ABC News' David Chalian and Teddy Davis: Top rivals Barack Obama and John Edwards ceded Michigan's delegate-free primary to Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., on Tuesday, withdrawing their names from the Jan. 15 ballot.
"We will honor the pledge and not campaign or spend money in any state that is not in compliance with the DNC calendar," said Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson. "But it is not necessary to take the steps to remove Senator Clinton's name from the ballot," Wolfson added.
The decision on the part of Clinton's rivals to remove their names from the Michigan ballot will not adversely affect the campaigns of Obama and Edwards from the standpoint of delegates accrued, the formal process by which presidential nominees are chosen. But Clinton's rivals have now made it possible for the former first lady to point to her decision to stay on the ballot as a sign of her commitment to a state which has traditionally been a hard-fought general election state -- once again demonstrating the dual-track strategy (primary and general election) the Clinton campaign seems to constantly navigate.
While Clinton is now all-but-ensured of coming out on top when Michigan votes on Jan. 15, her rivals are hoping that any media impact will be negligible since she will have prevailed in this delegate-free beauty contest against no real opposition.
All the Democratic presidential candidates had already promised not to campaign in Michigan because the state's Jan. 15 primary violated party rules by being scheduled ahead of Feb. 5 and the four states -- Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- which the D.N.C. has chosen for a privileged place at the front of the calendar.
Worried that Clinton's name recognition would carry her to victory in a state in which none of them were campaigning, Clinton's rivals announced Tuesday that they were removing their names from the ballot.
Joining Edwards and Obama in removing their names from the ballot are New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden.
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., who has been trailing in the polls, announced Tuesday that he, like Clinton, will also remain on the ballot in Michigan.