A push for a new Democratic presidential primary in Michigan appeared near collapse Tuesday as state lawmakers squabbled over details on how to hold such an election.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has urged state lawmakers to approve the re-vote as part of her battle to catch Sen. Barack Obama in the race for delegates to the Democratic national convention in August.
On Tuesday, Clinton advisers accused Obama of blocking the proposal for a June 3 contest that would replace the results of Michigan’s Jan. 15 primary.
“Sen. Obama and his campaign are dragging their feet,” said Harold Ickes, a senior Clinton adviser.
The Democratic National Committee stripped Michigan of its 156 delegates because the state held its primary earlier than allowed by the DNC.
As a result, Obama and every other major candidate – with the exception of Clinton – declined to put their name on the ballot. Clinton won 55 percent of the vote, with 40 percent opting for “uncommitted.”
Ickes questioned Obama’s resistance to a re-vote, calling it “a very, very shortsighted tactic.” If their delegates are uncounted at the summer convention, he said, Michigan voters could desert Democrats in November.
“It will give the Republicans an opening,” Ickes said, noting Michigan’s vital role in any Democratic map for a White House victory in the general election.
The proposal for a June 3 primary faces a deadline Thursday for approval by Michigan’s Legislature, but Republican lawmakers and Obama supporters have raised a variety of concerns.
Among them was a plan for the state to accept at least $12 million in private contributions to pay for the election.
“It’s almost like selling the naming rights to an election,” said state Sen. Buzz Thomas, a co-chair of Obama’s Michigan campaign.
Also problematic for Obama’s team is a provision that would bar those who cast ballots in the Republican primary in January from voting in the June contest. Many of them could be Obama supporters who did not want to vote for Clinton in January.
“We understand that when it comes to counting votes, the Clinton campaign favors whatever they think will benefit them,” Obama’s campaign said Tuesday in a written statement.
“But on a day when Michigan legislators themselves have indicated that there isn’t enough legislative support for a re-vote – and when Senator Clinton’s own Michigan co-chair said that a re-vote ‘wouldn’t make much difference’ – it doesn’t make any sense for them to point fingers at our campaign.”
State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, a Clinton supporter, told a Lansing political tip sheet after a legislative caucus that the plan for a Michigan re-vote was “on life support.”
And a political blog, talkingpointsmemo, quoted Clinton’s Michigan co-chair, former Gov. Jim Blanchard, as saying that a new vote in Michigan could be so close that “the amount of delegates wouldn’t make much difference.”
The latest dust-up over the Michigan vote came a day after Florida Democrats ditched their efforts to hold a new primary. Like Michigan, Florida lost its delegates to the national convention because it held its primary earlier than allowed by party rules.