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Michigan, Arizona Set to Move Up Primary Dates

Arizona announced plans Wednesday to move its presidential primary to Feb. 5, and Michigan's Senate voted to move up its date to Jan. 15. Regional editors discuss the reasons for advancing the dates.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now, to the ever-changing 2008 presidential nominating calendar.

    February 5th is shaping up to be a key, perhaps decisive, day. Arizona today joined 19 other states in setting their primary election for that date. But it's all getting started even earlier than that: Florida started the dominoes falling by moving its primary to January 29th. South Carolina Republicans leapfrogged ahead to January 19th. And today, the Michigan State Senate voted to shift its voting to January 15th.

    And it won't end there. Here to discuss the rush for electoral impact and influence are editorial columnists and editors from four key states: Carol Hunter of the Register in Des Moines, Iowa; Michael McCord of the Herald in Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Robert Robb of the Arizona Republic; and Richard Burr of the Detroit News.

    Welcome to you all. Robert Robb, why the rush?

  • ROBERT ROBB, The Arizona Republic:

    Well, Arizona statute sets the date for our primary for February 26th, but it gives the governor discretion to move it in advance, if she wants to, and she wanted to. The fear was that, by February 26th, the election would be over. If we waited for February 26th, we might very well be kingmakers, but the decision was to be at least relevant by joining the parade on February 5th rather than risking being irrelevant.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Richard Burr, it's a matter of relevancy, as well, in Michigan?

  • RICHARD BURR, The Detroit News:

    I think it's a matter of relevancy. It's also a matter of the fact that New Hampshire and Iowa don't have a monopoly on being the best states to go first.

    And I think the people in Michigan feel that we're a larger industrial state with manufacturing and urban issues that aren't often considered early on in the nominating presidential primary process and that those issues should be addressed earlier and not forgotten in a wave of small, early states.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Carol Hunter, you have an opportunity to defend the primacy of Iowa here. Are you too small, too homogeneous a state to be leading this process?

  • CAROL HUNTER, The Des Moines Register:

    I don't think so. For one thing, Iowa is changing. Like many states, it has a growing Hispanic population. It's not as homogeneous as it once was.

    But I think the most important thing is, is a defense of retail politics wherever you start it. Here in Iowa, candidates get out and really meet the people. They're in cafes; they're in libraries; they're at the fairgrounds in each county. Many of the candidates have appeared in all 99 counties in Iowa. It gives candidates that might be considered a long shot a chance to make a name for themselves.