Michigan Latest to Move Up Primary Schedule

Michigan joined as many as six other states Tuesday in flouting Republican rules by scheduling presidential primaries or caucuses before Feb. 5.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a bill Tuesday moving both of Michigan's presidential primaries to Jan. 15, making the state part of an unprecedented early start to the nominating process.

The early voting states risk losing half their delegates to the Republican convention next summer, though some are banking that whoever wins the GOP nomination will eventually restore the delegates.

Tuesday was the deadline for states to submit to the Republican National Committee the date and format of their primaries or caucuses. But it might not turn out to be much of a deadline because some states could continue jockeying for earlier votes.

South Carolina submitted its plan to hold a Jan. 19 Republican primary several days ago. But state GOP Chairman Katon Dawson said he won't hesitate to move the vote even earlier if another Southern state jumps ahead — regardless of how many delegates South Carolina loses.

"I can assure you South Carolina will the first in the South, no matter what happens," Dawson said in a telephone interview. "If I have to watch (the GOP convention) on TV, then so be it."

Wyoming's plan calls for county conventions to choose delegates on Jan. 5, said Amy Larimer, executive director of the Wyoming GOP.

Democrats had a similar problem imposing discipline on rogue states. The Democratic National Committee may have effectively stopped the mad dash to move up by threatening to strip Florida of all its delegates and convincing all the major candidates to only campaign in the party-approved early states.

On Aug. 25, the DNC rules committee voted to strip Florida of its 210 delegates to the convention unless it reschedules its planned Jan. 29 primary. Michigan, in moving up its primary, faces a similar penalty.

Under the Democratic rules, the only states that may hold a primary before Feb. 5 are New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada. Iowa is slated for Jan. 14, Nevada on Jan. 19, New Hampshire on Jan. 22 and South Carolina on Jan. 29.

The decision by the major Democratic candidates to only campaign in the early states renders voting in the rogue states essentially non-binding beauty contests.

GOP rules call for states that schedule their nominating contests before Feb. 5 to lose half their delegates to the convention, though the national party is not expected to take any action Tuesday.

That will come later when RNC Chairman Mike Duncan formally invites states to the nominating convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul next summer and declares how many delegates each state gets. He must issue the invitation, or call, to the convention by Dec. 31.

If states reschedule their primaries after the call is issued, RNC rules call for them to lose 90 percent of their delegates.

Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, Florida, Wyoming and Michigan are expected to vote in January. Dates and delegate allotments are in flux as states jockey for earlier contests.

On Tuesday, Granholm stood by her decision, saying the earlier date will put greater emphasis on issues related to the Midwest state.

"We want candidates to talk about how they plan to enforce trade policies that are so critical to our manufacturers, the need for universal access to affordable health care and how they plan to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil," Granholm said in a statement.

GOP rules have no exceptions to the Feb. 5 requirement.