
Both candidates might be nearly in agreement on a Florida compromise but remain far apart on the Michigan contest. Former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard presented the Clinton campaign's view: the RBC may have treated the Michigan primary as if it would not count but nobody else had, including the media and the state's voters.
Delegates, Blanchard said, should be divided based on the result of that vote.
The fact that Obama's name did not appear on the Michigan ballot did not make the primary less legitimate, Blanchard argued.
"It doesn't make the election flawed. In my opinion, they had a flawed strategy," he said.
Several RBC members, including Donna Brazile, asked how the Michigan contest could be viewed as legitimate when many voters stayed home because they did not believe the primary counted, and no provision was made for counting write-in ballots any way other than "uncommitted."
"My momma taught me to play by the rules and respect those rules," said Brazile, who also serves as a CNN political analyst. "My mother taught me - and I'm sure your mother taught you - that when you decide to change the rules - middle of the game, end of the game - that is referred to as cheating."
Blanchard replied: "Hillary Clinton did play by the rules. She even went along with the pledge not to campaign there," and she - and her supporters - should not be penalized by any agreement that would diminish the value of her vote in any way.
With Washington under a tornado watch, a storm seemed to gather in the ballroom where the committee was meeting, too, as a crowd that won't be allowed to comment on the day's proceedings increasingly weighed in with cheers and boos after five hours of uninterrupted dialogue.