One of the most fascinating stories of the early contests is on the Democratic side of the Michigan contest, where an attempt by national Democrats to control the process has led to more than a little confusion which could spiral into electoral chaos.
Michigan holds an open primary on January 15 –a week after New Hampshire.
An open primary means every voter can request a ballot in either the Democratic or Republican contest. This helped John McCain in ’00, when he beat George Bush here, and may help him again if he’s one of the candidates still viable after Iowa, Wyoming and New Hampshire.
On the Democratic side, the ballot only lists four names –Senator Clinton, Senator Dodd, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich. The others refused to qualify their names after the Democratic National Committee condemned Michigan Democrats for moving their vote up.
If Hillary stumbles in either of both of Iowa or New Hampshire, she can use the Michigan vote to generate a necessary, though “weak” win and get some traction.
Which is why you may see her rivals asking Michigan voters to write in their names or at least vote for anybody but Hillary that day. You may even see Senator Obama attempt to appeal to Republicans to come to his aid in beating back Hillary.
Since all the [Democratic] candidates are apparently already on the record for allowing Michigan’s delegates to the convention, that makes the Jan 15th contest there much more than a “beauty contest” as there are going to be 156 delegates that are chosen.
If either Obama or Edwards wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, their campaign choosing to skip out of Michigan will be looked back on as the most stupid strategic move of the election. Instead of having the opportunity to put Clinton away, not only will they be letting Clinton claim a win, but we’ll also see the contest shift from ‘who won’ each state to ‘who has the most delegates’ for the nomination– very favorable to Clinton.
Senators Obama or Edwards will have to campaign in Michigan or forfeit the state –and any momentum they have accumulated– and may have to start there even before New Hampshire votes.