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UPDATE: Senate GOP could decide this week if MI has power in deciding ‘16 presidential candidates

Update 2/12/2015:

 The Michigan Senate adopted legislation early today to establish a March 15th, 2016, Republican presidential primary.* It could position the state to join a Midwest super-primary sometimes dubbed the “Big Ten” primary.
The measures now go to the state House, where there’s some pressure to schedule the primary for March 1st, 2016.

But state Senate Elections Committee Chairman Dave Robertson (R-Grand Banc) says he has no interest in competing with the so-called “SEC” primary in southern states.

“I just want to make certain that Michigan is well-positioned and I think we will be and we are within the Midwest region to get the maximum amount of attention from the greatest number of candidates,” Robertson said following the unanimous Senate vote.

The March 1st date would be better for townships, which have local tax board hearings scheduled by law for March 15th.

Michigan would not risk party sanctions by going to March 1st, but would not be allowed to hold a winner-take-all primary that would conceivably be more attractive to presidential candidates looking to rack up as many delegates as possible.

Michigan’s current February primary date violates Republican National Committee rules by falling too close to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

*The primary date could also apply to the Democratic Party, but the Ds typically opt out of the primary in favor of closed caucuses.

Original Story 2/9/2015:

With no real front-runner in place, Republicans in Michigan want to be relevant in choosing their party’s nominee for President.

The Republican-controlled state Senate could vote as soon as this week to move Michigan’s 2016 winner take all presidential primary to the third Tuesday in March, potentially part of a so-called “Big 10” primary.

The theory is that a regional “Big 10” Super Tuesday primary would be the final leg of a sort of political trifecta.

Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina would go first and do their traditional early winnowing of the field. Then the so-called SEC primary, made up of southern states, would knock the possibilities to just a final few candidates. And, then, in theory, the attention would turn to the Midwest, where the nomination would get wrapped up.

The “Big 10” primary could be made up of eight, ten, maybe even a dozen neighboring states.

There’s certainly the possibility that a state, an Ohio for example, might opt to make an independent bid for influence (because Ohio just doesn’t get enough attention in presidential elections) but, again, the theory is, the more states that are voting on one day, the more power they’d have.

There are only a few ways for states to stand out during the primaries. One way is to schedule the election as early as possible. That’s why Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, so fiercely guard their first-in-the-nation status.

National Party rules severely sanction states that try to go too early on the calendar. Like Michigan did in the last cycle. Right now, the state GOP faces the loss of almost all its national convention delegates if it doesn’t move the date back. And the Republican National Committee says, this time we mean it. We really will sanction you.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics’ respected “Crystal Ball” says the path to the presidency may very well run through the Midwest, which is why they put Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in their top tier of Republican presidential prospects.

Jeb Bush, who was just in Michigan last week to speak at the Detroit Economic Club, is on the list too. He was in the city making the case for support in the 2016 GOP primary or, maybe even, to try and put Michigan in play in the general.

But, some Republicans are also saying Michigan is such a blue state in presidential elections, that the primary is where we’ll have the biggest impact because, once the summer of ‘16 is on us, it’s going to be all about the battleground states.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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