Michigan Moves Ahead
On Primary Switch
Michigan state senators voted today to move their presidential primary to Jan. 15, flouting attempts by the national parties to impose parameters on the voting schedule even as the Democratic National Committee prepares to punish such actions this Saturday.
Senators voted to approve Senate Bill 624 after amending it to require the state to hold its presidential primary on Jan. 15. The bill now goes to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. If it passes there, as expected, Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has indicated she will likely sign it.
The legislative action is all but certain to set of a series of essentially automatic changes to the nation's political calendar even as the race for the White House is already well underway.
Political leaders in Iowa and New Hampshire, who jealously guard their status as the first presidential contests every four years, have vowed to respond by moving their own voting up as far as necessary to retain their position.
That could mean that voting will begin in 2007 for the 2008 presidential election. The uncertainty has scrambled the political calculations for strategists in both parties as they attempt to plan for how to schedule their candidates and spend their money.
Meanwhile, the two national political parties are having little luck gaining control over the process. As in previous years, efforts to cajole or punish states is being met with indifference.
In the hopes of changing that dynamic, national Democratic leaders are preparing to send a harsh message to their White House candidates this weekend: campaign in Florida at your own risk.
In an effort to punish the Sunshine State for holding it's presidential primary earlier than the approved Feb. 5 date (Florida lawmakers moved the contest to Jan. 29), the DNC's rules committee is expected to proclaim the state off-limits to campaigning. Anyone who campaigns there would lose their delegates.
But the threat -- which is likely to be approved this Saturday -- hardly appears to be stopping the calendar insurrection among state leaders who are seeking relevance in the presidential nominating process.
Michigan officials have said they are less concerned with sanctions from the party and more interested in making sure the candidates confront issues important to the people in their state.
"We should not let political gamesmanship and special interest pandering detract us from this national spotlight," said the state's Republican Party chairman. "Let's keep the focus where is should be: on a bipartisan discussion about what's best for the people of Michigan."
--Michael D. Shear
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