After Hillary Clinton's dual victories this week in Pennsylvania and at Michigan's district conventions, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said the Mitten State would be a key factor in her candidate winning the nomination.
"I think Michigan will be critical," said Granholm, Clinton's highest-profile supporter in the state.
On Saturday, Clinton won a quiet victory at the 15 Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) conventions, taking not just her allotted delegates but is likely to eventually gain a fair chunk of the uncommitted delegates the MDP officially said should go to Obama. Several labor members elected and uncommitted delegates reserved the right to vote for whomever their union endorses and most, especially the UAW, are thought to lean Clinton.
The rest of the 128 pledged delegates will be selected at the central committee meeting in May and Obama isn't expected to fare any better with the Clinton-friendly bunch.
Granholm was upbeat about Clinton's prospects for the nomination at a press conference about an overseas investment mission today.
"I think if you look at the popular vote, that's one aspect for the super delegates can consider in deciding who would be the strongest candidate in the general election," she said.
"If you look at all the citizens who have voted in the nation, she's got more votes by citizens," the governor added.
Granholm was on message. The Clinton campaign has been pushing the idea to the media, with some success, that after her 9-point win in Pennsylvania, she now leads in the popular vote. That includes Clinton's votes in Michigan and Florida, which she won, but the Democratic National Committee (DNC) stripped them of their delegates for holding early primaries.
The official tally is Barack Obama has 14,417,619 votes to Clinton's 13,917,393. With Florida and Michigan, it's 14,993,833 for Obama and 15,116,688 for Clinton.
What's most questionable about the Clinton camp's accounting is that Obama wasn't on the ballot in Michigan, although "uncommitted" was. The MDP officially said all uncommitted delegates should go to Obama. However, Clinton math doesn't give him any of the 238,168 "uncommitted" votes. Counting those, Obama bounces back in the lead, 15,232,001 to 15,116,688.
"Even if you gave him all the uncommitted, she would still be ahead in the popular vote," Granholm said.
When asked why Clinton should be allowed to claim votes she didn't campaign for, Granholm said, "She left her name on the ballot." Clinton did reassure New Hampshire voters last fall that the Michigan primary wouldn't count.
Granholm also blamed Obama for not consenting to a revote in Michigan, saying it wasn't fair to voters.
"And it's all nice to talk about the delegates and the super delegates and the party poobahs who are making decisions, but the people who actually voted and there was an effort to give people another chance to vote. Now is that fair?"
Interestingly, she cast Clinton as the champion of democracy and implied Obama was trying to win on procedural grounds. The roles have been flipped for most of the contest, as Obama does lead in delegates, states won and the popular vote and Clinton would have to win via super delegates or a convention fight. There's great consternation amongst Democrats, and not just Obama backers, that a Clinton win would subvert the democratic process.
Granholm said she didn't think the nomination would be decided until the last primaries on June 3.
The governor again called on the DNC to count Michigan's votes and seat the delegation. She said she did expect the delegation would be seated (Chair Howard Dean has committed to that, however vaguely) and thought the decision would come before the August national convention in Denver.
"Nobody wants to see a fight," Granholm said, flashing a grin at the media, "except for you all, probably."