The Trail

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Early States Brave Penalties

The primary calendar chaos continued yesterday with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) signing legislation to officially move her state's primary to Jan. 15.

In a statement, Granholm said the early primary will "lead to greater emphasis on issues that matter to all Americans." It will also, no doubt, bring a greater emphasis on Michigan, which is exactly what she wanted.

The ramifications are likely to be huge: Michigan is now officially a week before the New Hampshire primary -- a fact that the Granite State officials cannot, by law, abide. Their primary will soon be moved up.

That will force Iowa to move, though just how early the caucuses will be held remains uncertain. The betting right now is that Gov. Chet Culver (D) will hold the caucuses in the first week of January.

The leading Democratic candidates have all pledged to ignore Michigan, Florida and the other states that have scheduled votes before Feb. 5 in violation of the party's rules. They did so under threat from the party of losing any delegates they would win in a state that had violated the order.

Yesterday was technically the Republican National Committee's deadline for states to inform the party of their voting schedule. Any states voting earlier than Feb. 5 -- including New Hampshire and Iowa -- will lose 50 percent of their delegates to the party's 2008 convention. It's a penalty the early states seem more than willing to accept. "If a state chooses to go outside the window, they are automatically penalized," one RNC official said. "It's not a may; it's a shall." But in both parties, there's a belief that whatever penalties are meted out will be voided when the conventions gather next summer.

"The will of the convention in our system is paramount," the RNC official conceded. "We are a creature of the convention of the grass roots of this nation."

-- Michael D. Shear


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