Transcript: Democratic Superdelegates on 'FNS'

The following is a partial transcript of the March 9, 2008, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRIT HUME, GUEST HOST: The Democratic presidential nominee could be decided not in the remaining primaries but in the outcome of the bitter fight over what to do about Michigan and Florida.

Both states lost all their convention delegates when they were penalized by the Democratic National Committee for moving up their primary dates earlier this year in violation of party rules.

For more on this, we turn to Debbie Dingell, a DNC committee member and a superdelegate from Michigan, and, from Florida, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who is also a convention superdelegate.

Thanks to both of you for being with us.

First let me start with you, Congresswoman. What do you think is the fairest way to settle this question?

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Well, I think when you're talking about fairness, we have to remember that this was started by the Republican- led legislature here that actually set the date of our primary.

So the victims here in all of — in the decision by the DNC to strip us of our delegates are Democratic voters in the state of Florida.

HUME: Can I stop you there? Just let me stop you there for a second, if I can.


HUME: In the Florida state senate, who introduced the bill to move the primary forward?

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: The bill was introduced by a Democratic member, a new Democratic member of the state senate.

HUME: And in the legislature, senate and house as well, how many Democrats voted against it?

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Well, that's an inappropriate line of questioning, Brit, because that bill ultimately...

HUME: Well, wait a minute. Well, inappropriate or not...


HUME: ... could you just answer the question?

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Can I answer your question?

HUME: Yes. How many?

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: I would like to answer your question without you asking me another one, if you don't mind.

The legislation that was originally sponsored was amended into an overall election package that included the major provision to ensure that we could have manual recount and a paper trail. So this is a major election package that the change of a date in our primary was included in.

So the vote total was unanimous, but that was because there's no one in the Florida legislature that was going to vote against changing our voting system so that you could have a paper trail and make sure that every vote can be counted, unlike our touchscreen voting system right now which doesn't allow for that.

So to try to hang a unanimous vote on the fact that Democrats supported that — that's misleading, because they supported it because they certainly weren't going to vote against making sure there was a paper trail in Florida.

HUME: I see. Well, all right. Then what's the fair way to settle it, in your judgment?

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Anything that is decided upon, Brit, has to be fair to Florida voters and make sure that Florida Democratic voters have their vote counted.

The nerves are very raw here still from the recount fiasco in 2000. We've got to make sure that whatever — however our delegation gets seated, that it is seated reflecting votes cast by voters in Florida.

HUME: So does that mean...

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: There are a variety of ways to do that. What's being talked about in terms of that variety is possibly a re- vote, which I think would not be the right way to go, and also a combination of weighted formulas so that you would count the election on the 29th in some way, and then other factors like the possible outcome of the rest of the primaries and weight that as well.

There are a number of different formulas that are being talked about that would reflect the actual votes cast by the voters, but not necessarily entirely.

HUME: But you would resist a re-vote.

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: I would resist a re-vote for a couple of major reasons. Number one, the re-vote that's being talked about right now would be a mail-in ballot. And we have never conducted a mail-in ballot in Florida. And in an election that is this important, an experiment like that is — now is not the time to test that.

We had 1.75 million Democratic voters cast ballots on January 29th. It was a record turnout. And the likelihood of getting that many people to mail a ballot back in is very small.

The other problem with a mail-in ballot is that you have transient populations. Poorer communities would really be disenfranchised in a scenario like that because their addresses are not consistent, and so the odds of them getting a ballot and even knowing about the election are much smaller than middle class and upper middle class populations.

So any potential scenario right now that requires a re-vote would be experimental, would disenfranchise people, and we've got to make sure, again, at the end of the day that whatever delegation we have seated at the convention, which — we must have one, and there's no question in my mind about that — has to reflect the popular vote of Florida Democratic voters.

HUME: Debbie Dingell, what do you think the fair way to resolve this is?

DINGELL: In Michigan, everything is on the table. We've got some guidelines. We've got some frameworks. We're working with all of the players at the table.

It would not cost the taxpayers anything. It must be consensus. It will include both campaigns and the DNC.

HUME: Do you think it can involve any — there's no way to — you don't think it's fair to take the outcome of the primary that was held there with Barack Obama not on the ballot and try to make that work, do you?

DINGELL: I'm not making a comment on anything. My favorite saying right now is when you're in a hole, stop digging.

I think that Senator Obama made a decision to take his name off of the ballot, but nobody — Brit, nobody, including you, the pundits, Governor Dean, the candidates or the states — thought we would be where we are right now.

HUME: Well, understood. On the other...

DINGELL: You're doing this to change the system.

HUME: Understood. But on the other hand, the rules were in place. There was no doubt about that. Michigan went ahead and held its primary. Barack Obama, playing by the rules, did not have his name on the ballot. If the votes...

DINGELL: Actually, Senator Obama — the pledge that Senator Obama took was — and Senator Clinton took — was not to campaign in either state.

HUME: Right.

DINGELL: The rules never said take your name off the ballot. But we are where we are now. We've got to get it figured out.

HUME: Well, you don't think — you don't really think you can count this — this would be a complete Clinton win if the votes as they cast were counted.

DINGELL: I think that we had a legitimate election in January, and we've got to — but I care about the people that feel disenfranchised.

And in Michigan, everything's on the table. It will be developed by consensus and both campaigns and the DNC have to approve.

HUME: You won't say here, though, as someone who — you were involved in the decision to go forward.

DINGELL: I was involved in challenging a broken presidential primary system.

HUME: I hear you.

DINGELL: And it is.

HUME: I hear you. But you're not now prepared to suggest here what might be a solution, such as going back to what they used to call the firehouse primary, which was a day-long, "any drop in, cast your ballot and leave" type of caucus that used to be held in...

DINGELL: That is one of the options...

HUME: Do you like that option?

DINGELL: ... that is on the table. I think it has issues. It's not off the table. The mail program is not off the table. Reaching some agreement between the two campaigns isn't off the table.

There are logistics and expense problems. It's much more expensive than any of us thought. We need to be prepared for up to 2.5 million voters.

HUME: Do you think that money — now, that's a kind of — this is the kind of effort that's a party event, for which so-called soft money — that is, money raised from contributions from corporate interests and so on — could be used.

DINGELL: We have heard offers from people...

HUME: Do you think it's possible to raise the money?

DINGELL: We've heard offers from people outside of the state, and we would welcome those people showing us how we could raise money for some alternative. It is not — the resources are not there inside the state.

So people who have offered to help raise the money, we'd welcome hearing from them to help us finance whatever option might...

HUME: You're involved in these discussions.

DINGELL: That is true.

HUME: Is it fair to say that you're not near an outcome yet?

DINGELL: That is fair. It's fair to say we have discussions ongoing and we don't know which direction we're going to go, because it involves everybody.

And what happens — we want to come out of this with no one having bitter feelings, pulling together, because Florida and Michigan are committed with the two candidates and Governor Dean to pull together as Democrats and win in November.

HUME: What do you think the consequences would be if it were decided not to seat the delegation from Michigan?

DINGELL: I think those would be — have very negative consequences. But I think it's going to be a bumpy road between now and August. I think all of us will work together to figure it out before then.

HUME: Congresswoman, let me turn back to you on the question of counting the primary that was held in which neither candidate campaigned in the state in any meaningful way.

If you did that, wouldn't that be a little unfair to Senator Obama since at that time in particular he was much the lesser known of the two candidates, and then primary after primary it's been shown that he'll start from well behind in a state where he's not particularly well known, and that campaigning there benefits him more than it would — arguably than it benefited Senator Clinton, who was a known quantity? Your thoughts.

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Well, Brit, the argument that somehow the January 29th primary was unfair to either of the candidates I don't think really holds water, because if that were true and voters felt like they didn't know enough about either of the two candidates to come out and make a decision, then we wouldn't have had the biggest turnout in Democratic primary history.

This isn't the 1860s where you have voters deciding who to cast a ballot for based on seeing two candidates stand on a box and debate the issues in front of them.

We have a global communication system now, and people make decisions, and obviously 1.75 million Democrats felt comfortable enough with their choice to be able to go to the polls and cast a ballot.

So I just don't think that argument holds water.

HUME: So you don't think it would have been beneficial to the voters in Florida to have had a full-fledged campaign there with debates in Florida...

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Oh, no, no, no.

HUME: ... on the — well, wait a minute, now. You're saying that if...

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: No, I'm not saying that at all.

HUME: ... 1.75 million turned out, it didn't really matter. That's another way of saying that it wouldn't have been more helpful and they wouldn't have been better informed if they'd had debates in the state and a full-bore campaign in the state.

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: No. Of course, I think that the — it would have been much more preferable for the candidates to campaign in the state.

I wish that the candidates didn't sign a pledge to not do that, because, as Debbie said, the pledge that they signed had nothing to do with the DNC decision to strip our delegates. But again, that's water under the bridge.

But if the question is of fairness and whether or not the voters in Florida and Michigan, but the voters in Florida in particular in this case, had an opportunity and felt comfortable enough to make their decision, the turnout here proves that they did.

That doesn't mean that it wouldn't have been more beneficial, and certainly preferable, to have the full benefit of the candidates campaigning here, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't fair.

HUME: What about the idea that I was just talking about with Debbie Dingell about a kind of firehouse primary in which you had a number of polling places — it would be reduced from the number you had before — and also, with that, the possibility of mail-in ballots? How would you feel and others feel in Florida about that?

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: Our primary is set in state law, and we don't have the — we would have a lot of different logistical and legal problems in doing that.

There are 7,000 polling places in Florida. And I mean, so a firehouse primary — what they were talking about doing — they have not been talking about a firehouse primary here. The closest I heard to that suggestion was when the DNC suggested we do a caucus that would take us from 7,000 precincts to 150 caucus sites.

We have no tradition of a caucus in Florida. We've never run one. And again, we can't start experimenting with a presidential preference primary, because the outcome and the stakes are just too high.

HUME: So do you see...

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: We also have — I'm sorry. Brit, we've also had - - we've already had the Republican-led legislature here, you know, put us in this situation.

And leaving the decision to the legislature again on whether or not we're going to be able to solve this problem is not something that makes most Democratic voters comfortable.

HUME: Well, then, short of counting the primary that was held, do you see any alternatives?

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: I do. I mean, I think that there are ways — and I agree with Debbie. We are working together as a congressional delegation with our Democratic Party leadership here in Florida, with Senator Nelson and the candidates, to try to come up with a reasonable alternative that will...

HUME: What would that be?

WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: ... that will — well, like I said, I mean, I think we should be counting — we should be using the results of the 29th as a factor, as well as some — there are a variety of other factors that could be considered so that you come up with a way to constitute our delegation and then present that proposal to the DNC and ask for their blessing.

But the campaigns would have to agree on that, and that's the kind of negotiating that's going on right now.

But at the end of the day, what I'm really thrilled about is that at least we are no longer having a lot of rhetoric out there that questions whether or not Florida or Michigan's delegates should be seated at all, because this is the most important election of our lives.

We have got to make sure that we elect a Democratic president. And we are jeopardizing that if we start the general election season by sending a message to Florida and Michigan voters that their votes are not important.

HUME: Got it.

Debbie Dingell, if you had to guess — now, I'm not asking you to endorse any particular outcome in Michigan — how do you think this will turn out?

DINGELL: We'll have something everybody will agree to, but I am making no predictions. It's the most fluid situation I've ever been in.

But I feel good that everybody's at the table and both campaigns are — the one thing that I can say is that both campaigns are committed, when this is resolved, to immediately come to Michigan, pull people together, put the resources in. And Michigan and Florida are going to be part of a Democratic victory in November.

HUME: Well, thanks to both of you. Glad to have you. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

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