Joan Vennochi

Still, no satisfaction for Clinton's sisterhood

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Joan Vennochi
Globe Columnist / April 17, 2008

DEVAL PATRICK brought his cool. John Kerry brought his angst. Ted Kennedy brought his wife.

Governor Patrick and Senators Kerry and Kennedy met separately over the past week with Massachusetts women who support Hillary Clinton and want the state's superdelegates to find a way to count all the primary votes in Florida and Michigan.

But, the aftermath of these sitdowns with the Bay State's top Democrats brings to mind that Rolling Stones classic, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

The men - all Barack Obama supporters in a state that went for Clinton on primary day - said they believe in fairness, but not, necessarily, in counting votes in other states where Clinton claims victory.

Kennedy, accompanied by his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, promised to speak to the Obama campaign; to Howard Dean, head of the Democratic National Committee; and to Michigan Democrats. But, according to women at the meeting, when asked to take their cause public, the senator expressed a higher priority: "I'm trying to get us out of Iraq," he said.

Patrick and Kerry told the group they were moved by their advocacy, and would dig into the issue.

"We supported all three over the years because we believed each of them to be committed to the core basic democratic principle of having every vote count," said Lois Pines, a former state senator and longtime Democratic activist. ". . . Is it really possible they are going to let such an injustice stand and no one is going to make this right?"

Late yesterday, a spokesman for Patrick said, "The governor wants a fair outcome that seats the Michigan and Florida delegates at the Democratic National Convention in August. He is not opposed to a revote. He pledged to convey the group's concerns to the Obama campaign and has done so."

A Kerry spokesman said the senator "had a good, long, honest and productive discussion and he's personally conveyed their concerns to the DNC and the Obama campaign. He reiterated how important it is to have a fair resolution that strengthens rather than divides our party."

The national party is still flummoxed over how to count 2.3 million votes cast by Florida and Michigan Democrats. In scheduling their primaries, both states ignored party rules, leading the DNC to strip their delegates. After Obama took his name off the Michigan ballot, Clinton won 55 percent of the vote. She won 50 percent of the vote in Florida, where neither candidate campaigned.

It's popular to denounce Clinton's female supporters as cranks who refuse to accept defeat. The media continually report that Obama is ahead in the delegate count and popular vote, and it's impossible for Clinton to catch up. That recurring theme could depress Clinton's vote in upcoming primaries. Who wants to vote for a designated loser?

Keeping Michigan and Florida out of the count helps Obama press that case. A recent article by Sean Wilentz explains why: "Under the existing system, Obama's current lead in the popular vote would nearly vanish if the results from Michigan and Florida were included in the total and his lead in pledged delegates would melt to almost nothing . . . Add those states' votes to the totals and take a sober look at Clinton's popular-vote victories in virtually all other large states, and the electoral dynamic changes."

Of course, the political dynamic shifts if Obama wins the upcoming Pennsylvania primary, along with others. But it's hard to deny that a big piece of Obama's momentum can be traced back to Dean's decision to leave Michigan and Florida up in the air as long as possible. It's also a fact that neither Obama nor Clinton can accumulate the 2,025 delegates needed to nail the nomination; both need support from superdelegates.

Dean's vague promise to seat Florida and Michigan delegates at the convention doesn't placate these Massachusetts women. They want a revote in Michigan and the Florida votes of Jan. 29 counted now.

"A lot of women are not going to be quite so enthusiastic about the level and intensity and depth of their effort on behalf of Barack Obama, if indeed Florida is not counted in a timely manner. If that is being used to undermine the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, as generated by Howard Dean and his team, that is outrageous," said Pines.

Those are tough words from a lifelong Democrat, who backed Kennedy, camped out in Florida for Kerry, and worked the state convention floor for Patrick. They bring to mind another Stones classic, "Under My Thumb."

Kennedy, Kerry, and Patrick are mistaken if they believe all their female supporters can be counted on to stay there.

Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is

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