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January 14, 2008

Democrats Battle for Votes in SC and NV as Republicans Lay Out for Michigan

We are nearing the end of January as this presidential race is proving to be the most fluid and exciting in recent memory. Dare we say it, the Republican race is sizzling as the candidates are giving last-minute appeals for votes in the critical Michigan primary. The latest Real Clear Politics’ poll has former governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) holding a slim lead over Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) of 27% to 26.3%. The Iranian American community has a golden opportunity to make their voice heard as the Republican contenders are scrambling for votes.

Michigan has a substantial Middle Eastern community, clustered around the Dearborn and Detroit metropolitan areas. According to the IranCensus report, there are 11,683 individuals of Iranian ancestry living in the state of Michigan besides the large number of individuals that claim descent from other Middle Eastern ethnic groups. Their votes could have the greatest impact in this hotly contested race, since the Democratic National Committee’s sanction of their primary and stripping of delegates to the national convention. The GOP candidates will move carefully in clarifying their positions on US foreign policy towards Iran and the Middle East, giving Michigan voters the chance to elevate next week’s frontrunner and boost their hopes of capturing the GOP nod.

The Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination are battling it out for votes in the decisive South Carolina primary on Jan. 26, and courting support for the upcoming Nevada primary on Jan. 19. At the same time, Clinton and Obama are parrying over recent comments each campaign has made about the race and gender issues. It is interesting to see this new twist in the campaign as Obama and Clinton have disparaged each others’ foreign policy approaches, especially around the war in Iraq and US relations with Iran.

It brings a new, troublesome dimension to the current debate among the campaigns and the media over ‘gut vs. experience,’ with Obama touting his judgment in his opposition to the Iraq war and Clinton her experience.

In recent comments, Clinton has challenged Obama’s veiled comparisons to MLK in his speeches, going so far as to claim that President Lyndon Johnson was more responsible for the successes of the civil rights movement. This exchange followed a contentious scrum in the New Hampshire debate where Obama sneered on Clinton’s likeability. This reaction appears to reflect the Clinton campaign’s frustration in challenging Obama, especially in light of her continued defense of her vote in 2002 authorizing the use of force in Iraq.

These distractions are taking away from the conversation the country should hear from all the candidates in how America must confront the challenges (Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and counter-proliferation) it faces presently and in coming years.

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