2008 Campaign Calendar: The Latest

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Having failed thus far to corral Florida and Michigan behind the Feb. 5 “window,” Democratic officials from Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina are putting new pressure on the candidates themselves to bring “this uncertainty (and potential chaos) to an end” by refusing to campaign in those states. The state officials are asking the candidates to sign the following pledge:

Four State Pledge Letter 2008

Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina

August 31, 2007

WHEREAS, over a year ago, the Democratic National Committee established a
2008 nominating calendar;

WHEREAS, this calendar honors the racial, ethnic, economic and geographic
diversity of our party and our country;

WHEREAS, the DNC also honored the traditional role of retail politics early in the nominating process, to ensure that money alone will not determine our presidential nominee;

WHEREAS, it is the desire of Presidential campaigns, the DNC, the states and
the American people to bring finality, predictability and common sense to the
nominating calendar.

THEREFORE, I _______________, Democratic Candidate for President, pledge I shall not campaign or participate in any state which schedules a presidential election primary or caucus before Feb. 5, 2008, except for the states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina, as “campaigning” is defined by the rules and regulations of the DNC. It does not include activities specifically related to raising campaign resources such as fundraising events or the hiring of fundraising staff.

The one-page pledge is accompanied by a cover letter signed by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and Governor Chet Culver, as well as Iowa Democratic Chairman Scott Brennan; Nevada Senator Harry Reid and Democratic Chairwoman Jill Derby; New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley; South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn and South Carolina Democratic Chairmwoman Carol Fowler. It asks that the candidates sign and send the form to Fowler by September 6.

UPDATE: I’ve just talked to at least one influential South Carolina Democrat who thinks this letter is a big mistake: former Democratic Chairman Don Fowler, whose wife Carol is the current chairwoman and a signer of the letter.

Fowler argues that a civil war now within the party could have serious consequences in November, especially given how important the big swing states like Florida and Michigan are likely to be.

“What fools it makes us look like. We should be worried about Iraq and health care, and we’re worried about a bunch of damn rules,” Mr. Fowler told me. “One thing I think we should not do, and that is exchange publicly all these pleas and charges. This is exactly the wrong thing to do. It detracts from the campaigns. … I would hate to be the one to condemn Florida and Michigan, and wait for the consequences in the general election. I’m apprehensive we might damage ourselves in what appears to be a golden opportunity to elect a Democratic President.”

The letter today follows one sent last evening to the candidates of both parties by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm:

Today, the Michigan Legislature passed legislation with strong bipartisan support that will establish Michigan’s presidential primary on January 15.  I am writing to let you know that I will sign that bill into law when it lands on my desk and to encourage you to campaign actively and vigorously in Michigan.

I understand that Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina are circulating a letter to presidential candidates that asks them to sign a pledge not to campaign in any state that gives its voters a real voice in the nominating process by moving its primary into the month of January.  I urge you not to sign this pledge and instead to come to Michigan and engage our citizens in a serious dialogue on the critical federal issues that affect their lives – issues like the manufacturing crisis, the cost of health care, and unfair trade policies.  These are issues that the next president must resolve and that challenge Michigan like no other state.  I hope you will recognize that these issues facing the people of Michigan are far more important than the politics of the parties’ respective nominating contests.
 I strongly urge you not to sign any pledge that would prevent you from campaigning in Michigan, and a bipartisan group of political leaders in our state will soon make that same appeal.   When you campaign here, you will see that while we differ on matters of policy, Michigan’s Democrats and Republicans are united in our desire to ensure that our citizens have the strong voice they deserve as the nation selects its next president.

UPDATE2: Bill Richardson becomes the first candidate to take the pledge. This news release just in from his campaign:

“This process is completely out of control and only an agreement by the candidates can restore sanity,” Governor Richardson said. “I hope no candidate tries to manipulate this situation for his or her own purposes. The DNC rules were established for a purpose — to allow retail campaigning in a few early states and choose those states based on geographic and demographic diversity. Each candidate for President should do whatever possible to preserve the established rules. Anarchy in the nominating process does nothing to further the cause of changing America.”

UPDATE3: Joe Biden has now announced that he too will sign the pledge. This is an easier decision for candidates who lack the resources to campaign in the bigger states. The big question is what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama plan to do.