Posted by: David Kiley on January 29, 2008
Depending on what happens Feb 5, Michigan could really matter in this year’s Presidential election.
So far, Michigan is known as one of two states—the other is Florida—which attempted to jump ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire in the primary battles. Fearing backlash from those two states, the Democratic National Committee made the candidates sign a pledge not to campaign in those states. The Republican National Committee made no such pledge. And Barack Obama, John Edwards, and a few others no longer in the race when Michiganders voted, had their names pulled from the Michigan primary ballot. The names have not been removed from the Florida ballot. Though, as things stand now, Florida’s delegates won’t count at the Democratic convention and Michigan and Florida will only get half as many delegates as they otherwise would at the Republican convention.
If it sounds like a mess, it is. This is what happens when the national committees dig into a problem and try to fix it.
But here is the deal with Michigan. Michigan politicians and reporters believe a “deal” will be worked out by which the two states’ delegates will be seated at the convention. Michigan has 185 delegates. How’s that? If Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama are in a tight race for delegates going into the convention, Obama’s people will surely threaten to go to court to prevent the DNC from counting Michigan, if not Florida as well. Clinton did not pull her name from the Michigan ballot, and was the only name on the Michigan ballot, and she garnered 55% of the vote. The rest went for “uncommitted.” Michigan has a significant population of African-Americans, Muslim-Americans and strongholds of politically active young people in Ann Arbor and Lansing. All of those groups would likely have broken for Obama had his name been on the ballot.
Obama followed the rules. Clinton did not. DNC chairman Howard Dean is going to change the rules with the nomination teetering on the outcome? That sounds like a worse situation that Florida in the 2000 election. What a mess.
Now, would Obama have won Michigan? It’s hard to day for sure. Obama stumbled badly in Michigan last year when he gave a speech in downtown Detroit laying the blame for a terrible national fuel economy standard at the feet of the Big Three automakers, and, by extension, the United Auto Workers union. The speech was a fiasco in a state that has gone blue the last several elections, but could break red for the right GOP candidate—say Mitt Romney or John McCain, both of whom are very popular in Michigan.
It appears that noone has yet told the Obama campaign that they blew it last year when Obama’s first impression made in Detroit was that of an enemy of the auto industry. Obama could correct his mistake right after Feb. 5 with a new speech in Detroit that admits his rhetoric aimed at the car companies was too harsh, and that he sees an opportunity for the Federal government to invest in bringing “green-technology” to the ailing state economy.
With the Big Three ailing, and Toyota on the cusp, it seems, of passing GM as the world’s biggest automaker, Michigan isn’t known nationally right now for much besides falling real estate values, foreclosures and a sliding auto industry. But pretty soon, Michigan could well be in the eye of the political storm. And God help everyone…politicians in Washington will be the ones deciding just how important it will be.