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Michigan And Florida Need A Mulligan

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Mulligan -- (noun)  A golf shot not tallied against the score, granted in informal play after a poor shot especially from the tee.

This is about fairness. Because with the delegate count in the Democratic presidential nomination race so very close, every state is going to matter this year. Which should include Michigan and Florida. But, as amateur golfers know, sometimes you have to take a Mulligan. And get a "do-over."

Democrats in Michigan and Florida need to vote again. It's as simple as that. Because it is the only fair thing to do. People are already shouting "Unfair!" about the situation, from many directions. Most of them are right, or at least have a valid point. The only way to resolve this mess is to go back to square one and do it all over. Because while it's not the best outcome for every faction, it is the only truly fair way to handle the situation as it stands now.

There are many reasons why where we find ourselves is unfair. A quick review is in order. To begin with, the Democratic Party decided upon a new scheme for the primary calendar this year. This was a compromise to balance out Iowa and New Hampshire, which are entirely bereft of minority votes. The new calendar added South Carolina and Nevada to the early primaries and caucuses, giving both Hispanics and African-Americans a voice in the process. All other states were supposed to schedule their primaries not earlier than February 5th. Michigan and Florida broke the rules, and moved their primaries earlier.

Now, this is unfair, akin to line-cutting in front of the other 45 states, and blatantly disregarding the rules laid down. Democrats warned the two errant states that they would be stripped of their delegates unless their binding vote was held February 5th or later. Michigan and Florida ignored this, and went ahead and voted early anyway. Democrats stripped all their delegates as a result.

The "votes" in both states were not fair either. In Michigan, John Edwards and Barack Obama followed the party's wishes and removed their names from the ballot. Hillary Clinton did not. So of the three major candidates, Clinton's name was the only one on the ballot. Not exactly a fair way to run an election. In Florida, all three names appeared on the ballot, but even this wasn't a fair test because none of the candidates campaigned in either state, again at the direction of the party.

But wait! Florida Democrats have a very valid point, too. Their state legislature (the people who schedule elections) is overwhelmingly Republican. So they had no effective way of selecting the date for their party's primary, because the Republicans controlled the process. This is yet another facet of the unfairness of the situation.

Normally, this would be an intra-party spat relegated to the "slow news" column in the back pages during the party's convention. If there were a clear nominee, nobody (outside of those two states) would care much about the outcome.

But this isn't a normal election year. There isn't a clear nominee. Every delegate is going to count this year. The superdelegates may even wind up deciding who is the party's nominee. Which means that we have to include Florida and Michigan somehow. Now, the Clinton camp is already arguing that the result of the vote as taken should stand, because she "won" both states. But the unfairness of this (especially in Michigan) should be apparent to all.

Luckily, there seems to be a loophole in the rules. The rules as written seem to allow a re-vote. Because the rules say that delegates will be seated for any state that votes February 5th or afterwards, but it doesn't specifically outlaw holding two contests, one of which counts and one of which doesn't. So all Michigan and Florida have to do is schedule another primary or caucus, and that vote will count -- the delegates so chosen will be seated and will have a vote at the party's convention.

This would be desirable for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious is that we shouldn't only count 48 states when adding up the totals at the convention. The second is that by doing so, Florida and Michigan will become the most important two states in the race, especially if they scheduled their primaries last (say in mid-June). Both states have a lot of delegates to win, and are very important states in the general election already, so this would only serve to boost their relative clout within the party. This should be a cause for pride in both states, which should serve to mollify any grumbling about having to vote twice. Plus, in both states it will be a contest between only two candidates, which makes the choice clear for the voters. If these two states are last, and one candidate or the other is within range of winning the nomination outright, then the race will be fierce indeed in both states.

There would be obstacles to overcome, of course, in implementing such a scheme. The cost of a re-vote is sure to come up. Getting such a plan through in Florida will involve shaming the Republicans in the legislature to do what is right (an iffy proposition). And the whole concept of a "do-over" or a "re-vote" is a strange thing for Americans to accept, mostly because we "just haven't done it before."

But none of those obstacles should stop Howard Dean from making the attempt. Because not seating Florida and Michigan's delegates at the convention is unfair, even if they did break the rules. But seating them as a result of the "votes" taken already would also be unfair.

If this were golf, it would be like the gardener firing up a leaf blower ten feet from where you're just teeing off, right in the middle of your swing. [Sorry, I don't play golf, so maybe someone else can help out with the sports metaphors.] In any case, sometimes taking a Mulligan is the only thing you can do to make things fair.

Within the pressure cooker of Primary Season 2008, the only fair and right thing to do in this particular case is to allow Michigan and Florida to vote again.

 

My Crab Cake Tuesday Primary Picks

[Because tomorrow's another primary day, I had to shoehorn this in at the end of the above article. Sorry for the disjointed nature of it. Just consider it two columns for the price of one!]

I started this series because I strongly felt that political pundits should be as brave as the average local television news sports reporter, by publishing our "picks" for each primary contest -- before it happens. At the beginning, with multiple candidates in either race, and by making predictions for first, second, and third places, my accuracy wasn't all that great. Actually, it stank. Whenever dismal percentages are talked about in any context, the fallback is always: "You know, in baseball, if a batter is batting .300, he's doing pretty good." I didn't even have that excuse, because even as a baseball player I would have been sent down to the minors. Or traded.

Having said all that, I just had a pretty good weekend. Of the eight contests over the past two days, I picked seven correctly. If it hadn't been for Obama's Maine win, I would have had a perfect score! So this weekend has definitely helped my averages. On the Democratic side, I'm up to 61% right, and on the Republican side I'm at 69%.

Total correct Democratic picks so far: 23 for 38.
Total correct Republican picks so far: 29 for 42.
Total overall correct picks: 52 for 80 -- 65%.

But enough of past glories -- onward to Crab Cake Tuesday (a.k.a. "Chesapeake Tuesday," "Potomac Tuesday," and "Beltway Tuesday"). Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. will all be voting tomorrow in both parties.

For the first time, I am predicting two clean sweeps. John McCain will wipe the board for the Republicans, and Obama will pick up all three for the Democrats. Huckabee will lose by less in Virginia, but he'll still come up short in the Old Dominion State. McCain may not go over the top in delegates, but he'll get a whole lot closer to wrapping it up. And Obama will continue what is shaping up to be a dominant month for him.

Those are my picks, what are yours?

 

[Previous states' picks:]

[Iowa] [New Hampshire and mea culpa] [Michigan (R)] [Nevada] [South Carolina (R)] [South Carolina (D)] [Florida (R)] [Super Duper Tsunami Tuesday {includes AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, GA, ID(D), IL, KS(D), MA, MN, MO, MT(R), NJ, NM(D), NY, ND, TN, OK, UT, WV(R)}] [Louisiana] [Kansas (R)] [Nebraska (D)] [Washington (state)] [Virgin Islands (D)] [Maine (D)]

 

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com