Singular Unease for Michigan's Power Couple

By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, February 28, 2008

If the angst of a superdelegate were a portrait, it would look just like Debbie Dingell, the wife of Rep. John Dingell (D- Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Dingell the superdelegate -- the blond one, not the bald one; they're both superdelegates -- is losing sleep over the political mess she helped cause in her state by pushing for an early Democratic primary in defiance of national party rules.

"I probably haven't slept since February 4th," said Dingell, vice chair of the General Motors Foundation, maybe only half-jokingly. "Because it does matter. I really care about the people of my state."

Dingell is scrambling to help find a solution so that her people, including herself, will have a voice at the Democratic convention this summer. When she and other Michigan Democratic insiders pushed so aggressively to buck the Democratic National Committee's calendar and place their primary in mid-January, how were they to know the stakes would be so high, or the race this close, so far beyond Super Tuesday?

"Nobody foresaw this," she said. Certainly not Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who, unlike Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), didn't even put his name on the Michigan ballot. Clinton received 55 percent of the beauty-contest vote, while Obama supporters in the Wolverine State secured 45 percent of the vote for "uncommitted."

"He never realized that he'd have support in Michigan," Dingell said. "I did beg him to put his name back on the ballot."

Fueling Dingell's angst is the fact that she and her husband, for the first time since their 20-year-old disagreement over gun control, are at odds.

John Dingell supports Hillary; Debbie has stayed neutral. Usually it's Congressman Dingell who's begging his socialite wife to keep her mouth shut.

"I asked him if he would consider staying out of this," Debbie Dingell said, "and he said, 'I've gotta do what I've gotta do.' "

She'll just have to work around him. As Dingell said on the voice-mail greeting she recorded yesterday morning: "We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails."

Nats Pitch In

Major League Baseball, which is under the congressional microscope, lags pretty far behind most major industries when it comes to raising money for political contributions.

From mid-September to mid-January, the big leagues' political action committee didn't raise a single penny, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

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