WASHINGTON (CNN) – Democratic leaders hopeful that a deal to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan would mark an end to the deep division the controversy has brought to the party got some instant – and less than encouraging – feedback as they finalized the measure Saturday evening.
As members of the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws panel voted in favor of the measures, some supporters of Hillary Clinton's White House bid rose from their seats and began to shout “Don’t steal my vote!” and “Let’s go, McCain!”
Several paced the back of the ballroom, yelling at the committee members and chanting “Denver! Denver!” – the site of this summer's Democratic presidential nominating convention.
When Barack Obama’s name was mentioned, boos filled the room.
"This motion will hijack, hijack, remove four delegates won by Hillary Clinton and most importantly reflect the preferences of 600,000 Michigan voters,” said Clinton senior adviser and RBC member Harold Ickes, who added that the White House hopeful reserved her right to bring an appeal before the DNC's Credentials Committee later this summer.
The delegate allocations were a blow to Clinton, who comes away with an advantage of just 24 delegates.
She is favored in Sunday’s Puerto Rico primary. But Obama is thought to hold an edge going into next Tuesday’s contests in Montana and South Dakota – meaning Clinton’s chances of pushing Obama’s delegate lead down into the double digits before the Democratic convention have virtually disappeared.
After the vote, as knots of Clinton and Obama supporters circled each other and faced off in the lobby outside the ballroom, uncommitted Florida superdelegate Mitch Caesar – who said he would weigh in soon after the last primary Tuesday - praised the party for “taking the first step toward unity.”
Nearby, Obama supporter Laura Mitchell wasn’t so sure the party had started down the path to comity. “I think it’s going to be a disaster if this goes past Tuesday,” said the Maryland resident. “Every day it gets a little harder to imagine we will be able to come together.”
Boston native and Clinton backer Jenny Doggett, an organizer of grassroots group Count the Votes Cast, called the DNC “spineless.”
“I think what they’ve done is divisive, destroying the party. I’m disgusted,” said Doggett, who expressed hope that the popular vote in Puerto Rico and a shift in superdelegates might still be able to deliver the nomination to Hillary Clinton. “I’m done with the Democratic Party,” she added. “I’m an independent voter now.”
The Rules committee ultimately adopted modified versions of a Florida delegate proposal presented by Jon Ausman, and the Michigan Leadership Plan developed by Democratic officials in that state.
All delegates from both states, both pledged and superdelegates, will be seated – but each will only be able to cast half a vote. Florida’s delegates were split The decision adds 313 new delegates, but only 156.5 votes, to the summer convention, and raises the number of delegates required to win the nomination to 2,118.
The Florida proposal was passed unanimously by the panel – but faced a rockier reception on the Michigan plan, which employed a complicated and controversial delegate allocation formula that awarded a 10 delegate, 5 vote edge to Clinton.
The Clinton campaign later released a statement from Ickes and fellow Clinton adviser and RBC member Tina Flournoy that said the Michigan decision “violates the bedrock principles of our democracy and our Party,” and repeated their willingness to challenge the decision before the delegation is seated at the Democratic National Convention.
The Obama campaign released a statement from campaign manager David Plouffe praising the RBC decision. “We're extremely gratified that the commission agreed on a fair solution that will allow Michigan and Florida to participate in the Convention,” said Plouffe.
At a press conference at the hotel following the final vote, a skeptical reporter pressed Alexis Herman on her claim that the panel’s decision would unite the party. As Herman responded, chants of “Denver! Denver!” could be heard from the lobby outside.