Friday, January 11, 2008

Send a statement to the DNC and vote anyway, says Clinton supporter

Sen. Hillary Clinton's Michigan supporters are undaunted by the state's Democratic primary election mess and are resolved to vote for their candidate Tuesday.

Unfazed by the threat of an "uncommitted" vote by Obama and Edwards supporters or the likely lack of Michigan delegates to the nominating convention, Clinton's supporters believe in their candidate and her chances to win in Michigan. They hope fellow Democrats will vote in record numbers to send a message to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) about an election system they consider broken.

"She is a big supporter of protecting the Great Lakes. She is very supportive of our economy here in Michigan and promoting jobs. She understands the unemployment problems we are having," said Janet Blanchard, former first lady of Michigan, who has known the Clintons for more than 20 years. Her husband, Gov. James Blanchard, was ambassador to Canada during the Clinton presidency. "I really like her as a person. Everyone knows she has the brains, but she has the heart that goes along with that," Blanchard said.

Some critics have accused Clinton of trying to take unfair advantage by leaving her name on Michigan's ballot. In response to that criticism, Blanchard speculated about candidates who removed their names, "If they were so persuaded and intimidated by the DNC that they would take their names off the ballot in Michigan, do they have the strength to be president? Can they stand up to Iran and Iraq and China and all the issues we have in this nation, if they're going to kowtow to the DNC?"

Blanchard thinks Clinton's remaining on the Michigan ballot demonstrates good judgment and strength on her part. "She used good sense in keeping her name on the ballot in Michigan. She cares about Michigan," Blanchard said.

Even so, the incomplete ballot has been confusing and discouraging to many Democrats. "I think it's a challenge, but I don't think it's any more of a challenge than if Edwards and Obama had been on the ballot. I think that by removing their names they've really discouraged a lot of Democrats from voting," said Kelly Bernero, founder and chair of Students for Hillary at University of Michigan.

There is some disagreement among supporters as to what constitutes victory for Clinton. Bernero puts the number at 60 percent. Garnet Lewis, a candidate for state representative in the 98th district, offered a broader definition of victory: "No matter what the percentage or number, if people choose to vote for her rather than voting 'uncommitted,' that is a sign of support for her. And I don't think that it matters percentage wise."

With the prospect of no Michigan delegates for Democratic candidates, Clinton supporters also see the election as a way to communicate with the DNC. "Vote anyway. If we turn out in large numbers, I think that says something to the DNC," Bernero said. "I think this primary is a chance for Michigan voters to say we want a change in this process."