Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Marc Ambinder reports that the Michigan State Senate has voted to move the state's presidential primary date:

The Michigan State Senate just passed a bill establishing a joint presidential primary on Jan. 15.

All the chambers' Republicans voted yes; all the chambers' Democrats voted no.

Many Democrats objected on technical grounds.

The bill will now have to be reconciled with a version passed by the state house of representatives.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm is eager to sign the bill.

More information here:

State Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said the bill contains language that doesn't comply with Democratic National Committee rules, so it's unacceptable as written. The bill is expected to be changed once it reaches the Democrat-controlled House.

If Michigan moves to a Jan. 15 primary, it's likely Iowa and New Hampshire would move up their first-in-the-nation contests.

A number of prominent Michigan Democratic political leaders, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm, favor holding a closed presidential primary with the Republicans. State GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis has agreed on a Jan. 15 presidential primary if Democrats will go along.

But not all Michigan Democrats favor a primary. Backers of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards want to hold a caucus because they think that will increase the influence of union members who back him.

So a caucus or a primary?

UPDATE: Ambinder has more on some of the political maneuvering behind this Michigan debate:

Some Democrats are protesting. Rep. Bart Stupark (D-MI) sent a letter to Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Michigan Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer urging them to keep the party's traditional caucus, which the state party pays for. A state-run primary would cost taxpayers $12M, Stupak writes, and besides, Michigan's 31 county political parties are already preparing for the caucuses.

Privately, Brewer may be sympathetic to Stupak's argument. Party-run caucuses -- or "Firehouse primaries," as they're called, are enormously beneficial to the state party because they serve as a dress rehearsal for election day get-out-the-vote activities and provide an easy way for the party to enhance its voter lists. They're also easy to control -- and party interest groups, like Michigan's extremely powerful United Auto Workers union, tend to exert an outsized influence on the outcome. It comes as no surprise that UAW, a union which is said to be on the verge of endorsing Sen. John Edwards, also opposes a state-run primary. (The State Dems, per published reports, are waiting to see what the bill says before they react. The State Republicans are on board with Granholm and the legislature.)

On the other side of this equation is Gov. Granholm, who Edwards factions in the state believe is acting at the beheast of Sen. Hillary Clinton. The theory is that it would be much easier for Clinton to win a primary beauty contest than a caucus, which would require organization -- read: labor, read: the UAW. (Actually, labor power in Michigan is concentrated in the UAW and in the National Education Association, which probably won't endorse.)