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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dissing the Duopoly

It’s increasingly obvious that proto-candidate for president Fred Thompson is joining Rudy Giuliani in basically writing off the traditional first two states of the nominating contest–IA and NH–and staking his candidacy on a breakthrough later on.
If that’s not the case, then Fred’s campaign is in even worse trouble than we thought. As Marc Ambinder reminds us, Thompson’s initial foray into Iowa, an appearance at the State Fair a couple of weeks ago, got panned by none other than Fox News, which noted that Thompson had offended Iowans by tooling around the fairgrounds in a golf cart (a prerogative reserved for people with disabilities, or for major Fair donors, but not for politicians), wearing Gucci loafers, no less.
And in NH, Thompson was publicly warned the other day by the powerful Manchester Union-Leader that he’d best declare in candidacy in time to participate in the first Republican candidate forum in the state on September 5. His campaign promptly let it be known that he’d finally announce on–you guessed it–September 6.
Over at DailyKos, Adam B usefullly explains that September 6 is the earliest day on which Thompson can announce and still avoid having to file a third-quarter financial report with the FEC (which among other things, might show an embrassingly poor total).
Meanwhile, the Michigan legislature has expressed even greater disrespect for the IA/NH duopoly tradition, overwhelmingly approving a move to a January 15 presidential primary for both parties. Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said she will sign the bill immediately. Democratic state party chairman Mark Brewer has held out the possibility that delegates will be selected at a later caucus, which would avoid DNC sanctions and turn the primary into a non-binding “beauty contest.” But MI Republicans, like their counterparts in FL, seem inclined to go ahead and dare the national party to sanction them.
If the MI decision sticks, then it’s increasingly likely that we’ll be looking at a nominating contest calendar that begins right after the New Year in IA, continues to NH on January 8, MI on January 15, SC on January 19, FL on January 29, and then to a state near you on the February 5 mega-primary (lost in the shuffle has been the DNC-sanctioned Nevada Democratic Caucus on January 19, the same day as SC). For that to happen, IA will have to modify a state law requiring an 8-day window between its Caucuses and NH, but IA Democrats are pledging to do just that to avoid slipping back into December.
In terms of the MI decision’s impact on the contest itself: who knows? On the Republican side, IA/NH front-runner Mitt Romney has long-standing ties to the state due to his father’s tenure as governor. But it’s also likely to be friendlier territory for Rudy Giuliani than IA or NH, giving him a chance to interrupt Romney’s momentum well before the February 5 primaries when Rudy’s expected to make his big push.
On the Democratic side, all of the Big Three candidates (Clinton, Obama and Edwards) have natural strengths in MI. If it does emerge as a legitimate battleground, it’s mainly bad news for the other candidates, given the cost of campaigning there.
Here’s hoping that MI’s gambit will be the last calendar surprise for 2008.

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