Mar 10, 2008

Ferraro, first woman on a national presidential ticket, says Michigan should hold do-over primary

LIVONIA -- National political experts Geraldine Ferraro and Bill Kristol weighed in on the hot debate over the Michigan and Florida primaries before a crowd of Michigan political dignitaries Thursday night, with Kristol predicting that Michigan could be voting as late as June for a Democratic presidential nominee and Ferraro calling for a do-over primary in Michigan.

Ferraro, the first woman vice-presidential candidate of a major party, said she thinks the Florida presidential delegates should be seated, but Michigan needs to hold a new vote. Kristol, Weekly Standard editor and conservative pundit, said what Michigan does depends on what happens in the Pennsylvania primary next month. Both states were stripped of their delegates to the national Democratic convention last summer for moving their primary elections ahead in violation of national party rules.

“I must tell you, if I was the attorney representing both states, Florida would be easier,” said Ferraro, who appeared with Kristol at a Michigan Political Leadership Program fund-raising dinner in Livonia. “They have a Republican governor and Legislature, and they can go to the [Democratic convention] credentials committee and say, 'How can we be disenfranchised? It was not our fault.' ”

Kristol said if Sen. Hillary Clinton beats Sen. Barack Obama in Pennsylvania in the April primary – and he thinks she will – the delegate race would be so close the Democratic National Committee would have to do something about Florida and Michigan.

“I predict Sen. Clinton will win in Pennsylvania because she has stopped his meteoric rise,” he said. “You could be voting in June.”

The Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University recruits, trains and inspires tomorrow’s public policy leaders with a 10-month-long weekend bipartisan curriculum. Ferraro and Kristol spoke separately, then shared the stage to talk about the current presidential election and their participation in past elections.

Ferraro made history as the first woman on a national ticket when she ran with Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale in 1984. She was a three-term congresswoman, first elected in 1978, representing Queens, N.Y. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton to lead the U.S. delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 1994. She is currently a principal in the governmental relations practice of a major law firm.

Besides being editor of the influential, Washington-based political magazine Weekly Standard, Kristol led the Project for the Republican Future, where he helped shape the strategy that produced the 1994 Republican congressional victory. Prior to that, Kristol served as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle during the administration of the first George Bush and to Secretary of Education William Bennett under President Ronald Reagan. Before coming to Washington in 1985, Kristol taught politics at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

With all of the talk of superdelegates, Ferraro was a member of the Hunt Commission – named after former North Carolina Gov. James Hunt – which came up with the concept. She said the convention fight in 1980 between former President Jimmy Carter and Sen. Edward Kennedy resulted in a Democratic platform that was so liberal that her more moderate and conservative Democratic congressional colleagues refused to run on it or be associated with the president. The result was a Democratic Party in disarray that lost the White House and both houses of Congress to the Republicans.

“Will Rogers said, 'I’m not a member of an organized party, I’m a Democrat,' ” Ferraro said. “It’s funny when a humorist says it, not when it’s true.”

Ferraro helped push the unsuccessful Equal Rights Amendment while she was in Congress, and she makes no bones about being a Clinton supporter. As a prosecutor and vice-presidential candidate, Ferraro displayed a tough exterior in public, and she made it a point never to cry in public. She said when she voted for Clinton on Super Tuesday, she cried.

“I endorsed Hillary Clinton early on, and it has been a very emotional campaign for me,” she said. “When I pulled that lever, I felt that Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton were standing right next to me saying pull that lever for your five granddaughters.”

Ferraro said she thinks if Clinton gets the nomination, Republican women will cross over to vote for her. But she also believes Republican nominee John McCain will have a tough time no matter who the Democratic nominee is.

“No matter who John McCain runs against, it will be an historic first,” she said. “There is a lot of excitement.”

Ferraro also said Obama’s campaign has increased both Democratic voter turnout and interest.

“He is running a very different campaign,” she said. “He has made no mistakes. He is creating a sense of hope, change and inspiration.”

Kristol said it will be a close race in November, but the election has some interesting twists. The voter turnout so far in the primaries has been double what it has been in the past. He said he expects the sometimes-dull national debates to pull in huge TV viewership, and they could be decisive.

“The significant thing about the election is it’s the first time since 1952 that an incumbent president or vice president is not running,” he said. “It’s like an open seat, making it much more volatile and unpredictable.”

Kristol said the Democrats would have to be favored to win because no Republican has held the White House for three consecutive terms in modern times since Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. But Kristol also said that history has shown voters tend to favor the more hawkish candidate when troops are engaged in a war, such as Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Richard Nixon in 1968 and Bush in 2004.

“It’s hard for any party to hold on to the White House for three terms,” Kristol said. “I don’t think the election will be a referendum on George Bush. It also will not be a referendum on the (Tom) DeLay, (Denny) Hastert and (Bill) Frist Congress. We had that in 2006.”

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