January 10th, 2008
11:20 AM ET
10 years ago

Unexpected wrinkle for Clinton in Michigan

Clinton is the only major Democratic candidate on the ballot in Michigan.

Clinton is the only major Democratic candidate on the ballot in Michigan.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic leaders in Michigan are urging supporters of John Edwards and Barack Obama, who are not on the ballot in the state, to vote “uncommitted” in the January 15 primary – a move that could create an unexpected headache for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Clinton is the only major presidential candidate who did not pull her name from the Michigan ballot after the national party penalized the state for scheduling the vote in mid-January, rather than later in the cycle.

The national party voted to strip Michigan of delegates as a penalty, but party leaders in the electoral-vote rich state have expressed confidence that they will be seated at the convention.

None of the candidates, including Clinton, will be campaigning here, and none have authorized write-in campaigns – which means that, under state law, their supporters cannot cast write-in votes for any of them.

But if at least 15 percent of the voters in a congressional district opt for the “uncommitted” option rather than voting for Clinton, delegates not bound to any candidate could attend the national convention – a development that could allow Edwards or Obama supporters to play a role in candidate selection there.

In this cycle, more than in recent campaigns, the delegate count may prove important. Narrow losses – which still add to a candidate’s delegate total – could keep more than one presidential hopeful in contention. “For the first time since 1988, this is a delegate race,” Clinton aide Howard Wolfson told reporters Wednesday.

A new group, Detroiters for Uncommitted Voters, is launching a grassroots campaign to promote the “uncommitted” option. The Detroit News reported Thursday that Democratic Rep. John Conyers and his wife, Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, said they will launch ads calling for "uncommitted" votes if there is no other way to register support for Barack Obama.

The option is also being endorsed by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, and the state’s Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer as a way for Democrats who do not support Clinton to participate in the vote.

Neither man has endorsed a presidential candidate.

–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

soundoff (229 Responses)
  1. Mike, St. Paul MN

    If you write in Obama or Edwards, per the state law, that spoils your ballet. You must vote "uncommitted."

    This whole thing was manufactured by the establishment Hillary supporters in Lansing. Everyone who has paid attention to this, knows it.

    January 10, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. tj is your slice

    I totally disagree with that mcpain guy.

    I go to Huckabee's Church.
    so what if we get the ghost sometimes.
    It don't hurt no one.

    I'd rather have a president with the ghost
    then a bussniess guy.

    Only God gives us the right to make war
    all over the planet in his name.

    don't forget it neither freek.


    January 10, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. Gtash

    And just why didn't Clinton follow the the DNC rulings?

    January 10, 2008 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  4. Mary,Michigan

    Well everyone needs to understand that there was not STATE VOTE to change the date. The people did not choose this. We are now stuck in the middle of it all, and left out.
    I am a true Democrat and I am having a very hard time with voting. I have already made up my mind, but there is one very large problem. HE is not on the ballet. I could not wait to vote, but now I wish our state was for sale.

    January 10, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  5. Chris

    I am a university student in Michigan and I just want people on here to know that the decision to move the primary to the 15th was NOT a decision made BY the people; it was made my politicians who should have known better. I am a solid democratic supporter who nearly always stands behind my governor and democratic house, but I am simply ashamed of them for doing this and you better believe I have let them know it!

    I am outraged at losing my chance to have basically any say in this election. I am an Edwards supporter, but I will not be voting in the primary, out of protest. From the point of view of someone who is being spoon-fed the 'vote uncommitted' message, I can tell you it does not mean one iota of anything... I will not be handing my vote to someone who MIGHT be seated at the convention and who COULD potentially hand the election to someone I do not care for (aka, I vote uncommitted intending for Edwards and then the delegate votes for Obama).

    One more interesting thing to note is that this a TAXPAYER FUNDED (to the tune of $10,000,000) DATA DRIVE; when the voter chooses which ballet they want, it is recorded and their information is given to the party leaders... of course, it is NOT to be used to political purposes (wink, wink).

    Obviously my feelings are strong on the issue and I hope people realize this is far more complicated than CNN is portraying it to be. There should be outrage that our rights as citizens can be trampled on like this. I am ashamed of my political leaders and of those candidates who pulled their names off the ballet. Come next November, I hope my local leaders (one of which DID vote for this) realize this will be a factor on my decision at the polls.

    January 10, 2008 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  6. Scott, Royal Oak, MI

    Dear "Hmmm": Edwards and Obama were not "dumb enough to pull their names off the slate", they made the choice of sticking to the party's rules, which they should have!

    As a Michigander, I am so angry about our legislature's ELEVENTH HOUR decision to move our primary like this. It was completely uncalled for. I understand that it's a little weird that IA and NH get way too much say in the nomination process, but this is NOT how you go about changing things.

    I'm also angry at Hillary. She agreed not to campaign in MI, as did the other candidates, and gave the impression that she'd be pulling her name off of the ballot. Then, in a typical shady Clinton move, she leaves her name on the ballot while everyone else pulls off. And she wonders why people call her devious and calculating.

    January 10, 2008 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. David, Gilbert Arizona

    "...But it serves Edwards and Obama right. If they were dumb enough to pull their names off the slate..."

    Actually Edwards and Obama were following the lead of the democratic election committee rules that say no state can move their primary ahead of February 5th 2008. Because Michigan decided to move their primary to January 15th anyway the election committee has stripped the state of their democrat delegates. Edwards and Obama weren't being dumb. They were following the committee rules.

    Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is the only democrat front runner who kept their name on the Michigan democrat primary ballot. In so doing she is disregarding the democrat election committee rules. It makes her appear very much like a scab who crosses their own union picket line.

    It would seem that Hillary is banking on the assumption that the Michigan delegates will be allowed to vote at the democrat national convention even though the committee has said no. It is a very shifty play on the part of the Clinton campaign but one that doesn't surprise me in the least.

    It makes me feel much better that the democrat leadership in Michigan sees the Clinton scheme for what it truly is and has urged voters to cast uncommitted ballots. It also firms up in my mind the fact that the Clinton campaign will stoop as low as they can go, even to the point of disregarding their own party election rules, to get elected.

    January 10, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  8. Scott

    Thanks to CNN for putting this story on your website, but some national attention on air would be nice too.

    Here in Michigan there is so much confustion regarding Tuesday's primary and the media isn't doing their job to let people know the facts.

    If someone writes in Obama or Edwards, their ballot will be invalid. Because of the penalization, none of the declared candidates can be written in. The ONLY way to cast a vote for Obama or Edwards is to vote UNCOMMITTED and hope that they can momentum in the rest of the country so that when the national Democratic Convention convenes, our delegates will vote at that time and cast their votes for the candidate who everyone else is supporting. Nice, huh? Of course that is IF the DNC allows Michigan to even have a vote, which they've threatened. That means more than 10 Million people will NOT be represented – that's roughly 10x the population of New Hampshire.

    The candidates were all told NOT to campaign here either – which means that the people running for the nomination ARE NOT hearing the plights, the needs, and the concerns of the people in this state. We are being done a grave disservice by the party.

    And, a LOT (and I mean A LOT) of dems are switching over to the Republican primary here to vote for Ron Paul. Michigan has an open primary so you do not have to register as a dem or rep to vote in either.

    Why should a party's leadership have the ability to disenfranchise ALL of the voters in an ENTIRE STATE! They are taking away our CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to vote and to decide who we want to be the next president. It's horribly sophomoric and I can't believe such a thing is actually happening in this country.

    This situation highlights the archaicness of our primary system. We need a national primary day so that there isn't this petty squabbling over what states get to go first and who gets penalized for trying to make an impact for their constituents.

    Personally I'm voting UNCOMMITTED to send the statement that we can't be TOLD by the national Democratic party or the media WHO to vote for. I hope others in this state do the same. I hope CNN gives this issue and the need for a National Primary some attention on Tuesday. It needs more national debate.

    January 10, 2008 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  9. Scott, Royal Oak, MI

    To Mike from St. Paul, MN: I agree with you completely.

    Another thing that ticks me off is I've seen copies of the ballot and it has a spot for "Write In" right on there. Yet, if you write in a candidate, they toss your ballot. Chances are that a lot of people will not realize that they have to vote "uncommitted", and a lot of Obama/Edwards "votes" will be lost.

    This whole thing reeks. I become more annoyed with it every day.

    January 10, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  10. Vic in Michigan

    Mary, there is an option. Have Hillary lose when the other option is "none of the above". It looks pretty bad to lose against no one. That is precisely what I have been advocating for some time to any and all who will listen.

    January 10, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  11. FormerObamaGirl

    Obama and Edwards CHOSE to leave their names off the ballot to show support for the DNC (and to win some national administrative support). They should not now be rewarded. They chose their side and turned their back on the people of Michigan.

    Oh, and can someone please tell me exactly what Obama's plan for "change" is? I don't think anyone has ever asked him that. And he has certainly never offered it.

    Anyone want to bet that "Detroiters for Uncommitted Voters" has Oprah appear at an event? Too bad America tends to vote for stye over substance.

    January 10, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  12. reaper

    I'm sure the people in Detroit have no problem with this, but if you are middle class you need to wake up because President Obama is bringing an end to the middle class

    From his official website:

    "Create a Living Wage: Obama will raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation to make sure that full-time workers can earn a living wage that allows them to raise their families and pay for basic needs such as food, transportation, and housing. "

    Pegging to the inflation rate will increase inflation for everyone else.

    The Socialist goal of illiminating

    January 10, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  13. Amanda

    I am a citizen of Michigan and I am completely upset by the way that our Primary has been ruined by our legislators. I sent several letters to my representatives throughout this process begging for a change. Michigan voters are victims in this whole scenario! It angers me greatly that I will not be able to vote for my candidate, but I certainly don't blame him. I have to tell you how helpless it makes us feel in Michigan that we are basically written off by our mistake. How arrogant and disheartening it is that candidates (by choice or not) just skip over visiting/campaigning in states. We are supposed to be electing a President of the WHOLE UNITED STATES, right?
    Hillary is on our ballot and isn't even bothering to come here.
    I want as many Uncommitted votes to taint her "win" as possible.

    January 10, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  14. Telomere

    If you want delegates, your name should be on the ballot. This is ridiculous.

    January 10, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  15. Angela

    My prediction is that the DNC and RNC will relent and let Michigan and Florida's delegates back into the convention now that New Hampshire and Iowa adjusted their Caucus / Primarie's to go first.
    The reasoning for the punishment no longer exists so they'll have to relent or the they will risk alienating a huge number of voters.
    With such a critical election looming for both sides, I can't believe they would be stupid enough to hold out and punish them anyway.
    On the other hand there's no shortage of stupidity in politics.
    But I'm glad Hillary's still on the ballot. That shows foresight that the other candidates apparently don't have.
    And you thought she was weak.

    January 10, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  16. Ann

    The DNC set their rules when Hillary was considered the only true candidate for the 2008 election. They also stripped Florida and Wyoming of the delegates. The Clinton machine thought that Hillary would be the winner of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. All of this occurred before anyone even new who Barack Obama was. Hillary took her name off the Florida ballot just as the rest of the Democrats, but the "machine" realized that although she would not be able to campaign in Michigan, that if her name was on the ticket, they could probably persuade the DNC to back down from their rules and then she would get all of the delegates from Michigan. (Another dirty politics of the Clinton machine. All of the other candidates removed their name out of respect for the rules.) The Republicans also have such rules, but those candidates can campaign and will win 1/2 of the delegates.

    Edwards and Obama supporters must get out the message on My Space, etc and get out the vote in Michigan to vote "Uncommitted"

    Note once again that CNN and the establishment didn't let this slip out until it is probably too late for the Michigan voters to register to vote.

    January 10, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  17. Jose Card - Independent

    How can Michigan Dems tolerate such mistreatments?

    January 10, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. Annie

    Believe me, the fact that Senator Carl Levin backing this is a hugh endorsement for Obama, wether he has officially endorsed him or not! Talk about the establishment not wanting another Clinton in the White House! WOW!!!

    January 10, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  19. Sensible Cape Coral Fl

    This is really getting ridiculous. We have GOT to change the nominating system. The States have got to give up their infantile desires to be first all the time. How about regional primaries with each region takes its turn being the first each Presidential election. I understand that voting is a state preogative but for the good of the country, something s have got to change.

    January 10, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  20. Tom Davie

    Today alone there have been 10 super headlines for Obama, and the ONLY article written on hillary clinton is a SUPER NEGATIVE.

    There is NO WAY that is impartial journalism.

    January 10, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  21. Scott, Royal Oak, MI

    Angela, you call that "foresight"? I call it the sneakiest move ever. She stated that she would refuse to campaign in Michigan due to the rule violation and gave the impression she'd leave her name off the ballot as well. Then, when everyone else pulled theirs off, she left hers on.

    It's like kids at a swimming pool: they all agree to jump in on the count of three, but the sneaky kid stays dry and watches the others plunge in. Nobody likes that kid, just like nobody likes Hillary. The end.

    January 10, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  22. darrell

    Good Choice Kerry

    Kerry was right in 2004, admit it. Bush message of fear ruled many Dem votes. Dems are united for Change.

    Experience–issue: Note Quote from President Bill Clinton concerning experience

    Where was Bill's experience in 1992,

    If Hillary was that experienced, why did she vote yes for a war? Her experience as first lady should have told her no.

    “ Of course late 2006, she was quoted as saying President Bush was very charismatic” I guess that won her vote both times.

    Hillary's politics is close to Bush's. We would have more of the same polarizing administrative policies.

    She has blamed everything on republicans. Now her own Dem., Obama is in her cross hairs

    Dems Loyalty will possibly be split this year and GOP will win again.

    During her time at the W.H. Hillary talked about GOP and them out to get her and Bill. Even with all the scandal after scandal, she showed little emotion, as long as the blame others game was played.

    If that is what our country needs. Bush approval would be higher.

    Bill and Obama have an ability to connect with people of all backgrounds. This is reflective of their upbringing. Hillary has had a problem making that connection, even as U.S. Senator.

    All the Democrats could do well to lead us in the right direction. However, Obama offers the greatest flexibility to work with both parties on new ideas. Hillary knew the war in Iraq was not worth the cost. However, in 2007, she turns around and gives Bush another authorization to fight Iran.

    With experience, we have change. Where was the change here?

    A president -- The Success of a president is tied to his administration. Bill had great support for furthering his agenda. Many things they failed at in his first administration. Second admin. he hired knew people who thought outside the box.

    One person cannot know it all – that's with any good administration!

    What Bill said about experience in 1992, is perfectly important today concerning Obama augment for change

    Quote: Bill Clinton responded to Bush's claim “that experience means everything:”
    Bill Clinton once said "the same old experience is not relevant"

    The same discussion is going on today. We need Change Bill Brought then and Obama will bring it now.

    Sometime you have to change the dice, when fixed to roll a certain way all the time.

    January 10, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  23. Rob in Sacramento

    This is a deeply annoying story if you still think our country should be a democracy.
    If we are in fact a democracy then every state should be able to set its election dates without fear of petty reprisals by any political party. All these states changed their dates in response to the lack of attention by candidates of both parties. Michigan, in point of fact, is in the midst of recession & being snubbed by the Democrats may sway the vote in November for a state that has been consistently loyal to that party. Meanwhile, the Republican party has blindly voted for every 'free trade' policy the last two presidents put before them, especially those of the current idiot in chief. Perhaps every Michigan voter of any party should vote to become a new province in Iraq. That might actually qualify them for rebuilding money.

    January 10, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  24. Bukky, Balt MD

    Whatever happens... its good to see dems get a back bone. fight till you can't fight anymore. No matter who you support... the opposition is not getting a free/easy win.

    Please dems no matter who gets the nod.... KEEP VOTING. we got disillusioned twice and did vote in the main election... we got stuck with and screwed by Bush. Even if you hate Obama/Clinton/Edwards. Each would do better and represent Demcratic ideals better than ANY republican.

    January 10, 2008 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  25. concerned citizen, Mesa, Arizona

    Obama band parade has been going on for 2 days. Enough is enough. I will never vote for him. Too many media outlets pushing him on us. If he wanted votes from Michigan he should of left his name on ballot.

    January 10, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
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