Can Obama af­ford to snub Michi­gan? Hil­lary likely to win its pri­mary

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Brian DeBose

Po­lit­i­cal strate­gists say Sen. Barack Obama is pass­ing up a chance to ig­nite his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign with a strong show­ing in Michi­gan by bow­ing out of its un­usu­ally early pri­mary.

“He could have won in Michi­gan with a base of very en­thu­si­as­tic stu­dents and mid­dle-class work­ers,” said Sam Rid­dle, who was a field di­rec­tor for the Rev. Jesse L. Jack­son when he won the Michi­gan’s Demo­cratic pri­mary in 1988.

Mr. Obama, Illi­nois Demo­crat, pulled his name from Michi­gan’s bal­lot when the state vi­o­lated Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee rules by try­ing to usurp New Hamp­shire’s po­si­tion to hold the na­tion’s first pri­mary.

But Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton of New York, the Demo­cratic fron­trun­ner in na­tional polls, re­mains on the bal­lot and is po­si­tioned to grab the Michi­gan del­e­gates.

Mr. Rid­dle said the Mid­west­ern state’s eco­nomic woes and racial di­ver­sity were tai­lor-made for Mr. Obama’s mes­sage of hope.

“Had Obama come to Michi­gan, he would have been uniquely po­si­tioned to beat Hil­lary Clin­ton, who paid lip ser­vice to Demo­cratic Party rules by leav­ing her name on the bal­lot,” Mr. Rid­dle said.

Vin­cent L. Hutch­ings, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan, said Mr. Obama has a dom­i­nat­ing pres­ence among col- lege stu­dents and young pro­fes­sion­als in the state, and ques­tioned the cam­paign’s disen­gage­ment.

“I don’t know if I would say he had a strong chance of win­ning and the polls I’ve seen here re­flect the na­tional polls,” Mr. Hutch­ings said. “But be­cause we have a more racially di­verse state than New Hamp­shire and Iowa, his chances would have been bet­ter here with a 15 per­cent black pop­u­la­tion. He would have at least been com­pet­i­tive.”

Be­ing com­pet­i­tive would have en­sured Mr. Obama some of Michi­gan’s nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion del­e­gates and pro­vided mo­men­tum for his cam­paign.

Other Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls — Sen. Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. of Delaware, for­mer Sen. John Ed­wards of North Carolina and New Mex­ico Gov. Bill Richard­son — dropped their names from the bal­lot af­ter the Michi­gan Leg­is­la­ture moved the pri­mary con­test from its typ­i­cal Fe­bru­ary po­si­tion to Jan. 15, ahead of New Hamp­shire’s.

New Hamp­shire is work­ing to move its pri­mary ear­lier, even to De­cem­ber.

Mrs. Clin­ton, ig­nor­ing the na­tional party’s threat to dis­count Michi­gan’s del­e­gates at the 2008 nom­i­nat­ing con­ven­tion, is on the bal­lot but agreed not to cam­paign or ad­ver­tise in the state. She said par­tic­i­pa­tion gives her a bet­ter chance to win the state in the gen­eral elec­tion and that Democrats would be fool­ish to leave Michi­gan vot­ers to con­sider only Republi- cans be­fore the gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign.

Poll­sters say Mrs. Clin­ton’s name recog­ni­tion and na­tional stand­ing will trans­late to an easy win in Michi­gan. She has won the key en­dorse­ment of Michi­gan Gov. Jen­nifer M. Gran­holm, a Demo­crat, and has a 19-per­cent­age-point lead in the Real Clear Pol­i­tics av­er­age of Michi­gan polls.

Also on the bal­lot are Sen. Christo­pher J. Dodd of Con­necti­cut, for­mer Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska and Rep. Den­nis J. Kucinich of Ohio, who missed the dead­line to re­move his name.

Mr. Obama has said that if Michi­gan Democrats adopt a process that meets na­tional com­mit­tee rules, he will fight for votes in the state.

Party lead­ers in the of­fi­cially sanc­tioned early states of Iowa, New Hamp­shire, Ne­vada and South Carolina are grap­pling with their pri­mary con­test sched­ules. Democrats in Iowa are ex­pected to name their cau­cuses for the first week of Jan­uary, mov­ing the con­test from Jan. 14 in part be­cause of the Michi­gan de­ci­sion and to align with Repub­li­cans.

New Hamp­shire has not set a date for ei­ther party’s pri­mary. The de­ci­sion won’t be an­nounced un­til next month, leav­ing the cam­paigns lit­tle time to pre­pare.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Sen. Barack Obama dropped out of Michi­gan’s pri­mary when the state resched­uled its date.

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