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Michigan's Carl Levin is still upset about Iowa and New Hampshire

May 31, 2008 |  1:11 pm

As participants in today's Democratic rules committee meeting blew through a normal lunch hour -- and avoided venturing outside into a nasty thunderstorm that swept through Washington -- it became evident that the difficulties posed by the unsanctioned Florida and Michigan primaries were not equal.

A consensus seemed likely on how to apportion delegates from Florida, based on a proposal offered by the Barack Obama campaign. But how to deal with Michigan -- where only Hillary Clinton, among the major Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan wants to break the special status of Iowa and New Hampshire in nominating presidential candidatesDemocratic presidential contenders, was even on the ballot -- emerged as a much stickier proposition.

Several top Michigan Democrats, including Sen. Carl Levin (at left), repeatedly referred to the contest in their state as a "flawed primary" in comments to the committee.

But Levin, passionately, also sought to return the debate to first principles -- whether Iowa and New Hampshire should continue to enjoy special status in picking presidential nominees.

Levin noted that for him, not only was that the root of Michigan's decision to conduct its primary on Jan. 15, earlier than national party rules allowed, but it remained the most flawed aspect of the nomination process.

His voice rising as he made this point, Levin told his party colleagues: "No state should have the right to go first" every campaign. "No state."

A few moments later, he decried what he termed the "God-given right to go first" that Iowa and New Hampshire insist upon every four years.

Regardless of how the immediate dispute plays out, Levin can be counted on to keep pushing -- perhaps at this year's convention, certainly beyond -- for a dramatic reshaping of the primary calendar. And that will remain worth watching.

-- Don Frederick

Photo: Associated Press