Michigan will be one of the first states in the country to hold its presidential primary in 2008 – for now.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a bill on Tuesday approving a move to change Michigan’s primary date from Feb. 26 to Jan. 15, placing the vote behind Iowa and New Hampshire’s scheduled primaries.
“Now that Michigan is third after Iowa and New Hampshire, potential nominees will have to address Michigan’s issues and have their supporters wage campaigns on the ground,” said Liz Boyd, Granholm’s spokeswoman.
Granholm’s approval of the bill comes after a weekend of Democratic presidential candidates pledging to skip states who break the Democratic National Committee’s, or DNC, rules by holding primaries earlier.
“We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina play a unique and special role in the nominating process,” said Patti Solis Doyle, campaign manager for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
“And we believe the DNC’s rules and its calendar provide the necessary structure to respect and honor that role.”
The decision to deny new primary dates would directly affect Michigan and other states, like Florida and Wyoming’s Republican caucuses, who have made moves to leapfrog their primaries.
Democratic presidential candidates Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.; Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.; Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and John Edwards have all signed pledges to ignore states who move up their primaries, specifically Michigan and Florida.
“Although Sen. Obama decided not to campaign in Michigan, we will still campaign for him,” said Tara Clark, director of communication for the MSU chapter of Students for Barack Obama. “(Michigan is) exceptionally critical to the campaign, even if we don’t have delegates. Michigan is still important to Sen. Obama.”
Michigan could also lose delegates at next year’s Democratic National Convention.
Michigan’s date was moved to make the state’s issues more prominent in presidential candidates’ agendas, said Tom Lenard, spokesman for Michigan Sen. Mark Schauer, D-Battle Creek.
“We want people to take a deep breath and see how this will work out,” Lenard said. “Sen. Schauer will work with everyone to make sure they take Michigan’s concerns into account, change the process from the status quo, re-evaluate it and come to some agreement.”
Michigan’s Republicans may also feel the weight of the primary move.
The state could lose 30 of the 60 delegates if the Republican National Committee chooses to force the state to abide by the party’s rules.
“There’s been no word on whether they will enforce it or not,” said Bill Nowling, spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party.
“If Michigan was going to be relevant it had to vote its primary date up from Feb. 26 to Feb. 5 or earlier. We just think that makes Michigan the first industrial state to have a presidential primary in line when the primaries occur.”
No Republican candidates have signed a pledge or vowed to ignore Michigan’s new primary date.
All of the Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to appear at Mackinaw Island at the end of the month, Nowling said.
However, don’t expect Democratic presidential candidates to adhere to the pledge ignoring Michigan.
Swing states like Michigan and Florida are important this campaign season and candidates could risk alienating voters, Nowling said.
“The fight is not over,” Boyd said. “By virtue of being third, we believe that is an important reason for candidates and or their supporters to wage campaigns in Michigan.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Ashley A. Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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