Michigan "Beauty Contest" Could Get Ugly

A campaign blog.
Jan. 10 2008 4:30 PM

Michigan "Beauty Contest" Could Get Ugly

Ever since Michigan violated Democratic Party rules by moving its primary up to Jan. 15, thereby getting its delegates stripped, people have been calling the race a "beauty contest." And considering that the only Democrats still on the ballot are Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel, it’s not hard to guess who’s the fairest of them all.

But a new campaign to get voters to check "Uncommitted" on the ballot could prevent an otherwise inevitable Clinton victory. Ben Smith has the promo video here .

A group pushing this move, Detroiters for Uncommitted Voters, suggests that an "Uncommitted" vote is a vote for Obama. But really, it’s a vote against Hillary. And that’s why it has the potential to hurt her so badly—it might attract people who currently support Edwards and Richardson as well.

But no matter what happens, she’s sort of screwed. If she does win a decisive victory, it will look hollow (and maybe even vaguely Stalinist, given that she’s the only viable candidate on the ballot), considering her main opponent is a nameless, faceless concept. People can say the movement never gained traction. If she loses to "Uncommitted," or even wins by only a small margin, it will humiliate her campaign. If she can't even win against "Uncommitted," how can she expect to beat Obama? the thinking will go. According to a pollster for the Detroit News , "anything less than 60 percent in Michigan would be a black eye for Clinton."

Who knows where that cutoff comes from, but that’s the point: No matter what the result, anyone can spin it against her. Perhaps staying on the ballot was not the wisest choice.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

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