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February 9, 2008

Buyer's Remorse

Today, Democrats in Michigan can spend the day thinking about how they could have been the center of the political universe, had they not gotten greedy for pre-Super Tuesday glory. Their primary was originally scheduled for today, but they wanted to be more relevant and move their date to the front of the line. As it worked out, they could have provided a make-or-break moment by staying put -- and kept their delegates to boot:

The clever people in Michigan who decided to get into a game of chicken with New Hampshire last fall over the timing of their Democratic primary should be having second thoughts this weekend.

Had Michigan Democrats not engaged in gamesmanship over the shape of the nomination calendar, they would be holding the premier contest on today's slate, by far the biggest and most influential of the events between Super Tuesday and next week's Potomac primaries, rather than the nonbinding event that was held Jan. 15.

Michigan Democrats long argued that the party needed a major industrial state playing an early and influential role in the nominating process. Instead, Michigan Democrats -- and those in Florida -- have left their party with a monumental problem: what to do about their delegations to the national convention in Denver in August.

There is a growing sense of urgency about the need to deal with the Michigan-Florida issue, but no easy resolution. What happens could decide whether Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama becomes the party's presidential nominee.

The closer the race becomes, the bigger the problems of Michigan and Florida become. Florida could possibly get seated, or perhaps only half of their delegation as a penalty that would still enfranchise the voters, but Michigan is a bigger problem. Unlike Florida, Barack Obama didn't even appear on the ballot in Michigan, which in any rational consideration makes their empty primary absolutely untenable.

The Democrats cannot seat a Michigan delegation based on that vote without sparking understandable rage among Obama supporters. Given that Obama kept his pledge to the DNC not to do any campaigning in Florida, the same is probably true there, since Hillary wound up breaking her word with a highly touted primary-night appearance in the state. The DNC would essentially reward Hillary from breaking the rules and penalize Obama for following them if they seated either delegation, and the potential for a rift would skyrocket.

The Washington Post talks about trying caucuses in the state, but that takes a lot of organization and time, and the Democrats and the campaigns can spare neither at the moment. The DNC has to spend its funds on the convention, and it can't allow the RNC the advantage of draining its funding to launch caucuses that will never achieve any legitimacy in primary states. Apparently, rescheduling an election is out of the question, although the Post never explains why.

No matter what happens, the results of the decision will be seen as a backroom deal that will delegitimize the beneficiary. The DNC took the wrong approach to the legitimate issue of state rule-breaking and will pay the price in Denver. Michigan gets to pay it today by wondering what might have been.


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» Hillary Gets Michigan Delegates from Right Voices
Big surprise? Nope, business as usual in the Democratic Party. Hillary will get 73 pledged delegates: The state also has 28 superdelegates, many of whom have not endorsed a favorite candidate, for a total of 156. Michigan has been stripped of its del... [Read More]

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