WASHINGTON - Barack Obama's campaign said Thursday that evenly splitting Michigan's delegates with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton would be a fair way to distribute them, now that the chances of a do-over primary are essentially dead.
The Michigan Senate adjourned Thursday without taking up a bill for a June 3 repeat primary. While there still is a possibility a last-minute deal can be reached, lawmakers' lack of enthusiasm for a second election paid for by private donors means that's unlikely.
Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, an Obama supporter and former presidential candidate, promoted the idea of splitting the delegates 50-50 in a statement Thursday. "The best outcome is to come to an arrangement where the delegates are apportioned fairly between Senators Obama and Clinton, so the Michigan delegation can participate fully in the Denver convention," the statement said.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton said Dodd spoke to campaign leaders about an even split. Burton said they agreed it would be an equitable way of handling Michigan, where Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot in a renegade Jan. 15 primary.
The Clinton campaign immediately rejected the idea of splitting the delegates. Clinton told reporters while campaigning in Terre Haute, Ind., that Obama's nomination could be tainted if he achieves it without a second Michigan contest.
"I do not see how two of our largest and most significant states can be disenfranchised and left out of the process of picking our nominee without raising serious questions about the legitimacy of that nominee," Clinton told reporters, referring to Michigan and Florida, which has a similar problem.
Harold Ickes, who is leading the Clinton campaign's efforts to secure delegates, said the campaign would look at a mail-in option in Michigan with the failure of the primary bill.
"Assuming there is not a legislatively required rerun primary, we would seriously entertain the possibility of a party run, mail-in ballot," he said.
Ickes said there had been no communication between the Obama and Clinton campaigns about how to settle the matter, saying only the Democratic National Committee, not the two campaigns, had the power to do so.
Clinton won Michigan's primary, but it didn't count toward the presidential nomination because the state violated DNC rules by holding the contest before Feb. 5. The DNC punished Michigan, stripping it of all its delegates to the convention in Denver where the nominee will be chosen.
Now, with the campaign between Obama and Clinton so close, the fate of 156 delegates from Michigan and another 210 from Florida could help determine who wins the nomination. Florida was also stripped of its delegates for holding a primary in January, which Clinton also won.
Obama and several other Democratic candidates removed their name from the Michigan ballot as part of their pledge not to participate in the primary because of the rules violation. They were unable to remove their names in Florida.
Clinton has said her preference is to seat the delegates from both states based on the January results. Clinton has said a second option would be to hold another vote in the two states, but efforts to do so have proved troublesome.
Florida has given up on a plan for a mail-in vote that faced unanimous opposition from the state's Democratic congressional delegation. In Michigan, Thursday was the last day for Michigan lawmakers to take up the bill for the June 3 before House members leave on a two-week vacation.
Obama chief strategist David Axelrod raised the Dodd proposal in a conference call with reporters as a possible way for Michigan delegates to be seated. "We are for a resolution that would give Florida and Michigan representation at the convention that was fair and reasonable," Axelrod said.
Axelrod said one of the campaign's concerns about the Michigan proposal was that it would have banned anyone who voted in the Republican primary in January from participating — and that would include those who only voted in the GOP race because the Democratic contest didn't count.
Democratic leaders in Michigan have said DNC rules require them to bar those who voted in the Republican primary from casting ballots in a do-over primary. But DNC spokeswoman Stacie Paxton said Thursday that the party would have considered waiving the rule because of Michigan's unique situation if the state requested it.
During Michigan's January primary, Dodd was also running for the presidential nomination and kept his name on the Michigan ballot along with Clinton. At the time, his campaign spokesman said pulling names would be a slight to Michigan voters that could hurt the eventual nominee.
Dodd said in his statement Monday that even though he left his name on the ballot, it's clear that the results of the Jan. 15 primary should not be used to apportion delegates.
The Democratic National Committee declined to comment on Dodd's proposal.