Comes now Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) to enter the fray in Michigan over the complex delegate-selection process that until now featured only the forces of Vice President Bush against the combined forces of Marion (G.) Pat Robertson and Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.). Dole has sent a telegram to all Michigan's Republican state legislators asking them to halt any moves to change the rules to help Bush until all the candidates can personally be there to argue their cases. He called the Bush forces' efforts to get the rules changed "unethical."
Senate Majority Leader John Engler, who also cochairs Bush's Michigan campaign, has been trying to gather enough Democratic votes in the state Senate to change party rules to give Bush the opening to gather a majority of the state's 77 national convention delegates. But Gov. James J. Blanchard (D) told reporters, "I'm not interested in injecting myself into Republican Party measures. Our party has enough problems not to need to worry about theirs."
If he has the votes Tuesday, Engler will propose amendments to an election bill that would give 1,200 GOP officials and nominees the right to serve as at-large delegates to county conventions in December. The 1,200, who are Bush supporters, were excluded by a GOP state committee vote Sept 15. The state committee is controlled by an alliance of supporters of Robertson and Kemp.
Engler may propose an amendment to pack the state committee by allowing himself and the House minority leader, also a Bush supporter, to each add 10 legislators to the state committee.
Either prospect has raised a loud outcry from Kemp and Robertson supporters over using the legislature for party business.
State Sen. Dick Posthumous, a Kemp supporter, said, "It's not ethical for us to turn around and try to change rules in the middle of a game by going to the legislature to change the law."
Engler denied that this is a Bush campaign effort. "The Republican legislators feel they are entitled to participate in their conventions next winter."
Mike Legg, a Kemp supporter on the state committee, warned, "If the Engler faction gets in bed with Blanchard to pull this deal off, there will be a price to pay."
Legg intimated that the process for writing convention rules -- currently even-handed to all candidates -- would be revised if Engler gets the 1,200 included, but failed to stack the committee.
Rules changes to hurt Bush could include changing the convention site; moving the date up to get more news media attention, and changing the structure of the at-large delegate selection to have all 23 at-large national delegates come from Robertson-Kemp controlled districts.
But state Bush director John Long noted that the Robertson-Kemp faction could change the rules now. "It's knee-slapping comedy that these guys are outraged at rules changes. They're specialists at rules changes. They've overchanged every deal they've ever made."
Why would Blanchard help Bush? The governor said he thinks Bush would be the easiest of the Republicans to beat.