the death of the michigan primary, and edwards’ decision to accept public financing

Apparently Obama, Edwards, Richardson and Biden have made it official. None of them will be on the Democratic primary ballot in Michigan.

When the state party, led but Debbie Dingell, made the decision a few weeks ago to break the rules of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and announce that we would be holding our primary ahead of the February 5th date that had been handed down, I’m not quite sure what they thought would happen. (According to DNC rules, only Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina can have their primaries before February 5th.) I suspect, however, this wasn’t the outcome they were hoping for. When it was first announced, all the Democratic candidates agreed not to campaign in Michigan, and now we’re seeing a good number of them refusing to even be included on the ballot. So, in a gambit to have our concerns taken more seriously, it looks as though we’ve made ourselves completely irrelevant, at least in so far as the Democratic primary is concerned.

I’ve mentioned it here before, but, while I in theory like the idea of a more significant Michigan primary, I was hoping, due to my fondness for Edwards, that it wouldn’t pan out this time around. I’m ashamed to admit it, but there it is. I love my state, but the fact of the matter is that Edwards has a better chance to win in Iowa (January 14) than he does in Michigan, and, if he’s going to make a serious run at the Presidency, he needs to get some momentum early.

Speaking of Edwards, I guess he’s also made it official that he would be the first top-tier Democratic candidate seeking public financing. Here’s a clip from CNN:

…”This is not about a money calculation,” Edwards told CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley on his way to an event in Durham, New Hampshire. “This is about taking a stand, a principled stand, and I believe in public financing.”…

With the third-quarter fundraising deadline just days away, Edwards emphasized he did not arrive at this decision because his Federal Election Commission report will show a drop-off in contributions from donors.

“First of all, I got the money I need to run a serious campaign,” he said. “I hope that the other two will join me. As I’ve said, Sen. Clinton said she is for public financing so she can step forward and show she actually means it.”

Edwards is the first top-tier Democratic candidate to agree to this funding mechanism, and he noted it will include the primary and general elections. Although he has already begun raising money for the general election, federal law requires him to return those funds if he accepts public funding.

Clinton and Obama have also been raising private funds for the general election, but Obama said he would return the money and accept public funding in the general if the Republican nominee agrees to do the same.

In the race for the GOP presidential nomination, Arizona Sen. John McCain has also said that if he becomes the Republican nominee, he would also accept public funding in the general election if his Democratic counterpart does so as well. McCain also recently became eligible to receive public funding during the primaries, and aides have said they are seriously considering that option.

In order to qualify for so-called “matching funds,” the public funding program for the primary season, the FEC requires candidates to demonstrate nationwide support by raising $5000 in 20 different states with no individual contribution to exceed $250, a task which poses little difficulty for major candidates like Edwards.

Once qualified, the federal government will match the first $250 from new contributors, provided Edwards adheres to a $50 million national spending limit, as well as spending limits in each state. Candidates may not receive more than about $21 million in matching funds….

As Clinton and Obama have already raised in excess of $80 million each, it’s doubtful that they’ll join Edwards in his principled stand to remove money from the equation and refund a good deal of what they’ve taken in. So, this means that Edwards will be operating under strict spending limits while his strongest opponents most likely will not. They could, at least in theory, both spend several times what he does on advertising and the like. Regardless of whether it was really motivated by an ethical decision on his part, it’s a ballsy move and I hope that it works to his advantage.

[Thanks to Kerri and Andy for the links.]

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  1. Posted October 10, 2007 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    There goes my chance to write in Larry Craig’s taint.

    Swish… that’s the sound of Michigan going all Mitty the general. But Hillary still wins the Presidency and ignores Michigan’s death rattles until 2016 because of our arrogance.

    If Mitt does elect Himself kig somehow, we’ll all be back in the Ypsi Underwear business. But it’ll be slave labor churning out Mormon Magic Underwear for the higher ups of the LDS.

  2. Posted October 10, 2007 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    So, Mark, I can understand your admiring Edwards for his “principled stance” on campaign financing, but is that enough to overcome his “principled stance” that kowtowing to the party leadership’s demand for control is more important than paying attention to voters?

    (On the other hand, does this mean that all of us who might ordinarily request a Dem ballot in the primary can instead vote Ron Paul, without worrying about the opportunity cost of not casting a Dem ballot?)

  3. Robert
    Posted October 10, 2007 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Murph, moving the Michigan Primary ahead of the Iowa Caucus was not the idea or intent of the “voters” but rather a blatant move by higher-ups to dilute the impact of Edwards likely win in Iowa. Rove directed his people in the Michigan Republican Party and Clinton’s loyalists went along on the Democratic side. Why would you pretend to be hostile toward “kowtowing to party leadership” when it was party leadership here in Michigan who engineered this phony initiative? Edwards is not kowtowing to anyone by the way. He’s pulling his name off the Michigan primary ballot because he has no chance of winning in the state.

    Please note, there is a fairly active group of people in Michigan trying to get Al Gore’s name on the state’s primary ballot. I would hope they could succeed at that, but I’m betting the Clinton folks are going to kill that idea one way or another.

  4. Posted October 10, 2007 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    “He’s pulling his name off the Michigan primary ballot because he has no chance of winning in the state.”

    Well, removing his name from the ballot certainly improves his chances of winning, now doesn’t it?

  5. Robert
    Posted October 10, 2007 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Let me explain this to you, Murph.

    First, Edwards has a solid lead in Iowa.

    Rove wants Hillary to be the Democratic candidate.

    Hillary wants Hillary to be the Democratic candidate.

    Michigan polls show Hillary has a strong lead in Michigan.

    Republican leadership connected to Rove and Democratic leadership connected to Hillary moved the Michigan primary ahead of the Iowa’s caucus in order to dilute it’s impact.

    This was a blatant move to anoint Hillary right off the bat.

    The Edwards campaign is the target of this political play. They naturally oppose it.

    Other candidates and their supporters in the national leadership oppose it also. They have acted to block this political play, by pushing the national party to hold to it’s rules.

    All the candidates agreed not to campaign in Michigan. Hillary, because she is already going to win it, and the rest because they oppose the political play.

    All the candidates have now agreed to take their names off the Michigan ballot, except Hillary. She refused to take her name off because she is going to win there. The others have nothing to lose by taking their names off.

    Thus, my statement, “He’s pulling his name off the Michigan primary ballot because he has no chance of winning in the state.”

    Did I explain it better this time?

  6. Kerri
    Posted October 10, 2007 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I get what you’re saying, but haven’t Mark Brewer, Levin, and Debbie Dingell been pushing to move Michigan up for quite some time? Levin’s been trying to do this for years and made a big deal about this before the 2004 primaries.

  7. Robert
    Posted October 10, 2007 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Nobody has done much more than mention it up until recently. When they talked about it before, they only expressed an interest in Michigan having an earlier primary date which put it in the mix with the bulk of the other states. They didn’t talk about putting it before Iowa and New Hampshire. Dozens of states have moved their primaries to February 5th, and Michigan was allowed to move it’s to that date as well. But Rove’s folks and Clinton’s folks pushed for this preempting of Iowa. There was no demand publicly for it.

    I like Senator Levin, and think he’s one of the best we’ve had in our lifetime. Debbie Dingell is a wonderful person and a tireless fighter for so many good causes. Mark Brewer has been a decent party leader. They all were trying to do what I am sure they think is the best thing, by helping sure up the Democratic nomination for Hillary from go. They are all individuals who don’t believe a contentious primary serves the best interest of the party. It many ways it doesn’t. But a good argument can be made as to the benefits of two strong challengers through Super-Duper Tuesday, on February 5th.

  8. Posted October 10, 2007 at 8:34 pm | Permalink


    So you’re saying that if Hillary wins in Michigan, Hillary wins, so all of the other candidates are pulling out of Michigan so that Hillary wins, because that way Hillary doesn’t win.

    Yep, you explained it perfectly: it’s all a bunch of political nonsense which makes me support Edwards less for playing along with it.

  9. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 10, 2007 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m a bit pissed, whatever the political games, because I’m being deprived the right to vote for my candidate of choice.

    So how do write-ins work again? Do they have to be registered as write-in or can you just scribble the name on the ballot?

    I.e., can we push a write-in campaign in Michigan? Not just for Edwards but something encouraging Mich voters to write-in their candidate of choice.

    It may not change the results but it’d be a nice message if other folks at least registered on the results.

  10. oliva
    Posted October 11, 2007 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Ol’ E Cross–

    I’m with you: pissed (and sad!).
    I heard on the radio, maybe Thom Hartmann’s show, that we can’t even write in our choice on the ballot. Not sure it’s true–how can they stop us?!
    Hope Gore’s name gets on but am really upset several others’ won’t. So not fair! (Cuts an important sense of connection to the candidates I support–they get my support, but I don’t get any meaningful way to them, through my vote?!)
    If I were all the way cycnical, I’d say this kind of thing seems engineered to make us remember that dull ache of hopelessness just when we thought it was time for hope and forward movement–akin to other kinds of voter disenfranchisement.

    Ron Paul . . . oh life, oh best intentions!

  11. egpenet
    Posted October 11, 2007 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    The Republicans are now thinking of cancelling a primary heree because they fear Democrats will play with their heads.

    So, no primaries.

    Perhaps, party caucuses. That’s it.

    Back to the new state taxes and the Ypsi income tax. Hoohaw!

  12. Ol' E Cross
    Posted October 12, 2007 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    EgP, The GOP would be smart to cancel since I, like many of us, I gather, have already been fantasizing about how best to mess with their game to ease the frustration of my lost vote.

    Olivia, yep, yep, and yep.

  13. Robert
    Posted October 12, 2007 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Murph, what is so hard to understand about this? The other candidates pulled their names off the ballot because it was the best of bad options they were left with, and because it exposes the Michigan ploy for what it really was. By taking their names off the ballot, they reduce the value of Hillary’s win in Michigan. Now, the win can’t be portrayed as a victory over the other candidates. How do you not get that? You don’t have to be a rare monkey flower to understand this, do you? Maybe Kerri can explain it to you better.

  14. Robert
    Posted October 14, 2007 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    There is now an initiative out there which would repeal the phony early primary, and replace it with a February 9th caucus. Watch the Rove and Clinton operatives do whatever they can to kill that, even though it would essentially satisfy their phony demands.

  15. Steph's Dad
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Rove’s got bigger fish to fry. An early Michigan win would be good for Hillary, and thus the Republicans, but his time is better spent on the swiftboating of Edwards, which should begin any day now. Anyone want to take bets on what it’ll focus on?

  16. Posted October 17, 2007 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure Rove is capable of multitasking. They’ve already planted a phony story in the National Enquirer and are trying to spread it around to delegates in Iowa. See the Boston Herald article:

    Swiftboating Edwards before the Iowa Caucus only serves the purpose of making Hillary the Democratic nominee. Bad things that happen to Edwards before then will look like they are coming out of nowhere. If Edwards manages to win a few primaries and caucuses, you’ll see something crazy happen. Anything that happens before the Democratic nominee is determined will look like Hillary’s people did it, no matter who actually does it. If Edwards manages to secure enough delegates for the nomination, I am certain we will all see something so crazy it will blow our minds.

  17. Robert
    Posted October 23, 2007 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Now they are even trying to force the candidates to have their names on the Michigan ballot. Seems pretty extreme, doesn’t it?

  18. Posted November 7, 2007 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    So as of today, Michigan’s Jan. 15 presidential primary has been effectively canceled by an Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette. They ruled it uncontitutional because it involved providing lists of voter participation only to the Republican and Democratic parties.

    Now watch as the Rovians and the Clinton operatives work to manipulate their way around the ruling.

    Over the weekend, political commentator George Will drew the interesting paralell between the 2008 and 1968 presidential races. He said Obama is the McCarthy in this race. Edwards is RFK and Hillary is Humphrey. He then noted that Humphrey ultimately won the nomination, but lost the general. He didn’t mention the fact that RFK was assassinated out of contention, but I think I noticed it cross his mind as he spoke.

    Though not to the degree RFK was, Edwards is a problem for both the Democratic and Republican Party insiders. They are going to do whatever it takes to get him out of the picture. If proceedure manipulation doesn’t work, they’ll ratchet things up a bit, over and over, until something does the job.

    Obama is also a problem for the Republicans. As long as he is in the race, voter registration drives in college towns and urban centers across the country will be energized. The Republicans need that to end as soon as possible, and they will do what they can to attack, undermine and discredit Obama. Even many Democrats ar failing to see the benefit of having Obama in the race through the big primary days. They’re opting for their usual unified party BS over that scenario.

  19. Robert
    Posted December 5, 2007 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Everyone in Michigan should be encouraged to vote for “uncommitted” in the primary now. It’s actually a great opportunity for all the supporters of the candidates who pulled their names off the ballot to get together and hand a defeat to the people who attempted to manipulate the process. It would be a good move for Michigan voters too. It would give Michigan’s delegates the freedom to vote for whomever they wanted, and it would increase the likelihood that the national party would return to us our delegates to the national convention.

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