Thursday, October 11, 2007

October Sky

October Sky, originally uploaded by My Name is Merle.

Thursday, October 11, 2007
N.H. will prevail in being the first primary state

The muddle continues.

Four Democratic candidates have pulled out of the Michigan primary and one of Michigan's U.S. senators, Carl Levin, is all but calling for revocation of New Hampshire's statehood.

Tuesday, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson formally withdrew their candidacies and Joe Biden said he was bypassing the primary.

Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel are still on board.

Let the primaries begin.

Does the backing down of Obama, Edwards, et al make the primary irrelevant? It all depends on the turnout, who wins and by what margin.

Primaries are about people, not parties, and what we're seeing as the run-up to February are two free-for-alls.

U.S. Sens. Obama and Biden, former U.S. Sen. Edwards and Gov. Richardson have tossed the dice.

Sen. Clinton is going for the best of both worlds in Michigan. Her name remains on the ballot, while her position is, as iterated by an aide, "We're honoring the pledge and we won't campaign or spend money in states that aren't in compliance with the DNC calendar."

What is the effect on the timing of the New Hampshire primary? It might be related to whose position you believe.

New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley says, "Today's (Tuesday's) turn of events only further amplifies that the Michigan primary is irrelevant. Our secretary of state, Bill Gardner, now has more flexibility in his scheduling decision, because the Michigan event is no longer 'a similar event' to the New Hampshire primary."

Or is it?

The date of the Michigan primary is set by law — and that date in 2008 is Jan. 15 for both parties. If Buckley is right, the relevancy wheel turns on the number of candidates or their celebrity that determines its similarity to the New Hampshire. It's a question for Gardner to settle.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said she was pleased Clinton is staying the ballot and disappointed Obama and the others have backed off.

We hope we'll be excused in disagreeing with what Granholm means when she says, "There is no road to the White House that doesn't pass through Michigan." She has her geography wrong.

As for Sen. Levin ... .

The withdrawal of four candidates demonstrates "the stranglehold New Hampshire and one or two other states have on the process," Levin said this week.

Levin and others have been trying to kick New Hampshire off the high seat it has held for decades. Yes, New Hampshire is the center of political attention every four years. It's where the serious and comical candidates come to promote their wares. It is in New Hampshire where candidates have to go eyeball to eyeball with the voters. It is in New Hampshire where the people can ask candidates the tough questions and stare them down. It is in New Hampshire where voters can watch and listen and before deciding they can trust one candidate or another.

The string-pullers in American politics don't like leading with states like Iowa and New Hampshire because the voters there cannot be manipulated; they cannot be bought and they cannot be fooled. New Hampshire is a state in which some candidacies are launched and some are sunk.

The wiseguys of politics in our country want primary and general election campaigns viewed through the single eye of a television camera. What they want are outcomes driven by special interests and carefully scripted presentations.

What of Michigan — is it relevant or not? It depends on how up front and candid you expect candidates to be.

The Democratic National Committee has attempted to dictate the date of the Michigan primaries, but those elections are still slated for Jan. 15.

Whether New Hampshire will conduct its primaries before or after Michigan is up to our secretary of state — and Bill Gardner has all the flexibility he needs.

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