Sunday, November 30, 2008
Alright, Already with the Fond Farewells
If you like sappy, overly sentimental, and elongated speech making, come on up to Lansing because over the next few weeks, the joint will be overflowing with just that. It's a long standing tradition that folks who are leaving the legislature get one last shot at impressing their friends with a farewell speech. Never mind that most of the speeches are memorable in that they are unmemorable, but there could be as many as 44 such swan songs. 44! Please don't make me cover all of them! Frankly these speeches ain't what they use to be. Prior to term limits, the number of lawmakers that actually departed was miniscule so when one of the titans of the house or senate left, it was a big deal. And when they spo ke they could legitimately wax on about how tough it was to leave after twenty or more years of friendships, late night card games, and doing the people's business. There was a sense of history in those remarks. Nowadays it is anything but because nobody has been around long enough to amass much of a record let alone any history of note. After all how much damage/success can one have in six years or less? But that stark legislative fact of life will be conveniently ignored as each retiree takes his or her turn to say the same thing that the person before him or her said. How many times we will hear, "I will miss the people?" Or I know that my successor will continue to represent (fill in the blank of local town) just as I had the pleasure to do lo these many years. Blah, blah, blah. This is not to belittle the public service these folks have given to the state. Each has made a contribution but any farewell speech that goes beyond three minutes will sound a bit puffy, self-aggrandizing and simply designed to leave a legacy when no legacy can be left. Suffice it to say the three-minute suggestion will be ignored, however, because give a politician the microphone to say good-bye and you'll never get the darn thing back.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Why Do That?
Why would any person in his or her right mind, get up at 5 a.m., drive from the west side of the state to Ann Arbor and then spend the rest of the day meeting with political power brokers all over the map? Well if that person was GOP Congressman Pete Hoekstra, you would do it because you want to be governor. And he does, but he's not talking about it just yet. Last year when Hoekstra was running for his 18th year in the U.S. Congress from Holland, he was not anxious about talking about his future plans for governor. But he was already getting up at five and tramping all over the state to lay the groundwork. He did not want his local voters to know because they might not cotton to him running for one office, while secretly running for another. That never became and issue and Mr. Hoekstra was safely reelected. Now watch him closely, because in the next few months he will reportedly "come out" and announce that he will not run for Congress again. He will say that enough is enough and besides he is tired of sleeping on a couch in his office in D.C. It will be the first visible step that he's in the contest. Admittedly, he is not a household word, but there's plenty of time to buy that with commercials. Dick DeVos launched his quest for gov with about 20% name I.D. and millions of dollars later, everyone knew who he was. Hoekstra is an affable chap who helped to keep the Teamsters Union afloat during the union's darkest hour. As a result he is close to Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. and Hoekstra is sort of banking on the union being in his corner when he runs. 0 Hoekstra will have lots of company in the GOP primary for the nomination but he goes into the thing with one trait the others will have to prove they have, i.e. the fire in their gut to get up at 5 a.m. and drive all over the state to campaign.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Time Off For What?
When is a hunting vacation, not a hunting vacation? Apparently when the leader of the Michigan Senate says it is not. A couple of blogs ago, the lament was that the grand legislative tradition of taking two weeks off for deer hunting has outlived its usefulness. And in fact it's a waste of taxpayer dollars. Turns out Oakland County Senator Mike Bishop couldn't disagree more. Get a load of this: "I don't look at this as a hunting break for legislators. Most members have used the opportunity to go back to the district" and meet with citizens. He's right that many house and senate members don't wander off into the woods, and some probably do consult with folks back home but there's no way to confirm that. Fact is we have no idea what the non-hunter s are doing. We do know that they are drawing a state paycheck. And it's not that they have nothing to do at the Capitol. The state is facing a whooping budget deficit approaching $1.2 billion next year. But given a choice of staying in town and working on that and other job creating legislation, the leadership succumbed to the notion of "this is the way it's always been" mantra and gave everyone the time off to do as they pleased. Bishop points out that when everyone returns next Tuesday, they will work on these issues but now they have two less weeks to do it. And, of course, they are bumping up against another break around December 25th…unless, of course, Mr. Bishop doesn't believe that is a vacation either.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
No Apology on Prop 2
Upwards of $12 million was spent, tons of commercials flooded the airwaves, and the emotions reached a fever pitch but in the end one simple and uncontrollable factor determined the outcome of Proposal 2…voter turnout. Turns out that more democrats turned out on November 4th and lots of R's stayed home so when they counted everything up, embryonic stem cell research won going away. During the contentious campaign the Michigan Catholic Conference remained on radio silence. The group's affable lobbyist Paul Long has broken the silence and says he'll issue no apology for the tone of the anti-Prop 2 effort. "No, not at all," he argues in a debrief of what went wrong. The other side took strong exception to one commercial aimed at African Americans. They were told without regulation of this research there could be a repeat of history where minorities were abused in a federal research program. "It was a scare tactic," complains Rick Johnson who helped mastermind the yes vote. Long begs to differ. He says the ad was not aimed at one voting block and to prove it, the commercial aired in the Upper Peninsula. He says, "I don't understand the flak…The other side was expecting a debate about theology, ethics, and morals. We wanted to talk about the policy ramifications." Long and company, including Michigan Right to Life, had no choice but to argue ancillary issues because if they argued the pros and cons of the research, the loss would have been even greater. Turns out in a struggle between fear on one side and hope for a cure for diseases on the other, the voters voted for hope. "We knew we had an uphill battle. The notion of hope and a cure was a very difficult" hill to climb. Long came up short on that front.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Into The Woods
How in the heck do they get away with this stuff, year after year after year? Now all you second amendment gun folks, don't go reaching for your heat. This is not an anti-gun dissertation, but it does have to do with how lawmakers close up shop for two weeks to go hunting. Years ago, you could actually hold a session of the Michigan legislature up North because so many guys went off into the woods in search of who knows what. There was some grumbling about the "tradition" in the media, but it never went much beyond that. Nobody has done a head count, but it doesn't appear that many lawmakers partake anymore but the non-hunters apparently are more than happy to have the time off while a handful of their colleagues sit out in the cold looking for Bambi. The state's economy is in the tank. The state budget deficit could approach a billion dollars next year. The lame duck agenda has a load of critical items, some of which might actually create a job or two, and the entire legislature takes a hike for two weeks. The solution is simple. Those who want to hunt, go hunt. There's a phony legislative excuse system already in place for them to disappear and no one would be the wiser. Then everyone else could stay in town and do the people's business. At last glance that's what the legislature was designed to do, but apparently, they'll do it on their time, but on your dime.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Like Father-Like Son
So much for Mitt Romney running for Michigan governor. With his not so welcomed remarks recently that it would be okey dokey for one of the Big Three to go into the tank, Romney has taken himself off the 2010 list of potential gov. candidates. Obviously his remarks were not aimed at the state house in Lansing but the White House in Washington D.C. After first reading his treasoness comments, you had to wonder what his Daddy, former Gov. George Romney, was thinking up in heaven? George had to be grinning because 29 years ago when they wanted to bail out the sagging Chrysler Corporation, Romney said forget it. And on top of that when Romney ran American Motors he was the first voice in the wilderness to suggest that the mo nster cars with fins that Detroit was grinding out were "gas guzzling dinosaurs." He, of course, was way ahead of the curve as eventually the smaller foreign competitors stormed the market place and handed Detroit its lunch which culminated in the mess we see today. Mitt's comments were along the same "told ya so" lines as the old man. It's not that the junior Romney wanted the autos to go under, he was signaling a warning much like Dad did with the dinosaur comments. The auto guys ignored George and now find themselves facing extinction just like the dinosaurs unless the Congress tosses them a lifeline. Circle December 2 on your little calendar cause if the Big Three don't cough up a plan to justify the Congress coughing up some bucks, Mitt's comments about one of them going into bankruptcy may turn ou t to be prophetic.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Once a Supreme Court justice. Always a Supreme Court justice. And former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer proved the point by taking 26 paragraphs..that's right 26, to announce he would not run for governor. The document read just like a Supreme Court decision. Put another way, Mr. Archer has trouble speaking in TV-crafted 10 second sound bites, which meant he would have had challenges if had decided to run. The affable Mr. Mayor took two years of tramping all over the state to conclude he did not have the fire in his belly to run. He of course expressed it in more eloquent terms. "To run and be a successful governor, it would require me to marry our state. Thus, if elected, I wou ld rarely see and enjoy time with my wife, Trudy" and the rest of his family including two grandsons. It came down to a choice of speaking at every Rotary club between Monroe and Marquette, and bouncing the grandkids on his knee. Archer voted for the knee bouncing. It was the right decision for him. A run for statewide office consumes the person making the forced march. Family comes second, maybe even third or fourth. Archer has a great gig going now with his law duties with a prestigious firm in Motown. Plus with his good buddy Barack Obama in the White House, Mr. Archer may be headed to D.C. to run the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Attorney General's office. He could take his wife and the grand kids could visit..unless, of course, knee bouncing is against the law down there.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Milliken Moderates Huddle
Turns out the Milliken administration in exile needed more than a phone booth to accommodate the 240 political insiders who met this week to honor the former Michigan governor who gave moderation a good name in this state. The Michigan Political History Society raised over $80,000 at the event that featured former Milliken administration stall wards such as Joyce Braithwaite-Brickley a.k.a. the Dragon Lady, former State GOP chair Bill McLaughlin, former Milliken lobbyist Keith Molin, Bill Rustem who did policy work for his "mentor and hero," and former MSU Trustee Peter Fletcher who added his own erudite signature to the event as the Emcee. Milliken holds the record of 14 years in the executive office and got two standing ovations during his address. The republican expressed great hope for Barack Obama and said his election "could only happen in America." He also, to=2 0strong applause from the audience, denounced term limits noting that he found it unusual that citizens would want "politicians without experience" running the government. It was a bit ironic that the event came two weeks after the Michigan Republican party took a bath at the polls. Many are now calling on the party to revisit the moderate approach that Milliken used so successfully to forge public policy with disparate groups in the state during the 1970's. In fact that was pretty much the theme of the evening as those who lived through the Milliken years reflected that his style of governing is what is so badly needed not only in the state but also in Washington. As one audience member put it, "compromise and bipartisanship" are not four letter words.
Milliken was there with former First Lady Helen Milliken who was also singled out for her contribution to20civility in politics and her passion for advancing freedom for women.
One wag, noting the composition of the audience observed, "There are even some republicans here" reflecting Milliken's appeal to democrats which was an anathema to the ultra right wing of his own party.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
This is not the way Barack Obama wants to begin his journey with a confrontation over union contracts and employee benefits, but if the republicans are crafty enough, they can plunk him right in the middle of that mess. Dollars to donuts before this week is over, some R in Congress is going to link a bail out for the auto industry with a demand that the UAW reopen its recently approved contract: No new contract, no bail out for Big Three. Then what with the new prez do? The union will remind Mr. Obama that it helped him get elected and it would be mighty un-neighborly of him to stiff Mr. Gettlefinger and friends at the opening bell especially after the union gave up so much in the new contract. On the other hand Mr. Obama ran on a platform of change. He claimed he would be different and the status quo would be no more. But if he stands with labor, he can kiss is sweet "change" image good-bye. You can hear the republicans now. "He said he was for change but when it came time to stand up to big labor, the only thing Mr. Obama changed was his mind. He's like every other democrat beholden to organized labor." What's the poor guy to do as he could find himself in a classic lose-lose situation? His best hope is that the republicans don't try to attach this string to the auto bail out. Ah yes, the audacity of hope.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Blanchard: Been There
Of all the living former Michigan governors, Jim Blanchard still seems to be the most engaged. He's into everything and so it comes as no shocker that while the sitting governor is over in the Middle East on a job recruitment mission, Blanchard is back in Washington again working the halls of Congress to save the Big Three from the junk heap. "I'm doing everything I can to be helpful behind the scenes as a friend of the state," he reports while adding he is not on retainer to anyone. This is just Blanchard being Blanchard. And for him, it's back to the future. 29 years ago a wet behind the ears junior Congressman from Oakland County found himself in another bail out effort to save Chrysler. And the arguments against the federal aid back then sounds awfully familiar this time out. "Some of them want to punish the workers for bad decisions" made by the auto leaders, Blanchard reports. Others are telling him that obviously the bail out for Chrysler did not work cause here it is again asking for a handout. Blanchard rejects the faulty logic saying, "Think of how many jobs we saved in those 29 years." But logic does not appear to be the order of the day where the cross winds are blowing against the autos as some prefer to let anyone of them or all three of them go belly-up. Not if Blanchard as anything to say about it. He's talked with the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Washington Post. He says the Times is "convinced" something must be done and while the Post is "sympathetic," he senses a more negative tone over there. 29 years ago, Chrysler had the charismatic salesman Lee Iacocca to pitch the deal. If you can find a better bail out, buy it. That powerful figurehead is lacking right now as the industry leaders enter their most critical and historic week ever. Who knows what they'll look like when Friday rolls around. Blanchard ponders that, too.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Post-Election-Post Mortem Session
There were at least three outbursts of hearty laughter from behind the closed doors so you knew the republicans meeting in secret were still alive despite what happened to them on November 4th. The unusual post election post mortem was convened by Dick DeVos who recently told the party he would take a hike on the 2010 race for governor. "I'm concerned about our party and how do we go forward," he hurriedly explained as his wife Betsy pulled him into the elevator to avoid more of the uninvited reporter's questions. "There are lessons to be learned," chimed in Attorney General Mike Cox stating the obvious. He was also among the two-dozen or so party big wigs trying to put a smiley face on a decidedly lousy election. While no game changing strategies were adopted to jump start the GOP, the session may be more newsworthy for who was not in the room. Where was Secretary of State Terri Lyn Land? And wouldn't ya think L. Brooks Patterson should have been in there? Maybe he wasn't invited because his message may not have been welcomed. He would have argued for moving the party to the sensible center of the political spectrum in order to reverse the string of democratic victories that gets longer ever two years. Without the Brooks-ter in there, nobody made that suggestion according to someone who was inside. Maybe they forgot that in the middle is where elections are won not on the far right which has been the state GOP's proclivity for a long time. Ask John McCain about that.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
What Happened To The Kids?
Turns out lots of college kids were all talk and no action when it came time to cough up a vote for Barack Obama. It's an amazing let down. They attended free concerts. They registered in huge numbers. They stuffed mailers and knocked on doors but when the election came and went, turns out most of those under 30 were no shows. The predicted record-breaking tour de force of young voters remains as illusive in this presidential election as in previous years. 18% of the vote last Tuesday were those under 30. In 2000 and 2004, 17% showed up. Big deal. However, for those who did show up, they did deliver for Obama as he racked up an impressive 66%-31% win20over the old solider. That was the largest spread since 1972 when college kids, facing the prospects of sloshing into the jungles of Viet Nam, rallied for George McGovern who lost to Tricky Dick. While the pundits sift the data on why the younger generation found something else to do rather than vote, Obama demonstrated his strength with other groups as well. Women picked him over John McCain 56% to 43% while Obama spilt the male vote almost down the middle. And maybe you noticed that "change" was an issue in the race for the White House. For voters who listed that as their top issue, Obama won a whopping 89% of those folks. And there were three places in Michigan that should have gone to McCain but didn't. Are you ready for this: Oakland County, Kent County albeit by a razor thin margin and Macomb County where Reagan democrats apparently abandoned the GOP.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Amway Guy Is Out
Let's see…former MSU jock George Perles announces he is running for governor and lo and behold, Dick DeVos decides to drop out of the race. Of course not, but you must admit it was a clever lead paragraph. Right? No, Dick DeVos unceremoniously took himself out of the 2010 running because he concluded his impact on Michigan will be more significant "outside government, instead of inside." He called it a family decision and the betting money is his wife Betsy was not so hot on him running again and burning up another $35 million of the family's retirement nest egg. Besides, this is hardly an ideal time for any millionaire to run for anything, other than his life, given the citizens' disdain for what's happening on Wall Street. So with DeVos and his checkbook out of play, the floodgates are open for everybody and their uncle to get into this thing who otherwise would have stayed out. You can round up the usual suspects: Mike Cox, Terri Lyn Land, Congresspersons Pete Hoekstra, Candice Miller, Mike Rogers, state lawmakers Wayne Kuipers, Craig DeRoche, Mike Bishop and don't forget Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard and Domino pizza baron Dave Brandon. To that list, who knows how many more will jump in? DeVos says this was a "difficult decision" given the encouragement he's received. But for everyone listed above, it was the right decision…for them.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Motown Voters MIA
Given a once in a lifetime opportunity to elect an African American president, half of those voters in Detroit stayed at home last Tuesday. It's an incredible statement given all those TV pictures early on Election Day. The lines snaked around polling places In Motown as if citizens were getting a free pass to heaven. But as the day wore on, the lines got smaller and when they finally tallied the outcome just about 50% of those who could vote, did so. No records were set and to add insult to injury, the last time a record was set was in 1980 when 65% of the city went for Jimmy Carter. Let's recap that: A Black candidate gets 50% and a white guy from Georgia gets 65%. What the hey? Thanks to Rochelle Riley of the Free Press for pointing all this out. There is no question that in other parts of the country the African American vote was important for Barack Obama. He got 98% of that vote, so everyone is wondering what happened in Detroit? You can't blame the weather. You can't blame the Democratic Party and Obama who had an impressive GOTV or get out the vote machine. You can't blame Obama or can you? Early on he faced the criticism that he was not "black enough." But that seemed to have disappeared with time. Obama did stay away from traditional leaders of the civil rights movement. For example, dare ya to find a photo of Mr. B. with Al Sharpton or Jessie Jackson. That was no accident, so maybe that perturbed some of the traditional civil rights voters? Perhaps all the polling persuaded some voters that the contest was over and Obama would win without their votes. And this is really off the wall, maybe somehow this low turnout was related to the Kwame Kilpatrick stuff. Remember Obama wanted nothing to do with him either, for obvious reasons. The bottom-line here is, no one knows what did happen and so while Mr. Obama was making history, so did Detroit voters by passing up an opportunity to send him to the White House.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Gov: More Face Time
There's one silver lining in the auto industry meltdown saga: Jennifer Granholm is soaking up a ton of face time in the national media.
Last Friday she was on Larry King, MSNBC, CNBC, Bloomberg Live, Rachel Maddow, and yet another appearance on CNN. Monday morning began with a slot on the NBC Today Show, followed by comments on CNBC and then the Diane Rehm broadcast on public radio. During her five minutes with Matt Lauer, Granholm pleaded the case for a bridge loan for the battered domestic auto industry. "If the autos fail, 3-5 million jobs will be lost," she told the nationwide audience after Lauer asked her why the rest of the nation should care if the industry went under. Next he wondered why the Big Three had not kept pace with foreign competition, but, as she is want to do somethings, she ignored the thrust of the question and segued into the fact that folks aren't buying cars. Lauer did not do a follow up but next hit her with the "excessive union contracts" recently adopted by the United Auto Workers and GM, Ford, and Chrysler. Ah, earth to Matt. Hey Mr. Anchorman, it was in all the papers that the union sold its soul to keep the industry afloat. The governor hit it out of the park reminding him that an "unprecedented contract" was just approved including "off-loaded health care costs" and other major concessions from the union. And what interview with Jennifer Granholm would be complete without "The" question so Lauer joined a long line of journalists who tried but drilled a dry hole. "Your name has been mentioned for a cabinet post, are your interested?" She noted that she could be a "tremendous partner" to the new president on the ground as governor and she concluded, I'd be honored to be a partner." "I think that's an answer," Lauer reflected while the governor flashed her patented smile and said nothing more.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Head For The Middle, Not The Right
Elections are won in the moderate middle of the political spectrum. Just ask Barack Obama and if Michigan republicans are smart, they will realize "moderate" is not a four-letter word. In the wake of that blood bath at the polls last Tuesday there are all sorts of rumblings about what the GOP should do. Maybe it's time for new chairman? But the guy who runs the state senate, Oakland County's Mike Bishop, is standing four square behind Saul Anuzis. "This is not about one person," opines Mr. Bishop. Oh yeah, the badly needed soul searching in the Michigan GOP should go much deeper than that. Nonetheless there are eight names on a list to maybe challenge the Saul-ster. Just look at the numbers. The president-elect amassed an impressive 21-point victory over his opponent with moderate voters. His 60%-39% edge speaks volumes about why the GOP lost in Oakland County, why it lost nine seats in the Michigan House and why it will continue down that path unless there is a recalibration. There are very few Milliken moderates who are still breathing as that coalition that former Gov. Bill Milliken adroitly assembled in the 70's was blown to smithereens by John Engler, Dick Headlee, and their conservative pals. For a time the anti-Milliken cabal worked. It didn't last Tuesday. In tough economic times fewer voters worry about gay marriage, abortion, and other divisive wedge issues. Sure the red meat and right wing element of the GOP still salivates on those issues, but you can't win elections with them and them alone. The young voters, African Americans, Hispanics, and independent pro-choice women who decided the election want nothing to do with far right rhetoric. Oakland County GOP honcho L. Brooks Patterson talks about the Taliban wing of the party and he realizes they deserve a voice but should not be the most dominant voice. But despite what happened last week, the right-wingers are not giving up. "The reason we lost was not because we needed to be more moderate. We needed to be more conservative." That from one of the guys who wants to be GOP chair. For him and others the sensible middle is a four-letter word.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Somebody Was Sleeping
Every election has one and unfortunately for Cliff Taylor he was the one this time. There is always one contest that rocks the political establishment because no one thought he or she would lose. It's been a long time since a sitting justice on the State Supreme Court has been convicted by the voters with this harsh verdict: Taylor 39% and Diane Hathaway 49%. It was not exactly a cliffhanger. So the obvious question is, how did Mr. Taylor end-up in the unemployment line? Let us count the ways. Nobody knew who Hathaway was yet the Michigan Chamber of Commerce plastered her picture all over its TV commercials thus violating the first rule of campaigning i.e. don't do anything that might help your opponent. We may never know, but the "sleeper" commercial may have helped, as well. Taylor claims he never dozed off on the bench but a woman in the democratic commercial claims he did. A classic he said, she said battle of words and Taylor did not have the last word; the voters did. On top of that whenever the democrats passed out literature about Barack Obama, they neatly included Hathaway's picture and brief bio, too. Hathaway also had a God given advantage: her gender and her name. Being a female candidate in the Supreme Court race is worth about 7% of the vote because many pick a woman just because she is one. Plus the Hathaway name is a good judicial moniker in the tri county area. It's not up there with the Kelly's and the Cavanaugh's, but it ain't bad and she just proved it. And a final insult, Taylor outspent her on the tube but he could have spent more but never ran an ad refuting the sleeping charge. Somebody on his campaign was asleep to make that rookie miscue.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
R's: Que Pasa?
Final score: Passion-1 and John McCain-zero.
You could feel it. The Democrats had passion and showed up
at the polls in huge numbers to prove it, and while the McCain
supporters liked their guy, they did not have the "P" word and sort
of ho-hummed him into the loss column.
The hand writing for this was on the wall. All you had to
do was look at the crowds each candidate attracted. Obama with his
rock star persona waltzed onto the stage in one venue after another
and the crowd went nuts. McCain took the podium and got applause but
the contrast was striking. It wasn't until the hockey mom showed up
that the noise and excitement meter went up a couple of notches only
to falter after most voters figured out she was not ready for prime
Of course, the McCain loss went deeper than passion. It
looks like he had the whole deck stacked against him: George B. Bush,
a rotten economy, the Wall Street crash, his economic blueprint
looked tattered and worn, and of course he was up against the agent
of change, Barack Obama.
As Republicans wake up to a splitting political headache,
they now have a chance to open a much needed discussion on where this
state and national party is headed. Obviously the old playbook of tax
cuts, wedge issues such as gay marriage, and fiscal responsibility
are not making it.
In fact, the GOP brand on balancing the budget was destroyed
by the soon to be ex-prez "W" who hands over to Mr.Obama a staggering
sea of red ink.
Meanwhile, having successfully navigated a grueling campaign,
the president-elect now confronts and even greater challenge: Governing.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Political World Series
Sports fans had their World Series last week. Now, it's time for the political junkies to have theirs.
The pundits who live for this stuff will have oodles of stuff to sift.
Item: The college vote. Back in 2000 when Al Gore had a really good shot at beating the Governor of Texas... what was his name?, only 40% of the college kids bothered to vote. Four years later the number increased to 49% but still well below the rest of the adult voting population.
This year, the college gang attended free rock concerts, they stuffed mailers, went door to door, but John McCain is hoping at this very moment that the enthusiasm ended there and that the majority of college kids will burn a sofa instead of voting.
Item: Voting irregularities. There will be election stories on alleged illegal voting. The R's will blast the D's for trying to steal the election by voting dead persons and the D's will accuse the R's of intimidating voters at the polls. How bad will it get this year?
Item: Female voters. As a rule, female voters determine elections. They vote in higher numbers; they tend to more attune to the issues than their male counterparts, many of whom decide the election based on which candidate would make a good drinking buddy.
Item: Gut vs. brains and experience. It's a personal theory but the case can be made that voters increasingly are voting from their gut on how they "feel" about the candidate. (See beer drinking above.) Experience, which once was the major factor in a contest, has lost its influence. If experience counted it would be Hillary Clinton against John MCain, but it's not.
And if experience really counted John McCain would be ahead in the polls.
Tune in after the vote for the analysis on all these items.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Blame Big John
If the prognosticators are right and we see a record turn out at the polls this week, the question is, how long are you willing to stand in line?And while you are shuffling your feet back and forth you're going to wonder why Michigan doesn't have early voting when 30 some states do.
Darn good question, and here's the darn good answer.
Allowing early voting is an election reform and Michigan's record on election reform is pretty awful thanks to republicans. Going back to Secretary of State Candice Miller, over six years ago, she advocated for no-reason absentee voting. Currently only a handful of citizens can legally vote early through an antiquated absentee voting system. But republican Miller and her successor Terri Lynn Land failed at convincing enough GOP lawmakers to cough up the votes to extend the option to everyone. Blame former Gov. John Engler. When he ruled the roost, he refused to give his blessing. The fear was not grounded in some high-minded philosophical argument, but in crass politics instead. Engler figured there were more democrats in this state and if you allowed more citizens to vote, do the math, more republicans would lose. So he sat on the reforms and even though he is not in town anymore, other R's have taken up his mantra and blocked each and every attempt to revamp the system.
Maybe if enough citizens are stuck in line this week, maybe they will get on the horn and pressure those republicans to do the right thing.
Don't hold your breath!
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Using the Auto Issue
The state GOP chairman says the meltdown in the U.S. auto industry is "irrelevant" as a campaign issue. Saul Anuzis has it wrong. This mess is a textbook opportunity for somebody to exploit to win votes. And that somebody is not John McCain. It did not start out that way as Barack Obama, on his first foray into Detroit, blasted the auto industry for not moving fast enough to clean up their polluting fleet. Since then he's done a nice pivot to sound more helpful if not sympathetic to the unfolding merger melodrama. McCain has been a Johnny come lately. Yes he has supported a $25 billion industry loan but he has not embraced more aid to facilitate a merger. He's in a wait and see mode. It's not the first time he's been there. When GM announced for the first time that it was in deep trouble. The Obama team notified a Detroit TV station that it would arrange an interview in D.C. if the station could get a camera to the candidate. The station did and ran an Obama comment. The station notified the McCain camp that it wanted a statement too. Nobody at the local level could make that decision without an O.K. from the top of the campaign. It looked like McCain would not appear on camera until the station revealed that Obama would. Then and only then, did the McCain folks move into high gear. The auto industry chaos presents that perfect Bill Clinton moment where the two candidates can say they feel Detroit and Michigan's pain and then prescribe an elixir. This past week at the apex of the GM-Chrysler merger stuff, both candidates weighted in. Their remarks were similar but you judge which statement resonated louder with voters in Michigan where the merger could cost thousands of jobs. McCain told ABC's "Good Morning America," he "would do whatever I think needed to be done to help out the auto industry." Good line. Obama noted that he "immediately" would meet with the leaders to chart a course. A better line. From a purely political standpoint, the car story has been ripe for picking but it appears only one candidate has consistently plucked it for his own benefit.