Can Obama afford to snub Michigan? Hillary likely to win its primary
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.
Sen. Barack Obama dropped out of Michigan’s primary when the state rescheduled its date.