RICK PLUTA: This is Rick Pluta in Michigan, where the state's movers and shakers are meeting here on Mackinac Island, a patch of land on the northern tip of Lake Huron known for its fudge, its horse-drawn carriages, and its old world Victorian opulence.
Political gossip is as plentiful here as the crab and lobster appetizers, as business leaders and politicians rub shoulders at an annual conference. And people here are wondering if this coming weekend the Democratic Party will finally settle the uncertainty over seating Michigan's 156 delegates to the party's national convention.
William Black is an executive with the Teamsters Union, which has endorsed Senator Obama. He says this prolonged delegate fight is distracting Democrats from talking about issues that can help the party win Michigan in November.
Mr. WILLIAM BLACK (Teamsters Union): We need to pay more attention to the real issues, such as the economy and what's going on with the economy, trying to create jobs, bring jobs back into this country that have left and create new jobs. Focus more on those issues that are the bread and butter issues for the middle class, for the workers in this country, versus this whole delegate process.
PLUTA: Michigan's Democratic leaders are going to Washington this weekend with a plan for seating the delegates. It would give Senator Clinton 69 elected delegates to Senator Obama's 59. The Clinton campaign isn't happy with the plan because it awards her fewer delegates than she won in the election. The Obama campaign says it's acceptable but would prefer a 50/50 split.
And Debbie Dingle says the fact that both campaigns would have to give up something is evidence that it's a good idea. She's the wife of veteran Congressman John Dingle, a Democratic National Committeewoman and an uncommitted superdelegate from Michigan who helped devise the plan. She says it acknowledges the results of Michigan's renegade January 15th primary and the fact that Obama did not appear on the ballot.
Ms. DEBBIE DINGLE (Democratic National Committeewoman): My hope is that Michigan has full representation, as does Florida, at the Democratic convention, and that Michigan's made its point. We're fighting for change in the process and we begin the process of coalescing behind one candidate for a victory in November.
PLUTA: She says Michigan Democrats want to end the front-loaded presidential nominating season and the early dominance of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Ms. DINGLE: I think that this presidential nominating season has been the right one for Democrats. Candidates who are running for president in 50 states have been seen in the 50 states. These states had a chance to see the candidates and have the issues talked about that they care about. And we have seen literally millions of more people involved in the nomination process than you normally see, and what we want is a change in the system, that we see this every time.
PLUTA: Michigan has dropped into the Democratic column in every presidential election since Bill Clinton unseated President Bush's father in 1992. But the Democrats' margins here have become slimmer in each of the last three presidential races.
Mr. SAUL ANUZIS (Chairman, Michigan Republican Party): I think right now it's a huge competitive advantage for us as Republicans.
PLUTA: Michigan Republican Chairman Saul Anuzis says the ongoing Democratic delegate fight improves the GOP's prospects in the state.
Mr. ANUZIS: You know, the Democrats are divided. They haven't decided how they're going to move forward. There's been a lot of in-fighting in the party, and at the same time the candidates have ignored Michigan for the last two years, while our candidates have been crisscrossing the state, getting to know the political leaders, getting to know the issues that affect Michigan and allowing Michigan to get a chance to know them.
PLUTA: Democrats say they recognized the challenge, and that's one reason why Obama will return to Michigan for the second time in three weeks on Monday, just one day before the final two primaries of the season, in Montana and South Dakota.
For NPR News, I'm Rick Pluta on Mackinac Island, Michigan.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
As it happens, the Republican White House is caught up in its own row with a former member of the Bush inner circle. Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan is out with a new memoir and it contains some scathing criticisms.
Among them, McClellan said the administration used propaganda to sell going to war in Iraq. He calls that war a strategic blunder. And he describes the White House as being, quote, "in a state of denial" for the first week after Hurricane Katrina. The current White House spokesperson, Dana Perino, dismisses McClellan as a, quote, "disgruntled employee." On this program we talk with Scott McClellan, the former insider who now calls Washington a culture of deception.
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