- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2007

Republican presidential candidates hope their participation in the early primaries in Florida and Michigan will help them win the two states, which Democrats plan to avoid owing to party rules.

“We’ve had conversations with all the Republican presidential campaigns, and they said they will continue to campaign here,” said Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.

The Republicans’ primary calendar rules, like those of the Democrats, prohibit scheduling any primary before Feb. 5, except for the four approved contests in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina. But Republicans in Florida last month moved their state’s primary up to Jan. 29. Last week, the Michigan Legislature moved that state’s primary to Jan. 15.

“The Democrats are actually asking their candidates to boycott the primary and not campaign here, or they will take away 100 percent of their delegates in the state,” Mr. Anuzis said. “Our rules say we will lose 50 percent of our delegates, but nobody in our party is talking about boycotting anything. They are coming in to campaign.”

In Florida, Republican Chairman Jim Greer, who said he has been in touch with all the party’s presidential candidates, told The Washington Times that they all will continue to campaign in his state. “We are approaching the primary from a welcome standpoint, while it appears the Democrats are running from it,” he said.

When Democrats prepared to participate in the two primaries, the Democratic National Committee’s rules panel moved to strip the states of all their convention delegates if the candidates decided to campaign there. In response, Democratic officials in Florida threatened legal action against the DNC, charging that it was “disenfranchising” Democratic voters.

Last week, both sides sought to soften their rhetoric and find a way out of the impasse after six Democratic candidates, including front-runners Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, signed a pledge not to campaign in the two primaries.

“DNC members and other Democratic leaders are working hard to find a solution,” Florida Democratic Chairwoman Karen L. Thurman said.

But questions were raised last week about just how credible the Democrats’ pledge not to campaign in the two states will turn out to be in practice.

The names of all of the candidates likely will be on the primary ballots. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have campaign organizations in Florida and have large fundraisers planned there this month, as well as later in the year. And all the Democratic candidates planned to participate in a Spanish-language forum today in Miami.

Nevertheless, Republicans in both states are playing up the Democrats’ rules dilemma.

“Michigan is the home of the AFL-CIO, UAW, the Teamsters and a very large African-American community who are key for the Democrats’ turnout machine. Both Michigan and Florida are key fundraising states for the Democrats. So they are playing a very high-risk game of Russian roulette,” Mr. Anuzis said.

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