Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, all announced that they would follow rules set by the Democratic National Committee. That leaves just Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., former Sen. Mike Gravel, D-Alaska, and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., on the ballot, rendering the contest virtually meaningless.
Earlier this year, Michigan scheduled its primary for Jan. 15 to give the state more influence in the nomination process against the historically powerful states of Iowa and New Hampshire. But the move violates DNC rules set to preserve the traditional voting schedule that allow only New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada to vote before Feb. 5. And as punishment, the DNC threatened to strip Michigan of its convention delegates, action it has also taken against Florida after it jumped forward to Jan. 29.
The Michigan Democratic Party has not said whether it will hold a caucus later to determine the state's 156 delegates.
Biden's campaign wasted little time in criticizing Clinton and Dodd, issuing a news release on Tuesday that said they "have abandoned Democrats in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina," and that Michigan's primary was a "beauty contest."
"Every campaign made a pledge to the four early states to support the calendar created by the DNC that placed a premium on retail politics and provided a level playing field for candidates, regardless of money or celebrity. Now that these contests are fast approaching and with the final dates of the Michigan and New Hampshire primaries still in doubt, the Dodd and Clinton campaigns have chosen to hedge their bets, thereby throwing this process into further disarray," Luis Navarro, Biden's campaign manager, said in the statement.
Kucinich has a similar reaction. "We signed a public pledge recently, promising to stand with New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, and the DNC-approved 'early window,' and the action we are taking today protects New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary status, and Nevada's early caucus."
Kucinich filed a request with the Michigan secretary of state to have his name removed, but may need to take the matter to court to correct the paperwork.
With Clinton remaining as the only top-tier candidate on the ballot, her spokesman Jay Carson told the Associated Press that while they will not campaign or spend money in Michigan, they "don't think it's necessary" to remove Clinton from the ballot.
Along with Clinton - and possibly Kucinich - Dodd's name will remain. "It does not benefit any of us if we are the nominee to pull our name off the ballot and slight Michigan voters," said Dodd spokesman Hari Sevugan.
The Republican presidential candidates, however, are still campaigning in Michigan, and some Democrats have expressed concern that voters in the important swing state may reward the Republicans for their attentiveness once the general election begins.
Michigan's Republican leaders have already taken note.
"We couldn't have planned it better ourselves. While they're busy shooting themselves in the foot, I'm not going to disturb them," Bill Nowling, Michigan Republican Party spokesman, told the Washington Post.