Michigan has now caught the same Primary Fever as Florida, California, and several other states that want more influence on the presidential selection process. Both Democrats and Republicans in Michigan want the state to change its primary date to January 15th, perhaps even earlier than that, if Carl Levin has his way. The move will put even more pressure on New Hampshire and Iowa to go backwards -- possibly into 2007:
Michigan is poised to move its presidential primaries to Jan. 15 or earlier, becoming the latest state to leapfrog to the front of the voting calendar in the ongoing battle for relevance in choosing the next White House occupant.
The move by Michigan lawmakers is the latest to push the campaign season ever closer to New Year's Day and the holiday season, and renews the possibility that Iowans could be gathering to vote in December, despite pledges from state leaders to keep their caucuses in January.
Democratic leaders in Michigan privately agreed to the Jan. 15 date in a conference call late last week, according to sources on the call. Michigan Republicans quickly said they would support a move to that date. Legislation enshrining the decision could be passed in the state Senate as soon as tomorrow.
Michigan's senior U.S. senator, Carl M. Levin (D), is pushing for his state's primary to be held even earlier. Levin, who has for years decried the influence of Iowa and New Hampshire at the beginning of the primary schedule, is pushing for a Jan. 8 primary, according to sources familiar with the senator's thinking on the subject.
This stampede to gain advantage over one another started off as being amusing, segued quickly to annoying, and now may be damaging the entire process. Whatever real problems plagued the primary process in years past, a lack of arbitrariness and capriciousness was not among them. Now we have states asserting some sort of phallus-measuring mentality about their own importance as compared to the rest of the Union, and it's turning the process that selects our head of state into even more of a circus than ever before.
Eventually, this will damage the federalist principle of states conducting their own elections for presidential primaries. The irresponsibility of states to adhere to rational schedules and the resultant winter election dates will create pressure on Congress to pursue a national schedule for presidential primaries. It will be wrong to do so, but at some point the states will lose whatever moral standing they have to insist on the federalist view. Voters will pressure their representatives to do something to keep the political class from creating a two-year election process.
The fault lies mainly with the political parties. They have the power to punish states that play musical chairs with primary dates by reducing their delegate allotments, undercutting the power plays the states are making this season. No one really believes the national party committees will follow through on their threats to enforce their own rules.
Pragmatically, who gets a boost from an early Michigan primary? On the Republican side, even though Mitt Romney's father served as Governor here, Rudy Giuliani has a slightly higher favorability rating, according to Rasmussen. John McCain also edges Romney in that measure. Hillary Clinton would almost certainly beat any of the other Democratic candidates handily in Michigan. In other words, the establishment candidates will benefit most.