Posted: January 15, 2008 10:35 PM
Dems Debate in Vegas; Clinton First in Uncontested Mich. Race
As the top three Democratic candidates met for a debate in Las Vegas Tuesday evening, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton rolled to an easy win in a largely uncontested race in Michigan’s Democratic primary — with her name appearing as the only top-tier Democratic candidate on the state’s ballot. Her main rivals, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, removed themselves from the ballot after the Democratic National Committee punished Michigan for moving its primary forward in the calendar.
Michigan’s leap forward to a Jan. 15 contest violated DNC rules forbidding new nominating contests before Feb. 5, and as punishment it stripped Michigan of all its 128 delegates, leaving the race with little political value. On Tuesday, only Clinton, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel and Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut appeared on the ballot, and none of the candidates actively campaigned in the state.
The campaigns of Obama and Edwards urged their supporters to vote “uncommitted,” but many just stayed home. As of 10 p.m. EST, 36 percent cast votes for “uncommitted” compared to 59 percent for Clinton.
“Tonight Michigan Democrats spoke loudly for a new beginning,” said Clinton’s campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle once the results came in. “You spoke out for an economy that would honor the middle class, not punish it. You spoke out for a President who will fight to create good paying jobs at a time when so many families are struggling to make ends meet. You spoke out for an end to the war in Iraq. You spoke out for a quality, affordable health care system that works for all Americans.”
Meanwhile, most Democrats had their eyes set further down the calendar to Saturday, when Nevada holds its caucus and where polls show the top three contenders locked in a tight race.
And as the results from Michigan came in, the top three Democrats set up for a debate in Las Vegas sponsored by MSNBC.
The debate began with questions about race — an issue that has bubbled up in the Democratic race after a tete-a-tete between Obama and Clinton became a campaign trail debate about race.
A viewer-submitted question posed to Edwards asked, “What is a white male to do running against these historic candidacies?” to which he responded, “I’m proud of the fact that we have a woman and an African-American running for the presidency…I do believe that the American people will make decision on who we are and what we stand for.”
One candidate who did appear on the Michigan ballot, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, did not appear on the Las Vegas stage, but only after he lost a fight in court to be included.
Clark County District Court Judge Charles Thompson ruled in favor of including Kucinich, but NBC then appealed the case to the Nevada Supreme Court, the Associated Press reported.
“Mr. Kucinich’s claim … undermines the wide journalistic freedoms enjoyed by news organizations under the First Amendment,” NBC’s counsel wrote in their filing to the high court.
The Nevada Supreme Court came back with its ruling that MSNBC is not required to include Kucinich than less than an hour before the debate was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. ET. In the unanimous vote, the court said that blocking the debate if Kucinich were not permitted to participate — a condition of the district court’s ruling — was “an unconstitutional prior restraint” on MSNBC’s First Amendment rights, according to the Associated Press.
NBC did not comment, but earlier in the evening, NBC News correspondent Kevin Corke told MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson that, “We were expecting to have the three major candidates. Why? Well quite frankly, because those are the probable candidates. That pool is the most viable pool. And truthfully, most people want to hear what Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack Obama have to say. After all, those are probably the three they’re going to be picking from.”