- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2008

LANSING, Mich. — Julie Miller, a retired schoolteacher and a Republican, enjoyed macaroni during a Friday lunch at Emil’s restaurant near Michigan’s domed state Capitol.

She said she hated to gloat, but rolled her eyes at what she described as “chaos” about a statewide primary do-over. A panel of Democratic Party leaders was spending the day negotiating the specifics of a plan to have Michigan voters return to the polls in June.

“I say, ‘Stew in your own juices,’ ” Mrs. Miller said about the Democrats’ mess. “They brought this on themselves by changing the date of our primary. Ironically, they changed it to have more influence, but they would have had more clout if they’d kept to the original date.”

Michigan voters went the polls Jan. 15, earlier than allowed under national party rules. The Republican National Committee stripped Michigan of 30 of its 60 delegates to the national convention, and the Democratic National Committee removed all 156 allotted to its convention.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York won the Democratic primary in Michigan, though hers was the only major name on the ballot. No candidates campaigned in Michigan, as the DNC requested.

Now, the race between Mrs. Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is so close that every delegate is important. Mrs. Clinton has insisted on convention representation for Michigan and Florida, which also was sanctioned for holding an early primary.

A panel of four Democratic leaders in Michigan — Sen. Carl Levin, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, DNC member Debbie Dingell and United Auto Workers President Ron Gettlefinger — hammered out details of a plan for a second primary. On the table: a statewide election funded by the Democratic Party, not Michigan taxpayers.

“We’re hopeful” of creating a proposal that would be embraced by all, Mrs. Kilpatrick told reporters Friday afternoon on Capitol Hill.

Mrs. Clinton yesterday said she supported the effort for a new Michigan primary. “I think they are moving in an appropriate direction to have a revote,” she told reporters while campaigning in Pennsylvania, although she repeated that she would prefer the earlier result to stand.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said his boss “will evaluate the details of any new proposed election carefully,” and added that “Hillary Clinton said in October the Michigan primary would not ‘count for anything.’ Now she is trying to change the rules and claim the votes of the primary she said didn’t count.”

Bill Ballenger, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, said he would be perplexed if the Obama camp agreed to a do-over vote, for exactly the strategic reasons that Clinton backers are pushing for it.

“This time that they are talking about for the election, in June, all of the campuses in the state are going to be empty and the kids will have gone home. That’s a huge factor for Obama. To me, this is an idea that comes clearly from Hillary Clinton and her campaign, and if I were her, I’d probably be doing this, too. Why Obama would accept this is beyond me.”

A Rasmussen Reports poll conducted March 6 found that 62 percent of Democrats favored a do-over. Republicans opposed a second primary by nearly the same percentage.

Although the election would be funded with private money, the state ultimately would have to staff polling stations. A second primary in Michigan would require the approval of Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat who is supporting Mrs. Clinton, as well as the Obama and Clinton campaigns and the DNC.

The Democratic panel is working to resolve the matter quickly, but some wonder whether the so-called “political mulligan” is feasible, given that such an election is unprecedented, time is running short to draft legislation allowing a new primary and that legal challenges could hold it up.

Mark Grebner, a Lansing political consultant, said he is betting against a new primary.

“The idea itself is so harebrained that it’s bound to be extremely unpopular with the already-irate public, further encouraging grandstanding and sniping,” he said in his blog. “It makes us all look like complete fools … this is the kind of election that the Ivory Coast would have held. It’s very Third World.”

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