News from the Votemaster
Tomorrow is the Michigan primary. Does it mean anything? Depends on who you ask. For the Demcrats, technically it means nothing because the DNC has voted not to seat the Michigan Democrats at the DNC. Confusing? OK, first the nomenclature. DNC means two things: "Democratic National Committee" and "Democratic National Convention." In the first sense, it is the group that runs the party. Its membership consists of about half a dozen officers from each state (where DC, Democrats Abroad, and U.S. territories are considered states) plus several dozen members-at-large. It meets regularly and sets party rules and does fundraising. The DNC chairman is former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who has infuriated the congressional leadership by insisting that the party campaign and spend money in all 50 states, even those that are hopeless, like Wyoming, Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkasas, and Tennessee (all of which have Democratic governors).
One of the DNC's rules was that no state except Iowa, New Hampshire South Carolina, and Nevada could have a primary or caucus before Feb. 5, to allow underfunded candidates to have a chance campaigning in small states in different parts of the country before the hurricane of Feb. 5 hit. Two states, Michigan and Florida, violated these rules, setting their primaries on Jan. 15 and Jan. 29, respectively. The party's response was to strip these states of its delegates to the DNC in the second sense, the convention in Denver next summer. Thus the Democratic election Tuesday in Michigan will elect delegates that will not be seated at the convention--unless the party relents then. Knowing these rules, Barack Obama and John Edwards asked to have their names removed from the ballot to show they were complying with party rules. Hillary Clinton did not remove her name, but she has not appeared in the state and has spent no money there. Thus Michigan's attempt to go ahead of its turn does not appear to be working. There is a slate of uncommitted delegates on the Michigan ballot and if enough Obama and Edwards supporters vote for that slate and Clinton gets under 50% with no opposition, it will certainly be embarrassing.
The Republican side is almost the same thing, including the abbreviations RNC and RNC, which mean what you expect them to mean. The Republican party has a similar governance structure to the Democratic party, but the rules for allocating seats is somewhat different (e.g., voting Republican gets your state more members). The RNC chairman is Mike Duncan, a wealthy Kentucky banker long active in Republican politics. The RNC also did not want a mad rush into January, but was more merciful to the states that did it anyway. They were stripped of only half their delegates to the RNC convention in Minnesota. Some of the major Republican candidates are competing there since half of the normal 60 delegates will be chosen Tuesday.
Michigan has an open primary, which means that independents can vote in the Republican race. It is likely that they will favor John McCain, as they did in New Hampshire. Mitt Romney was born in Michigan and his father was once governor, so losing Michigan would definitely be a black eye. Romney, McCain, and Huckabee are campaigning in Michigan. For them this state counts for a lot. A Romney win would keep him alive, but a loss would be devastating. A McCain win increases his momentum and makes him the clear front runner. A Huckabee win revives the excitement he had after his Iowa win. Thompson and Giuliani aren't campaigning much here. Thompson is concentrating on South Carolina and Giuliani is concentrating on Florida.
There have been six polls in Michigan since January 9. Here are the averages:Mitt Romney: 26.7%
John McCain: 26.2%
Mike Huckabee: 16.5%
Fred Thompson: 5.7%
Rudy Giuiani: 5.5%
Thus McCain and Romney are in a statistical tie. Either one of them could win. A Huckabee victory would be a real upset. Two new national polls put Clinton and McCain in the lead, but their support is soft in both cases and could change as a result of the Michigan and/or South Carolina Primaries this week (the South Carolina GOP primary is Saturday). The Michigan polls are below. The polling results for all states are available as a Web page and in .csv format.
-- The Votemaster