Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Leapfrog Done: NH Jan. 8, Michigan Jan. 15

Leapfrog Done: NH Jan. 8, Michigan Jan. 15

The months-long game of caucus and primary date leapfrog came to a unexpectedly swift end Wednesday as Michigan and New Hampshire set their dates.

In a surprise mid-day ruling, the Michigan Supreme Court today overturned two lower courts and ruled that Michigan's national-party-defying Jan. 15 primary is not unconstitutional.  Michigan election officials had said they needed a decision by noon today in order to prepare for a Jan. 15 election.

Hours late, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner announced his state's long anticipated date: Jan. 8, five days after Iowa.

"New Hampshire has held the first presidential primary in the nation since 1920," Gardner said at a Statehouse press conference. "This tradition has served our nation well."

"It's earlier than we had imagined not too long ago, but first and foremost we are going to preserve the New Hampshire primary and this will let us do that," Gardner added.

A New Hampshire law (which might not withstand a federal test) says the state's primary must be seven days before any similar contest.

The endgame started in the Michigan Supreme Court, on a 4-3 ruling.  Two lower courts had ruled the Jan. 15 prmary law unconstitutional because of a provision that gives lists of primary participants to the political parties but no one else.  The Republican-led state Senate passed an amendment removing the voter-list provision, but the Democratic controlled House had not yet acted.

The contest is more for bragging rights than anything.  Michigan has lost half its Republican delegates and all its Democratic delegates as punishment for going early.

The more or less final national schedule:

Jan. 3 - Iowa caucuses
Jan. 5 - Wyoming GOP caucuses (faces party penalties)
Jan. 8 - New Hampshire primary
Jan. 15 - Michigan primary (faces party penalties)
Jan. 19 - Nevada caucuses
Jan. 19 - South Carolina Republican primary
Jan. 26 - South Carolina Democratic primary
Jan. 29 - Florida primary (faces party penalties)
Feb 5 - Tsunami Tuesday: contests in more than 20 states

All that's left now is lawsuits in Florida. The Democrats have taken away all Florida's delegates for scheduling a Jan. 29 primary, and the Republicans have removed half the delegates.  Two  pending cases cases demand that delegates chosen in the Jan. 29 calendar-breaking primary be seated.  The newest lawsuit is calling for a later primary.    Ausman v. Browning blames the state legislature for the mess and argues that a state political party has the right to a presidential primary date that won't disenfranchise its voters.  It asks that the Florida primaries be postponed to a date that's acceptable to the national parties, which would mean Feb. 5 or later.

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