The backstory of Michigan is essentially this. When state officials decided last year to move the primary in the Wolverine State up to tonight, Jan. 15, and leapfrog over other key states, they infuriated Democratic party officials eager to preserve South Carolina, a southern state with a large black population, as an early test. So much so that the Democratic National Committee actually stripped Michigan of its 156 convention delegates. And they did the same thing to Florida -- which is even more delegate rich, with 210 -- for moving its primary ahead to Jan. 29.
And yet, here's the thing: Michigan Democrats went ahead and essentially elected those delegates last night anyway. The truth is, no one really expected that the Democrats would hold a convention without delegates from the 4th-largest state, Florida, which of course decided the disputed 2000 election, or Michigan, which is the 8th largest state and has also been considered a fall battleground.
This is what party officials were saying back in December, when the delegates were stripped:
[Former DNC chair Don] Fowler also said that stripping the delegates was unnecessary, since many party insiders believe that the eventual nominee will have them restored at the convention.
"No one at this table believes that the delegates from Florida and Michigan will be absent from the convention," Fowler told the rules panel.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement: "The threat not to seat the delegates of Michigan and Florida at the Democratic convention is a hollow threat. They will be seated, and when they are, it will be plain for all to see that the privileged position that New Hampshire and Iowa have extracted through threats and pledges from candidates is on its last legs."
You see, in every presidential election in the last generation, going back to 1984, the primary race in either party has ended with an early knockout, and that knockout usually comes earlier each time. In the last two cycles, no candidate was able to run a viable campaign past Super Tuesday (Feb. 5 this year), and no one imagined anything different this time around. And so of course the eventual nominee, having clinched all the delegates that he or she needed so early in the process, would agree to seat delegates from Michigan and Florida, in the interest of party building and unity.
But it appears that Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama are running neck-and-neck, with ex-Sen. John Edwards a solid and persistent third (and also picking up delegates, which is critical). Check out this detailed analysis of the Democratic race through Super Tuesday - it suggests that neither Obama nor Clinton will emerge with anything close to the 2,020 delegates now needed for the nomination.
What if the primary season ends and none of the candidates have enough votes for the nomination -- unless you seated the delegates from Michigan and Florida?