Donald Lambro

But the written statement by Clinton, and maybe some of the others, may not be worth the paper it's printed on, Democrats told me.

First, pledge or no pledge, all of the Democratic candidates' names will be on the statewide primary ballots.

Second, both Clinton and Obama, the front-runners, seem to be running campaigns in both states. They have ground organizations there, as well as staff. They have scheduled fund-raisers in Florida this month and later this year. All participated in a Spanish-language broadcast forum in Miami Sunday on Univision, the Hispanic/Latino TV network.

Initially, Clinton was not eager to agree to at least tacitly abide by DNC rules forbidding any campaigning in the two states. Both are mega-states that could decide the outcome of the 2008 presidential election, and any Democrats who sit out the primary would do so at their peril.

Knowledgeable Democrats told me that she was the last to sign on to the pledge after carefully weighing the pros and cons of such a decision. She did, after all, hold a huge lead in Florida over all her rivals, and led in Michigan, too. Her organizations in both states would be working for her, and at this point she was justifiably confident she would win the "beauty contest" primaries, giving her a boost going into the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday contests that would all but decide next year's nominee.

Nevertheless, the GOP in both states were playing up the Democrats' embarrassing rules dilemma, and there were reports of growing alienation in the party's base over the candidates' absence. "Florida Democrats are seeing and hearing less from their presidential candidates," the Tampa Tribune reported. "It's a big mistake what they've done to Florida, and I'm not going to assist them," Democratic candidate Wayne Hogan told the Orlando Sentinel as he canceled a party fund-raiser last week.

In the meantime, Republicans in both states are rubbing their hands with glee, hoping that the spectacle of their candidates dominating the two primaries and the Democrats seen as boycotting them will give the GOP an edge in the general-election battle to come.

"Michigan is the home of the AFL-CIO, UAW and the Teamsters, and a large African-American community. Both Michigan and Florida are key fund-raising states for the Democrats," Anuzis told me. "So they are playing a very high-risk game of Russian roulette."

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.