Both the Byzantine nature of the Michigan presidential primary — as well as the crucial importance of the January 15 contest — were underscored by the news that one of Mike Huckabee’s major boosters in the primary is actually supporting Barack Obama for President.
State Rep. LaMar Lemmons of Detroit, a Democrat and African-American, recently unveiled “Democrats for Huckabee” to urge crossover votes for the former Arkansas governor January 15. In a state with no party registration, crossovers from one party without a presidential contest to another can have an impact; in 1972, thousands of Water Wonderland Republicans crossed over to give George Wallace a commanding win in the Democratic presidential primary.
In 2000, Democrats eager to embarrass then-Republican Gov. John Engler came over in droves to put John McCain over the top against Engler’s candidate, George W. Bush. One of the ringleaders of the crossover campaign was a group that worked in the inner city known as “Democrats Out To Get Engler” (DOG) and its kingpin was — are you sitting? — LaMar Lemmons.
Lemmons told reporters Tuesday that the push for Republican Huckabee was prompted by the dearth of choices on the Democratic side of the Jan. 15 primary ballot. Lemmons said he himself supports Barack Obama, who chose not to run in Michigan. But Lemmons likes his tormenting and wants to turn out Democratic votes for Huckabee because, as he told the Detroit Free Press, “"the Republican establishment supports [Mitt] Romney and McCain.”
There is no way to gauge how much this mischief-making can hurt the Republican presidential candidates, as the race is extremely close. According to the latest Detroit News poll, native Michiganian Romney holds a slim 21% to 19% lead over Huckabee among likely primary voters, with 12% going to Rudy Giuliani and 10% to McCain. Voters who consider themselves evangelical conservatives comprised 25-to-30% of likely primary voters in 2000 and next year, that figure is expected to rise to about 40%.