As mentioned above, the Michigan State Senate just passed a bill setting the primary date at Jan. 15, and after some conference tinkering, it's headed to the desk of the governor, who'll sign it.

Some Democrats are protesting. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) sent a letter to Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Michigan Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer urging them to keep the party's traditional caucus, which the state party pays for. A state-run primary would cost taxpayers $12M, Stupak writes, and besides, Michigan's county political parties are already preparing for the caucuses.

Privately, Brewer may be sympathetic to Stupak's argument. Party-run caucuses -- or "Firehouse primaries," as they're called, are enormously beneficial to the state party because they serve as a dress rehearsal for election day get-out-the-vote activities and provide an easy way for the party to enhance its voter lists. They're also easy to control -- and party interest groups, like Michigan's extremely powerful United Auto Workers union, tend to exert an outsized influence on the outcome. It comes as no surprise that UAW, a union which is said to be on the verge of endorsing Sen. John Edwards, also opposes a state-run primary. (The State Dems, per published reports, are waiting to see what the bill says before they react. The State Republicans are on board with Granholm and the legislature.)

On the other side of this equation is Gov. Granholm, who Edwards factions in the state believe is acting at the beheast of Sen. Hillary Clinton. The theory is that it would be much easier for Clinton to win a primary beauty contest than a caucus, which would require organization -- read: labor, read: the UAW. (Actually, labor power in Michigan is concentrated in the UAW and in the National Education Association, which probably won't endorse.)

Democratic heavy hitters are getting involved. Later today, Rev. Al Sharpton intends to complain about the photo identification required of all potential state primary voters; the caucus requirements are less onerous, in his view.

The upshot is that Michigan risks losing all of its delegates if it holds a pre-Feb. 5 primary. As with Florida, there'd be much less of an incentive for Sen. Barack Obama to compete for the state's zero or few delegates.

If Michigan holds a primary on Jan. 15, then it stands to reason that New Hampshire's Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, would schedule the state's primary for no late than Jan. 8. Which means, in turn, that Iowa would probably schedule its caucuses for the 5th. Which means, in turn, that confusion reigns until the calendar is set.

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