Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What Could Have Been...

If Michigan Democrats had stayed with their originally planned, February 9 caucus, it would be the most important contest happening this weekend. Barck Obama and Hillary Clinton would be in Michigan now, meeting voters holding rallies buying airtime. For the second presidential election in a row, Michigan Dems would have had the option of casting their ballots over the Internet - giving researchers valuable data on the effects of Internet voting on turnout (which I had planned to use for my dissertation).

Instead, Michigan Democrats foolishly (in retrospect for sure, but many thought it was foolish at the time too) and flagrantly violated the established calendar of the DNC and moved their contest to January 15. For Democrats, that primary was meaningless in almost every way: Barack Obama and John Edwards were not even on the ballot, no delegates were awarded, no candidates campaigned there. Instead it could have been a great battleground state for Clinton and Obama this weekend!

As Brian Schaffner has mentioned a few times on this blog, Michigan and Florida could (within the rules of the DNC) still hold delegate selection contests that would be recognized by the DNC. I think this would be more likely to happen in Michigan than in Florida, since Florida's primary produced an outcome similar to an actual delegate selection event, given that all of the major candidates were on the ballot. In Michigan, only Clinton was on the ballot of the candidates who remained in the race after South Carolina. So the primary that occurred there allocated delegates only to Clinton and "uncommitted" - none to Obama since he was not on the ballot. For Michigan to hold a caucus that would produce real delegates to the convention, their plan would have to be approved by the members of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee. The Michigan Democratic Party probably has enough money, and it surely has the organizational capacity to pull it off. The question is whether the party would have the support of Michigan's Dem elected officials, like Gov. Granholm and Sen. Levin, and DNC member Debbie Dingell.

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