- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton today made a surprise trip to Detroit to lobby for a do-over Michigan primary, and her campaign questioned her rival’s commitment to giving Democratic voters a say in the protracted battle for the party’s presidential nomination.

Mrs. Clinton urged Sen. Barack Obama to support a new vote as his camp released a memo questioning the fairness and legality of a new contest.

During her speech this morning, Mrs. Clinton cheered the 600,000 who had turned out for Michigan’s nonbinding winter primary.

“You made it abundantly clear that you wanted your voices to be heard and your votes to be counted,” she said to cheers at a Detroit union hall.

She also noted the nearly 2 million who voted in Florida’s primary. Like Michigan, the state of Florida violated party rules by holding its contest too early.

She said voters in Florida and Michigan are “in danger of being shut out of our democratic process.”

“I think that is wrong, and frankly, it is un-American,” she said. “This goes way beyond this election, and it goes way beyond who is running. I will always defend your right to vote, no matter whom you choose to vote for in the end. It is not about that at all.”

Michigan’s party and elected leaders are considering a June 3 revote because the Jan. 15 contest violated national party rules and will not count when it comes to seating delegates at the Democratic National Convention this summer.

Mrs. Clinton won the January contest, and Mr. Obama’s name did not appear on the ballot. Neither candidate campaigned there after signing a pledge to honor the four early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Obama campaign lawyer Robert F. Bauer said after reviewing the proposal that he has concerns about the process and that it could “put at risk the running of the election, undermine acceptance of the results if the election is held, and in both cases effectively deny Michigan voters, a second consecutive time, meaningful participation in the nominating process.”

He raised questions about the proposal, including whether Republican voters who opted to participate in their party’s January contest would be violating state law if they wanted to vote in the Democratic primary.

“This class of voters includes Democrats and independents who chose not to vote in the invalid Democratic primary at the time because the majority of active candidates did not appear on the ballot and the results would not be accepted under party rules,” he wrote, calling it a “significant constitutional question” with potential for litigation.

“The primaries in January were fully open; and the decision to close them in June will not easily stand constitutional scrutiny,” he said. “In any challenge, Michigan will be criticized for proposing a rerun without, in effect, restoring to voters the original choice they had — whether to participate in a meaningful Democratic primary.”

Mr. Bauer also questioned the financing of the election because private fundraising would pay for the proposal.

“To the extent that this extraordinary financing provision raises issues, these arise under the Federal Election Campaign Act of l971,” he wrote.

“Since the state is acting on behalf of the party, with the expected assistance of the candidates, a creditable case may be made that all soft monies raised have been impermissibly solicited on behalf of at least the Democratic National Committee and, possibly, Senators Obama and Clinton (to the extent that their donors are encouraged or motivated to volunteer funds),” he wrote. “It is therefore well within the realm of possibility that such a case will be made, subjecting the party and its candidates to potential liability.”

The Clinton campaign fired off its own memo rebutting the Bauer arguments and included a video link to an Obama press conference in which the Illinois senator said he would be “fine” with a new vote if the DNC approved one and it gave both candidates ample time to compete.

“The Clinton campaign believes the right to vote is a bedrock principle of our country and that empowering the people of Michigan and Florida to make their voices heard must be a priority for any candidate running for the Democratic nomination. As such, we must either honor the original vote or hold a state-run primary that doesn’t leave the taxpayers footing the bill,” the Clinton camp wrote.

It called each of the Bauer concerns “false” excuses, accusing the Obama campaign of organizing efforts to have Michigan Democrats choose “uncommitted” instead of Mrs. Clinton, who was the only major candidate still in the race who remained on the ballot.

“The point of the early state pledge was to protect the role of the four states that held early nominating contests. Well, the contests in those states were protected and the people in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada got a chance to vote,” the Clinton campaign wrote in the memo. “Keep in mind that nearly twice as many people voted in Michigan and Florida than voted in the four early states combined.”

The memo noted it was Mr. Obama’s decision to remove his name from the ballot: “There aren’t many second chances in life but Senator Obama has one now and should ask the people of Michigan for their vote. Why is he refusing to do so?”

The memo also batted down the argument about the election’s financing, saying grass-roots donors would come through.

“We believe that appealing to everyday people to finance this primary exemplifies what this election is about: giving a voice to the voiceless.”

The Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee wrote today that it took a look at the proposal and believes it fits within the rules.

“Our review of this legislation indicates that it would, in fact, fit within the framework of the Rules if it were passed by the state legislature and used by the Michigan State Democratic Party as the basis of drafting a formal Delegate Selection Plan,” the committee wrote.

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