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Ruling on Mich., Fla. Delegates Riles Clinton Backers

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Members of the Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee made impassioned pleas for party unity at their meeting Saturday. But the decision to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan and split their votes between Clinton and Obama appears to have brought anything but unity.

ALICE HUFFMAN: Unidentified Man: Count all the votes.

HUFFMAN: Unidentified Man: You took away votes.

HUFFMAN: We've given you some back, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD MOANING)

MONTAGNE: You just took away votes. Those were the words of one Clinton supporter, interrupting committee member Alice Huffman. NPR's political editor Ken Rudin was there and joins us now to talk about this. And Ken, quite an emotional and dramatic meeting.

KEN RUDIN: It was. They kept talking about the word unity all day at the meeting. And yet before, when there protestors during, when you heard cat calls, and at the end when Clinton's supporters came out in absolute tears, unity was the last word you would see there. Basically, they were screaming betrayal. A lot of Clinton's supporters were chanting Join McCain's name. They were also chanting Denver, Denver, as is if they would bring their protest to the floor of the Denver convention. Basically, this was Hillary Clinton's last chance for the nomination, but all she got out of the Michigan and Florida delegation was a net of 24 delegates, far less than she needed. This was the ballgame regarding her chances for the nomination.

MONTAGNE: But, of course, leaving through her spokespeople the notion that she would forge ahead. What are her options?

RUDIN: Well, Harold Ickes said at the DNC meeting on Saturday that Hillary Clinton has instructed him to consider taking the thing to the full Credentials Committee. That is a 168-member body that will meet in either late July, early August, and to basically protest or appeal the rules committee decision. Whatever decision the Credentials Committee makes, then it has to go to the full floor of the Democratic Convention in late August in Denver. The last thing the Democratic Party wants is a floor fight. They really want to focus their attention on John McCain, beating the Republicans, but so far they are not able to do this.

MONTAGNE: You know, there is still time, of course, to ponder that possible option over as one thinks that the history of taking fights to the convention floor usually doesn't result in happy endings for the Democratic Party.

RUDIN: No. And, of course, it is a Democratic Party, capital D and small d. So, obviously, we've seen democracy in action, but we've also seen the big floor fight over Vietnam, and that hurt the party when Hubert Humphrey challenged George McGovern's delegates in 1972. That hurt the party. And, of course, Ted Kennedy challenging President Carter in 1980. There was very uncomfortable feelings about that race, and, of course, Jimmy Carter went down to defeat that year in 1980.

MONTAGNE: Well, Ken, just briefly, these are supporters of Hillary Clinton that you heard and big time supporters of Obama as well. Is this likely, do you think, again, just briefly, to dissipate or is this something that you think will spread among Democrats?

RUDIN: A lot has to do with what happens in Tuesday's primaries. It's the last voting of the year. We have South Dakota, Montana. Barack Obama could well go over the top. Hillary Clinton could theoretically concede the nomination, say she fought the good fight and lost. But again, if she takes it all the way to the convention, the chances of unity are getting more and more difficult.

MONTAGNE: Ken, thanks.

RUDIN: Thanks a lot, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Another story we're following this morning. Senator Ted Kennedy is undergoing brain surgery today at Duke University Medical Center. He was diagnosed last month with a malignant brain tumor. A spokesman for Kennedy said the surgery is expected to last about six hours, and it would be followed later by chemotherapy and radiation. We'll bring you more as we learn it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
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