WASHINGTON (CNN) - It promises to be the highest-profile gathering of Democratic heavyweights until the summer nominating convention – and shaping up to be a harder ticket to come by: this Saturday’s Washington meeting to debate the seating of the Florida and Michigan delegations is officially the toughest ticket in town.
The members of the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee – the panel weighing how both states should be represented at the convention in Denver – will meet very publicly, at a hotel site ringed with protestors and satellite trucks. Inside, they’ll be joined by a swarm of political journalists – and a few rank-and-file Democrats. Only about 300 people – including RBC members, press and public - will be allowed inside.
But hundreds of Democrats eager for a front-row seat to history found themselves out of luck today, as the party’s online registration system for the spots available to the public was overwhelmed at 10 a.m. ET, when it opened. All available seats were claimed in about a minute.
(By comparison: the Hannah Montana concert earlier this year at the Verizon Center – granted, a much larger venue – took roughly 12 minutes to sell out.)
Disgruntled Democrats and party officials alike took to the Web, amid complaints from disappointed would-be attendees that they had successfully registered, only to see that confirmation disappear. DNC officials said some had missed out on their chance by moments. “The difference between getting a spot and not was a matter of seconds,” said DNC Internet Director Josh Hendler in a statement quickly posted on the party’s Web site. “We’re sorry we don’t have enough room for everyone who wanted to be there, but we’ll make sure you can see the meeting if you want to.”
In fact, ticket-holders won’t have much of an advantage over disappointed Democrats forced to watch the proceedings via on television or online: they won’t be allowed to speak, or to express their viewpoint non-verbally through signs or banners.
And there may be almost as much news outside the venue as inside the ballroom where delegates meet, as groups backing both candidates have pledged to bring supporters to press their case on RBC members as they arrive.
As the temperature rose on rhetoric surrounding Saturday’s protests, the organizer of one of the pro-Obama rallies planned for that day told CNN Tuesday they were re-dubbing their gathering a “voter registration event” – a nod to party unity – and not a “counter-protest” that could be viewed as an attempt to disrupt the proceedings.