The Republicans In Michigan's Internecine Conflict: New Developments

Remember the background: the state legislature might pass and the Dem governor might sign a bill that would allow the two state parties to hold their primaries on Jan. 29 (or even earlier.) In the event that the legislation fails, each party has a fall-back option. The GOP's fall-back option is quite controversial for some of the GOP candidates: there'd be a convention, rather than a caucus or a primary.

Last night, the state GOP's policy committee passed by a one-vote margin a rules change resolution that would re-eliminate paper ballots, make it harder for precinct delegates to be elected to the convention, and would correspondingly give district chairs more of a voice. The cosponsors were two pledged McCain supporters -- Glenn Clark and Judy Todd Johnson. McCain's faction was joined by committee members pledged to Sen. Sam Brownback and Rudy Giuliani.

Leading the opposition was the MI GOP chair, Saul Anuzis, and Mitt Romney's faction.

To the McCain, Brownback and Giuliani factions, Anuzis is in Romney's pocket and does his bidding. Anuzis insists he's independent and is putting the interests of the party before those of any particular presidential candidate. (The presence of the McCain coalition makes the Anuzis-Romney coalition seem more sinister than it is.)

Last night's vote was a symbolic victory, mostly -- the resolution forces the state party's lawyer to draft an alternative set of rules for the convention that don't involve the use of paper ballots.

The McCain coalition's aim is to change the rules to back to what they were before the state party's presidential committee voted to modify them.

Anuzis and the Romneyites believe that paper ballots are necessary for vote integrity and make it harder to game the rules. They implicitly accuse their opponents of wanting to hand counts ballots and thus subject the ballot counters to intimidation.

On Aug. 25, the state committee will decide which set of rules they want to use.

Also last night, RNC nat'l committeewoman Holly Hughes, a McCain supporter, proposed that the policy committee recommend an "open primary" alternative to a convention -- one where independents and Democrats could vote. Those rules in 2000 helped John McCain win the state.