A new bill introduced in the state Senate would let a three-member panel decide when to hold Michigan's Republican presidential primary in 2012. The measure would, as the Associated Press reports,"let a panel appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and House Speaker Jase Bolger pick between February 28 and March 6," to hold the primary.
Under current state law, the primary is scheduled for February 28 but, the Republican National Committee has said it doesn't want states to hold their primaries that early. In fact, the RNC has said that states that choose to hold early primaries could lose half of their delegates at the party's nominating convention.
So, why all the fuss about an early date? Politico explains:
Both national parties are struggling to keep the national nominating schedule from imploding as state after state tries to move earlier than the next to have more say in picking the presidential nominee. Typically, the later the primary the less influence a state has in the nomination.
Under rules set by both national parties, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina are the only states allowed to hold primaries or caucuses in February and no other state can hold a nominating election prior to March 6, which is likely to be a "Super Tuesday" with multiple contests.
Earlier this month, Laura Weber reported that some Republican leaders in the state wanted to hold an early primary, despite the consequences:
The chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, Robert Schostak, says he is not too concerned with being penalized for the decision, "The penalties are somewhat unclear. They haven’t been determined by the committee in finality. But if we would be penalized by losing delegates and we were trading that for relevancy, my sense is that the Legislature and the state committee that would be ultimately deciding on this are okay with it," Schostak said.
One thing is known about the 2012 GOP primary in the state: it'll be a 'closed' primary. From the AP:
Under Michigan law, a closed primary means people going to the polls must declare themselves Republicans before casting ballots.
But, as the Detroit News has reported, the 'closed' primary, "will be 'closed' in name only. Nothing would stop Democrats from requesting a Republican ballot and meddling in the GOP presidential selection process."
As Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry notes, the state knows a thing or two about so-called meddling in presidential primaries:
“There would be the chance that Democrats and independents might show up in Michigan’s GOP primary, “ Lessenberry explains. “That happened in the year two thousand, when they helped John McCain give George W. Bush a whipping. If you have any kind of primary, stuff like that is pretty hard to prevent, since we have no party registration in Michigan. A Democrat can vote Republican or vice-versa, with no penalty. The alternative is some kind of closed convention, or caucus, but that limits public participation, which also could hurt the GOP, since primary campaigns help introduce the candidates to the voters.”
Meanwhile, Michigan Democrats aren't planning a presidential primary in 2012 as President Obama is believed to be the only Democratic candidate who would be on the ballot. Instead, they'll pick their 2012 presidential delegates at state meetings.