Chuck Todd has the main story:
According to sources inside both parties, the two state parties in Michigan have agreed to move the state’s primary — legislatively — to Jan. 15. This is a compromise date out of respect for Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, who really wanted to move the primary to Jan. 8. Others wanted the primary on Jan. 22 as a way to, essentially, play ball with the other early states. There was a nice window being created for a Jan. 22, 2008 event. But by moving to Jan. 15, this will put pressure on the other early states to either entertain a December event or lobby the two national parties to not sanction Michigan at all.
There are several implications to this. First, the GOP convention seems to be off the table. Given the early work, there was a real possibility that the convention was going to lock out signficant delegates for anyone either than John McCain or Mitt Romney. Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson can play in this environment.
Second, I think that this helps Sam Brownback. There is a significant conservative Catholic contingent in the state party and institutions with Ave Maria Law, etc. If the (open) primary draws mostly Republicans, under the theory that Obama gets the independents (although I suspect that this may not apply to Michigan), then Brownback’s in-state organization will be significant.
Third, if Romney really wins New Hampshire and Iowa, he may be able to play to home state advantage, although a recent poll had him in 5th in Michigan. At the same time, McCain is still very popular in Michigan and has run — and won — a lean race here before.
Fourth, and this is in many ways the most important, this blows up the whole fraud of the calendars being negotiated by the national parties. As Todd points out:
Bottom line: Michigan holding its primary on Jan. 15 means New Hampshire’s window to hold a primary has been moved up further to Jan. 8. And then there’s Iowa, who now could face a decision to let New Hampshire leap frog it or somehow go 2-3 days before New Hampshire (say, on Sat. Jan. 5) or in December — something the governor of Iowa said he didn’t want to do.
Interestingly, the three major swing regions in America are now represented in the current schedule: upper-midwest (Iowa, probably Dec. 2007 now), rust belt (Michigan, Jan. 15), southwest (Nevada, Jan 19th). Florida, the swing super-state is on the 29th. While this clearly wasn’t intended, there is a certain post-hoc logic to the calendar as emerged.
The upshot is probably that the national parties are going to roll over and take whatever comes their way. Look for special waivers at the next DNC meeting. And the question will simply be so old that it won’t be addressed at the RNC. (noting that there’s a slightly weird procedure for bringing up credentials challenges on this question at the RNC) Unless, of course, the convention is contested, which is a whole different ball of wax.