Saturday, August 25, 2018

Michigan Governor- Race of the Day

73 Days Until Election Day

Michigan Governor

Status: Republican Open
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Democrat

In 2010, first-time Republican candidate Rick Snyder won a surprisingly strong victory to elected Governor of Michigan, a state where many had assumed, any GOP win would be tough to come by. Snyder was the most moderate candidate in a Republican primary field, and the self-styled, "one tough nerd", won the general election in a landslide. During his first term, he was looked at as someone who could potentially play a major role in the Republican Party, but his approval numbers started to lag a bit and his reelection campaign, while successful, was not by as near large a margin as his first race.

The early part of Snyder's second term was consumed by the Flint water crisis and the allegations that his Administration bore responsibility. Indeed, it was a crisis of government at all levels. Snyder tried to make amends with the aftermath of the public relations and health disaster, but his reputation would not ever be the same and his poll numbers would continue to be low. Even his own Republican Party became more divided. Snyder was among the Republican Governors who refused to support the Presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Despite that, Trump won Michigan anyway, the first Republican nominee to do so since 1988, and the result was perhaps the biggest single state result surprise of the year.

Snyder is term-limited and conventional wisdom is that the office is ripe for a party switch. Indeed, that is what has happened in Michigan the last two times the office has been open. Democrats dodged a bullet when their 1998 nominee, attorney (and Knack sibling) Geoffrey Fieger declined to run. The controversial former attorney for Dr. Jack Kevorkian had higher name recognition that any other Democrat in the race and that might have enabled him to win a crowded primary. As was the case a generation ago, Fieger would have been considered unelectable for the general election.

The August 7th primary would come down to three Democrats. The front-runner and choice of the party establishment would wind up winning solidly, but not without significant opposition on the left, in a state where Bernie Sanders shocked Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential primary.

Former State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer has been talked about as a statewide contender for a long time, but finally decided to run for Governor in 2018. While a very credible candidate, she was mostly seen as the most "safe" choice for the party. Two first time candidates ran to oppose the woman who would be Michigan's second female Governor, and both could claim some potential diversity history on their side. Entrepreneur Shri Thaneder  who spent the first 33 year of his life in his native India ran. While he faced some questions about some past loose affiliations with the Republican Party, Thaneder insisted he was a Democrat and contributed almost $6 million dollars of his own money to the campaign.

Also in the field was Abdul El-Sayed, a 33 year old physician and former Detroit Health Department official. He was seeking to become the first Muslim-American ever elected in the country to statewide office, in the state where Muslim voters are seen as having the most political influence. The son of Egyptian immigrants was at first not seen as a serious contender, but he would go on to generate a large amount of grassroots support on the left and raised over $2 million dollars from individual donors. With the endorsement of Bernie Sanders, who came to Michigan to campaign for El-Sayed, he was seen at the end of the primary campaign as a potential surprise winner. I think it is safe to say that a lot of Republicans would have welcomed that surprise as well.

Nonetheless, Whitmer's ties to the establishment and labor unions held more sway on Primary Day, and she won every county in Michigan, beating El-Sayed, 52-30. Thaneder finished with 18 percent of the vote. After the primaries in Michigan, the winning candidates pick their choices for Lt. Governor. I do not know if Whitmer considered naming either of her former opponents in a call for party unity. She did reach out to a major Democrat constituency in the sate though by picking Garlin Gilchrist, a young African-American from Detroit, active in liberal causes, who also worked in his city's government and unsuccessfully sought office there.

In 2010, on the Republican side, Rick Snyder also picked a young running-mate,when he selected then State Representative Brian Calley. After two terms as Lt. Governor, Calley was running for the top job on the GOP side and had his bosses support. He did have the support of the pro-Trump wing of the party though, and in fact, even back in 2014, conservatives tried unsuccessfully at the state Republican convention, to drop Calley from the ticket.

Two candidates running as staunch conservatives, physician Jim Hines, and State Senator Patrick Colbeck, were part of the field, but the front-runner was state Attorney General Bill Schuette....

(as I write this, I hear the sad breaking news on the death of Senator John McCain. I will forgo the Race of the Day to dedicate a post in his honor in the very near future) I continue on, Schuette had been elected to Congress in 1984 and served until losing U.S. Senate bid in 1990. Returning to Michigan, he served as a Cabinet official, got elected to the State Senate, was elected to become a judge, and then to two terms as Attorney General. Throughout all this time, he was seen as having his eye on the Governorship one day, and Calley tried to make an issue out of Schuette's long career in politics and ambitions.

Quickly after he announced his candidacy in 2017, Schuette (or Shuette) as he was called in the Tweet was endorsed for Governor by Donald Trump. The Attorney General has taken positions that are very much in line with Trump and what many Republican voters hold in high regard these days. Despite this, he won by the primary with just 51 percent of the vote. That might be because two candidates ran to his right. Colbeck received 13 percent and Hines 11 percent. The second place finisher was Calley at a distant 25 percent. After the primary, both the sitting Governor and Lt. Governor did not take part in an official party unity event. The new nominee selected Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons as his running-mate. The 38 year old former State Representative is also the daughter of a past Lt. Governor and 2002 Republican nominee for Governor.

While Schuette can claim that he has twice been elected to statewide office this decade, he has to be considered the underdog to Whitmer. There is a division in the Republican Party and Schuette's close ties to Trump may not be the strongest thing to run on in a politically divided state. The early polls show a lead for the Democrat, but not one that would theoretically be impossible to overcome.

Republicans will point out that Hillary Clinton was leading Donald Trump in most Michigan polls until the end, when a surprise happened and there is no reason to believe it cannot happen again. Perhaps,  but I doubt it. For one, the Democrat nominee for Governor is likely to actually campaign in Michigan.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

9 D,  (2 Safe, 1 Likely, 3 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
9 R   (2 Safe,  3 Likely, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

16 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 1 Likely, 3 Leans, 3 Tossup)
16 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 3 Likely, 3 Leans, 1 Tossup)


At 4:10 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Whitmer wins very easily: (56% to 41%).


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