Blogs > Skoop's Blog

In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

DJ on High Court

When's the last time, a disc jockey got a seat on the Michigan
Supreme Court?
Don't bother scrambling for the the history books, the answer is
Say hello to Alton Thomas Davis the former appeals court judge
from up North. Last week in a stunner of an announcement, former
Justice Betty Weaver finally resigned from the high court and worked
her magic with Governor Granholm to get Davis the job.
But here's a chance to impress your family and friends. In a
moment you will know his unusual air name when he play records, your
remember records don't you, on an FM station in Petoskey years ago.
Tom Davis was attending college and doing a bang up job on the
debate team. A wealthy business man had just purchased a 50,000 watt
FM station and was scurrying around for a disc jockey. He called the
college and asked for somebody who could talk on the radio.
Davis filled the bill and found himself in front of a microphone
for the first time.
Now back then, being on an FM station is not what it is today.
Most folks did not have the FM ban on their radios and AM ruled the
world. Davis figured that out as he often wondered, "Is anybody out
there listening."
Nonetheless, he did so well that the boss promoted him, if you can
call this a promotion. He got to anchor, what they affectionately
refer to as the grave yard shift from midnight to 6 a.m. each night
What kind of music did you play? he was asked.
"Anything I liked (and) early in the morning I played music for the
farmers and the cows," he gives out a hearty laugh.
Being the top jock in that time slot finally gave way to his desire
to practice the law and thus ended his show biz career.
But the "Red Baron" will go down in history as the first radio
announcer to find his way to the state's highest court and now, as Paul
Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.

Monday, August 30, 2010

No Gov't Shutdown

Put away those thoughts of another government shutdown. The
word is key negotiators as early as Tuesday could finalize a tentative
budget agreement that could clear the way for legislative conference
committees to pass their bills in plenty of time to meet the October
first-shutdown deadline.
Talks between the governor's office and the two legislative
leaders and their staffs have progress to the point where only a
handful of budget issues remain. One of those is the liquor
distribution item that the governor proposed recently.
Bidding that out to net the state as much as $75 million is not
going to happen according to one source familiar with the talks. But
another liquor related item, if adopted in its place, could result in
about $37 million.
All of this is expected to come to a head with a supposed
resolution tomorrow. This source believes most of the department
budget targets are ready to go and all of this will be accomplished
without a tax hike.
Yes, Yes, you will believe it when you see it, but this source
is pretty good and
while it would be a better story to have a shutdown, in this political
year these guys
are not quite that stupid to let it happen.

Backstage at the D Convention

There are always two shows at any political convention namely what
seen by everyone and the other one unfolding backstage
where some really good stuff can be missed.
There was retired UAW President Ron Gettlefinger walking up the
aisle. The camera crew walked up looking for some instant analysis on
the convention. Turns out the usually talkative Gettlefinger declined
basically saying that was his replacement's assignment. "You
talked to Bob King?"
In the course of the off camera interview that followed, the 45-year
veteran of the auto workers labor movement reveals that a
publisher approached him about writing a book on those experiences.
Gettlebinger shot him down because the guts of the book would have been
what went on behind closed doors during all those delicate and
sometimes raucous labor talks. The former president could not bring
himself to tell all.
"What happens in the labor negotiations room, stays in the
negotiation room," he reflected.
Then there was the story concerning who was not there.
If you expected former House Speaker and defeated candidate for
governor Andy Dillon to show up, you expected wrong. He was a no-show
leaving some to wonder if he even wants a future in the state
Democratic Party? Privately he
and Bernero have talked about their differences on the campaign trail.
Other noticeable no-shows included the state's two U.S. Senators
Levin and Stabenow, Congressman Gary Peters, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing,
who did show up for a parade on Saturday, soon to be retired Congress
persons Bart Stupak and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.
Candidate Virg Bernero demonstrated his moxie as a consummate child
of politics after his Sunday speech.
When it came time for the "class picture" of Bernero and the other
candidates at the top of the ticket, David Leyton for Attorney General,
Jocelyn Benson for Secretary of State and his running mate Brenda
Lawrence dutifully showed up center stage. As you looked at them from
the audience it was Leyton on the far left, Benson, Lawrence and on the
end Mr. Bernero.
Shortly after the cameras started clicking, Bernero leaned over to
Lawrence and whispered in her ear and then he neatly walked in front of
her and positioned himself, not her, in the center of the photo opt
where the governor candidate always stands.
Smooth move and the right one, too.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Conventions: Two Faces

With apologies to rock and roller Lou Cristy who sang, "Two
Faces Have I", there are two faces to every political conventions. The
first is the one the political operatives orchestrate for the best
possible message about the candidate for governor. They call it image
And there was plenty of that in Detroit over the weekend as the
State Democrats launched their 2010 ticket.
Candidate Virg Bernero entered the arena to the strains of
Gonna Fly Now from the motion picture Rocky. If you got the connection
that the Virg was a fighter, the image makers would be smiling.
But there's face number two that the handlers are not so anxious
to promote because it removes some of the sheen from their image
In Detroit that can be summed up in one word: Anxiety.
Be certain here, nobody has tossed in the towel on Rocky..err
Mr. Bernero but there is an under current. Some fear he might not do
well which could adversely impact the rest of the ticket.
Several folks would talk about that angle but if you reached for
the microphone or TV camera, they tightened up like a New England clam
One Democrat was especially good at dancing around the elephant,
or should one say, donkey in the room.
Rep. Woodrow Stanley (D-Flint) wants to be Speaker of the House
and as such he is closely monitoring all of his colleagues who are
running for reelection.
To be blunt, if Bernero tanks, those House D's could be in
trouble especially those in districts where the Republicans have a shot
at winning. Stanley, to his credit, conceded the point but quickly
added he does not expect that to happen.
And others were in the same boat.
But then there was Rep. Bert Johnson (D-Detroit.) He did not
waffle. He said Mr. Bernero has 30 days to prove he can cut into the
lead of Republican Rick Snyder.
If that does not happen, it's every man for himself.
State Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer disagrees with Mr.
Johnson. Naturally.
See why they want to keep a mask on that face?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

And Their Off!

One week before the official Labor Day launch, both candidates for
governor got off to an early start at their respective party
But nothing is ever easy.
The Tea Party crowd shook things with a head-fake toward blocking
Snyder's running mate from becoming his running mate.
"This is our decision," bemoaned a T.P. loyalist as she felt a
little bit like the Brian Calley nomination was being jammed down her
throat by the Rick Snyder crowd.
During a mini revolt on the GOP convention floor, the tea pots
over boiled demanding a roll call vote to install one of their own as
the L.G.
But the showdown was averted when that candidate withdrew and got
pats on the head from the "GOP establishment" and boos from the other
T.P.-ers for caving in.
To his credit, Sndyer did not sign off when that same
"establishment" came to him the night before to kill the debate before
it began. He said he favored the "dialogue which is part of the
Meanwhile in Detroit where the D's were piecing together their
ticket of Virg Bernero and Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, there was
some muted grumbling in a small segment of the labor movement, composed
of mostly African-American union guys who felt the Lawrence pick was
"not good enough."
It's not the kind of send-off the Bernero ticket needs as he
begins a steep climb to chip away at Snyder's 22-point lead.
If this was a contest over one-liners however, it would be Bernero
mopping up the floor with the nerd.
"Michigan does not need a CEO, a chief executive outsourcer," he
blurted out to a round of laughter and applause and then winked with a
smile of his own.
The CEO line is apparently here to stay as Bernero staffers showed
up with T-shirts with the same slogan.
Informed of the new one liner, true to form, Snyder just laughed
as he once more refused to take the bait.
Onto November.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inside Out

The Snyder insider revealed the strategy about six weeks ago
and this week the candidate confirmed it. He indeed picked a
legislator with hands on experience, which Mr. Snyder lacks, to be his
running "partner" .
In fact without knowing it, Mr. Snyder underscored that point
when he noted that Rep.Brian Calley "can hit the ground running on Day
Mr. Snyder can not say the same thing about himself since he is
the consummate political outsider.
At some point somebody is going to ask, which is it?
If the GOP candidate for governor wants somebody who has Day
One credentials, why wouldn't the voters wonder why the guy at the top
of the ticket doesn't have the same resume?
Ken Sikkema, the former GOP leader and a Republican who was on
the list for Lt. Governor himself, warned about picking insiders for
the Snyder team.
He says it is all about "branding" and by going inside, Sikkema
figures, Snyder runs the risk of taking the pop out of his outsider
brand that was so popular with Snyder voters on August 3.
And that's the way Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer sees it as
he clobbered the Calley choice as the insider who has ties to the
established power hierarchy at the Capitol.
So which is it?
But Mr. Brewer can not have it both ways either. He's got a
candidate who ran from the outside against insider and House Speaker
Andy Dillon. But remember Virg Benero is a child of the legislative
process and has been on that career path from the first day he cracked
a book at Albion College.
Since he does not need an insider to get the job done on Day
One, Bernero is looking for an outsider to balance the ticket that way.
At the end of the day, however, it's unlikely that voters will
pick a candidate for governor based on their side-kick's credentials…in
or out of government.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thanks But No Thanks

Mike Bouchard for L.G. Why not. He's run for everything else so
why not lt. governor with the Rick-ster.
For a time on Tuesday, the Bouchard as running mate for Rick Snyder
sucked up a ton of oxygen in this town.
"He's in the mix," was the word from two reliable GOP sources.
Prior to the August primary, it was known that the Ann Arbor
business guy was looking for a current or former legislator to balance
out the ticket. One guy with zilch experience at the top and someone
with a bunch in the governor-in-waiting slot.
Bouchard brought that experience to the table. He served in the
house, served as GOP floor leader in the senate and amassed a fairly
impressive record.
But as the name Bouchard buzzed around the capitol on Tuesday,
part of the buzz was, he had to be convinced to take it.
Put another way, he didn't want the job and had to be "worked" on
by Snyder supporters to say yes.
One would have to ask why give up a nice job as the top cop in the
state's most affluent county, take a pay cut, be second in command and
not first, give up the chopper, armored car and a plethora of
underlings all snapping to attention when you pass by?
And then there was the daily grind of driving to Lansing three
days a week or more just to ride herd on the Michigan Senate. The job
is a glorified traffic cop, which Bouchard knew how to do.
If you added up the pluses and minus, you can readily see why he
might need to be convinced this was a good career move.
Apparently Bouchard ran the same calculus and came up with zero.
Late Wednesday night he issued a terse one paragraph statement
which amounted to, thanks but no thanks.
With Bouchard out, Snyder turned to Brian Calley for his running
Brian who?
Nobody would have said Mike who, had the sheriff said yes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another Hail Mary

It appears that Mike Bishop is picking up where his buddy from
Oakland County, Mike Bouchard, left off with the Hail Mary passes.
In an 11th hour and last desperation gasp to jump start his sagging
campaign for governor, Bouchard reversed field and went full bore on
the Right to Work issue. It failed to be right or work.
Now comes GOP Attorney General candidate Mike Bishop with his rather
transparent attempt to squeeze some badly needed political juice out of
the Arizona immigration mess. This comes on the eve of the state GOP
convention where another A.G. contender Bill Schuette says he's fixin'
to wup Mr. Bishop.
Bishop, dropping into the back field, ala Bouchard, and on behalf of
the senate GOP caucus, has filed a brief to join the Arizona law suit
against the Obama administration as it attempts to nip this law in the
Can you say pandering?
Mr. Bishop can't and won't as he sees this as totally appropriate
since Michigan has borders with a foreign country. Never mind that not
one soul in this state has make any noises about Michigan facing the
same kind of "illegal" problems similar to Arizona. But then don't let
the facts get in the way of a good pander.
Bishop's political brain trust saw an opportunity and seized it.
As for it's impact on Bishop's candidacy, we'll know the outcome of
that this weekend.
Anyway it got him some free media attention and underscored his
ultra-conservative credentials especially with the Tap Party crowd and
it just might work…if some of those disgruntled Arizona residents show
up at the Breslin Center this weekend to vote for their guy Mike.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Snatching Defeat, etc.

With all due respects to the anti-government cabal out there, and you know who you are, there will not be a shutdown of state government on October one. Nope, sorry.
The governor has crafted an ingenious method to erase a $700 million deficit for this year and next and the Republicans are gloating and smiling in approval.
How’s that?
She has quietly cried uncle on trying to raise any kind of tax or fee to get the job done.
Recall that the governor steadfastly held to the notion that state services had been slashed enough and she favored a sales tax on services to raise some new moola.
The more she pushed, the more the GOP leaders pushed back and they have won.
Asked about crying uncle on the issue, the governor glibly retorted, “I’m not crying about anything…”
She and budget director Bob Emerson have laid on the table a variety of budget balancing gimmicks which are “not in anybody’s face” as Emerson noted the other day. And when he made his pitch to GOP budget writers, “the response was positive” he reports.
Now, there will be little scrimmages here and there on spending priorities, but that’s normal. But minus a draconian scrum over raising taxes, which caused the last major shutdown years ago, it should relatively clear sailing to put this puppy to bed.
Work begins in earnest next week, so they say.
Please disregard this blog however, if some how, they find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on September 30th.

Rumor Mill in Overdrive

If you expunged all the rumors out of state government, there would be nothing to talk about.
For weeks, the ranks of state civil servants have been awash in emails back and forth asserting that there is an early retirement deal.
Oh my. This is like manna from heaven for the thousands of state workers who have had it up to here on slashing their benefits and salaries: they just want to get out of Dodge and be done with it.
But before they get on that horse, they would like a little sweetener. Translated: If you fatten my retirement check, I will leave.
So far the only thing that has been enlarged is the speculation that the deal has been struck.
“No, there is no deal,” House Speaker Andy Dillon poked a hole in that balloon the other day.
Ditto from Governor Granholm and her budget guru, Bobby Emerson.
But, all three are counting on delivering a deal because they need the $100 million in supposed savings that would result if the senior and most expensive members of the state work force took a hike.
Dillon is engaged in what appears to be constructive talks with some state government labor leaders. “I’ve been meeting with labor to see, “If you don’t like this, than what?” I haven’t seen “what” yet.”
The governor says everyday that slips by, it is tougher to raise the $100 million.
Now for those of you who benefit from state services, you have to be asking what impact does an early out have on me?
After all if all the senior prison guards and those who dole out unemployment checks leave, where does that leave you?
Not to worry. Even though they might head to Florida where half of Michigan now resides, the governor says she will replace “critical” workers which will keep you out of harms way.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New State Slogan

Michigan already has a slogan about seeking a pleasant peninsula,
but the Michigan legislature should adopt another one: Why do today,
what you can do tomorrow?
Fixated on getting re-elected, most of the state's 148 legislators
abandoned the people's business to take care of their own business this
Since July 4th, they've done virtually zippo to adopt a new state
budget and here we sit with Labor Day's shadow in view, and they are
just now getting down to business.
"I see no sense of urgency," lamented the state budget director the
other day. Bob Emerson confirms that nothing was done on the budget
this summer but putting on his happy face he opines, "There is no
reason for us not to get this finished. This is a fairly easy thing."
Lansing doesn't do easy. If it did, the budget would have been
wrapped on on July 1st which is the target date the governor set last
The governor was asked to grade the legislative budget "homework"
to date and she dropped back five yards and punted. "You know I don't
like to give grades (especially if it's an F) but it's an incomplete
right now."
No kidding.
But alas, the governor now has a budget reduction plan that she's
been fine tuning all summer and there is a window of opportunity to get
this job done and since it does not have a tax hike in it, the GOP
leadership is all smiles.
However first things first. There are two political conventions
at the end of the month where all the pols rub elbows and try to grease
their way towards reelection. After all that is Job One and there's
plenty of time to meet the deadline of October first for finishing the
Cue the new state slogan.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Tortiose and the Hare

The Rick Snyder for Governor bunch has taken umbrage to the steady
drip of stories about his supposed "problems" with the
ultra-conservative base of the state Republican Party.
What about Virg Bernero's problems within his own party? the Snyder
folks wonder out loud.
Yeah. What about it?
Currently, the Democratic nominee is winning only in Detroit and
Snyder takes the rest of the state. The last time a Democratic running
for governor won with Detroit only was way back in…
Well…. way back NEVER!
If the current trend holds up, and Bernero assures everyone it
will not, Bernero would be toast. You can't get into the governor's
seat if you rely on the Detroit vote. Take that to the bank.
Bernero does have his work cut out for him. He is only beating
Snyder in the labor vote by three lousy points. The Lansing Mayor will
need more than that.
Snyder cobbled together an interesting coalition of independent
and some cross-over democrats to beat the other four career politicians
in the GOP field. He did not garner most of those democrats as
previously reported as some actually voted for other Republicans in
that primary.
Bernero must broaden his appeal to include those independent
voters who right now are going 2:1 for Snyder.
"I'm use to being the underdog,' Bernero likes to gloat and if you
underestimate his tenacity and energy, you do so at your own risk.
The Snyder team is sitting fat and sassy and even though he has
some fence mending to do with those ultra conservatives, it does not
have the same deficit that Bernero faces as he tries to catch up to the
Bernero must be thinking "Tortoise and the Hare."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

He Said and He Agreed

The caller on the other end of the line had just seen Pete
Hoekstrs on the tube as he thrashed Michigan Right to Life for costing
him the GOP nomination for governor. Hoekstra called for the firing of
the RTL President Barb Listing because she engineered the group's
endorsement for Mike Cox.
"He's a whiner," complained this unnamed political source. "Why
don't you call a guy like Rep. Ken Horn for a different take on the
Hey, it's always a good idea to provide some balance especially
if somebody felt Hoekstra really was a twit for complaining.
So much for that.
Rep. Horn out of Saginaw reports the Hoekstra's comments were
"spot on."
"I was very disappointed in Right to Life (and) was scratching my
head" as to why they went with Cox," who finished third in the
five-person race.
Hoesktra in that Public TV interview noted that RTL had lost
credibility and Horn agrees with that, too.
He says every group has a "credibility pool" and when a mistake
is made you dip into it to restore your standing. In this case, the
anti-abortion lawmaker concludes, "Their credibility pool has been
sucked dry."
As for removing Ms. Listing from office, Horn first says, "I'm
not sure I'd endorse that idea," but then he sort of warms to the
subject suggesting that "Something dramatic has to happen" to correct
the "terrible mistake" that was made.
"Somebody's head has to roll…I wouldn't be surprised if that
happened. It's not up to me to say," he argues.
Now the bigger question is, do Mr. Horn and Mr. Hoekstra reflect
a sentiment that is deeper than the two of them? And if so, is Ms.
Listing in trouble?
Someone from her side of the story dismisses Hoekstra's comments
as "sour grapes" based on the fact that he ran a lousy campaign.
Democrats must be lovin' this..a fracture in the GOP power base.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Can't You Guys Get Along?

Can't these two agree on anything?
When and if Gov. Jennifer Granholm writes her book on running the
she has to devote at least one chapter to Mike Bishop. About the only
thing she and the GOP senate leader have in common is a mole on their
Actually she could get several chapters out their contentious,
sometimes childish, and sometimes unproductive relationship and here's
the latest example of same, concerning the third round of federal
bail-out money.
Just in the nick of time, the President and Congress, sans many
GOPers, rode into town with a fat check of $660 million for schools and
health care for the needy.
That comes pretty close to covering the state's projected deficit
and was seen by the governor as manna from you-know-where. Not her
buddy Bishop.
He has staked out this stance: Let's make more cuts to eradicate
the budget hole. He wants to figure out "how to exist without that
federal money period. I want to put the cut list on the table."
The governor would rather not cut more services. She's been
cutting for eight solid years and her cutting axe is getting dull.
But the Oakland County Republican is thinking long term. He
advocates for making more cuts to eliminate long term state spending
which the state can't afford better known as the beloved "structural
Sensing that his attitude was not winning raved reviews from both
D's and R's, most of whom are running for reelection this fall,
Bishop's office has done a little back-peddling. A spokesperson says
Bishop's statement was "philosophical.'
Which is legislative code for, I ain't going to win this fight,
but will go down for the count, before the other side wins.
Maybe she will send him a thank you note for not blocking the
federal aid?
Right. And the Tigs are on their way to the World Series, too.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Show or Work Horse

Besides losing in the race for the GOP nomination for governor,
candidates Mike Bouchard and Tom George share something else. After
months of campaigning, their support never budged an inch.
Senator George is now known as "2%-Tom" and his side kick Mr.
Bouchard forever will be tagged with "10%, give or take a point, Mike."
So how could the popular Sheriff of Oakland County fail to move the
Let us count the ways.
Late start. While the others in the field were moving into high
gear, Mr. Bouchard, because of political protocol, sat on the sidelines
to give his buddy L. Brooks Patterson plenty of room to decide if he
would run.
As the clock ticked, candidate Mike Cox swooped into Oakland County
and vacuumed up most of the money that Bouchard needed if he ran. And
by the time L. Brooks bowed out, Bouchard was hoping the Oakland County
mega funders would abandon Cox and come home.
Bouchard is still waiting.
He did do something unique. He picked a running mate right out of
the gate. Problem is Terri Lynn Land did not produce the energy,
excitement and umpth on the west side of the state where she was going
to cut into the lead held by fellow west Michigan guy Pete Hoekstra.
She did not. Call it a dud.
Where's Mike?
That was a common theme in the political press corps. Was he
getting around the state to work the party conservative base? Where
were his TV ads?
When he finally popped the first one, folks in this town went,
"What the heck was that???"
It was the sheriff standing next to a vending machine. Was he
trying to swipe a candy bar, trying to fix the thing, or exactly what
was the message? It was not a good launch.
To be fair, he did very well in the debates. He was engaging,
funny, showed a deep command of the issues and you could see him being
governor. But that failed to move the numbers, too. Seeing that indeed
he was stuck in the mud at 10-12% in the polls, the sheriff moved into
his Hail Mary phase of the campaign.
There was the "Right to Work" commercial. Nicely done by the
performer/candidate but it didn't work.
In the end, there was some talk that he might do something really
bold over the last weekend of the race i.e. drop out and shift his
support to somebody else.
That would have been a nifty move, but remember at the end of the
game, the Bouchard camp was touting it's internal polls that he was
going to win.
Maybe the tag, Mike is a show horse and not a work horse really says
it all?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Um's and Ah's

The popular wisdom suggests that the GOP candidate for governor
has some major fence mending to conduct if he is going to bring ultra
conservative and Right to Life voters back into the fold.
You can see how the popular wisdom crowd reaches that
conclusion: 50% of the Republicans who voted last week rejected Snyder.
There was just a hint of that in the Michigan Senate where a
one-of-its-kind survey was done this week. 18 of the 22 GOP senators
was asked if they now supported Snyder since they voted for somebody
15 were ready to sign up pronto.
"Sure. I think Rick Snyder is a good guy," opined Sen. Mike
Nofs of Battle Creek.
"Sure," echoes one of the more senior members of the senate GOP
club. Sen. Ron Jelinek of Three Oaks.
Senate GOP leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) falls in line
noting, "I've already endorsed Rick Snyder. It's time to bring in an
outside person."
But then there is a minority view which may be reflective of
the 14% of statewide Republicans who are not supporting Snyder at this
early stage.
Take Algonac Senator Jud Gilbert. Asked if he backed Snyder on
camera, he paused: "Um, I guess I'd like to hear a little bit more
about him. Um, I think at the end of the day, I'll certainly, ah, be a
supporter of his."
Why all the "um's" and "ah's"?
"I'd like to hear his position on life explained a little more
clearer," he explains.
Grand Rapids Senator Bill Hardiman is out of the same pro-life
mold and wants to chat with Snyder about that issue, too.
And Sen. Wayne Kuipers (R-West Michigan) expects to be on board
as does Haridman but was asked if he was comfortable with Snyder?
First a pause and then another, "Um. Yes. I know there's been
some questions on the life issue which is a little troublesome."
Kuipers wants to talk with Snyder as well.
Multiply those three senators by, who knows how many other
Republicans like them, and Mr. S. has some work to do even though he
says he is anti-abortion.
Now those who have questions won't vote for the Democratic
nominee, the pro-choice Virg Bernero. But they do have another option
i.e. not voting.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Other Winners-Losers

In every election there is the winner and the loser. No duh. But
when it comes to the two major political parties there were other
winners and losers.
On the Republican side there were two dead bodies: Michigan Right
to Life and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
On the Democratic side, and breathing a huge sight of relief, were
organized labor, pro-choice groups, gay and lesbian factions and the
Greens all shouting for joy.
First the body count in the GOP.
In an ill-conceived strategy to play king-maker, the chamber and
RTL picked one guy from the GOP field and "anointed him." Mike Cox got
the endorsement of both powerful groups and he played if for all it was
worth which turned out to be worth third place in a five person race.
The chamber knew Mr. Cox had some baggage which need not be
reviewed here for the umpteenth time. Think "party."
But one insider concluded, we did not want to deny a guy the
endorsement based on a story that was no proven. While a noble
gesture, it defied convention wisdom: Cox might lose because of it.
The politically correct option for Right to Life was to endorse
Pete Hoekstra, Mike Bouchard, Tom George and Cox. But yet it appears
the temptation to play Big Shot trumped common sense and RTL, the
organization, sits here today no longer the 800 pound gorilla but a
mere shadow of its former self.
There is even chatter that Barb Listing the RTL President for Life,
may not have much of life left after this debacle.
Such is not the case on the D side where labor did what it had to
do. The boo-birds were ready to declare unions dead as a political
force if they had failed to put up for Virg Berner. He won going away
from Andy Dillon whose campaign got off to a rough start and got even
So the sub-text of the primary election beyond the candidates who
were winners and losers is: Democratic special interests-1 and the
Republican special interests-Goose Egg.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Down a Notch

Mr. and Mrs. Virg Bernero are scheduled to be the guests of Gov.
Jennifer Granholm and First Gentleman Dan Mulhern this week at the
executive "cottage" on Mackinac Island.
It's a good guess it may be the first time Virg Bernero and his
lovely spouse have been there and there are many Rick Snyder supporters
who figure, it will be the last time they will be there.
Of course the Energizer Bunny a.k.a. the Democratic nominee for
governor will have something to say about that and increasingly he is
being told how to say it.
"To continue to go after Rick in the very vitriolic way he's
doing, I don't think will play well with voters," suggests media
consultant Kelly Rossman.
Even though she backed the losing horse in the two-horse
Democratic primary for governor, Rossman of Lansing is a long time
backer and watcher of the Virg as he is affectionately known in town.
"He needs to bring it down a notch," she offers some more free
Of course this is in reference to the sometimes over-the-top
rhetoric that comes out of the mayor's mouth.
In fact there is a stark contrast between the intensity of his
campaign chatter vs the low-energy level expounded by Mr. Snyder.
And that contrast could become as issue. At least Rossman figures
it that way.
"Voters are really tired of bickering and nasty campaigns," she
asserts while stealing a line from the Snyder playbook. He says the
same thing adding that the "win-lose" nature of campaigns is bad for
politics and bad for the state.
He's onto something there as citizens are fed up with the
negativity that so often unfolds in political contests.
If those observers are correct, the question is will Mr. Bernero,
who will be on his best behavior as he measures the drapes at the
governor's summer cottage, take the advice and take it down a notch?
Betting money is, he will take it UP a notch instead.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mr. Dillon: Que Pasa?

Name all the things that went right in the Andy Dillon for
Governor campaign.
Ah, err, hum, gee, well, gosh, there must be something?
Yeah, his hair looked nice.
But everything else was, well let's be kind here, pretty ugly.
That's not kind, you're right, but the truth does hurt.
"We made a lot of little mistakes," conceded the Speaker of the
Mess, err, House.
(1) He mishandled the abortion issue.
(2) The independent vote, masterfully targeted by Dillon went to the
Nerd instead.
(3) He pulled a Mike Dukakis i.e. when attacked, instead of fighting
back, he clammed up.
(4) He never convinced the traditional democratic base that he was a
traditional democrat. Problem was, he wasn't and said so.
(5) He said he had the fire in th gut to run, but maybe he was the only
one saw the flames.
(6) His money raising skills were overrated.
(7) He assembled a cracker-jack team but that can only carry you so far.
(8) And finally his message of taking on the powers within his own
party when it was the right thing to do was a strong general election
notion but in a party where the powers to be are the powers to be, he
got whacked by the powers to be.
One is tempted to over play the abortion issue as the main culprit
in this Dillon loss. That may be too simple, but it had an impact.
The campaign made a head-fake to mute it by parading pro-choice
Senator Gilda Jacobs around the state to reassure everyone that Andy
might be pro-life but not to worry.
Gilda who?
What he should have done was go on camera, look into the lens and
say what he said on his web sight: "I will not turn the clock back."
He could have said, he had stood up to Right to Life on the stem cell
issue and could have forcibly made the case that pro-choice women need
not be afraid.
Instead, the campaign waited too long to respond and when it did,
nobody seem to hear it. Chalk one up for the Bernero side which played
the issue perfectly. Dillon? Not so much.
So what's next?
He does not end up on the ticket as the running mate with Rick
Snyder nor Bernero for that matter. How about State Treasurer Andy
Dillon? That could happen regardless of who wins. As for learning from
these avoidable miscues? He's probably done with elective politics.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Looks Good on Paper...But

On paper, it looks like a buffo deal to have Pete Hoekstra as the
running mate with Rick Snyder.
All the math adds up. Snyder needs west Michigan support as he
has no political base over there. Hoekstra: Check.
Snyder needs to shore up his standing with the Right to Life wing
of the party since it has decided not to endorse him. Hoekstra: Check.
Since Snyder saw 50% of the conservative vote go to somebody else
in the primary he needs to cattle call them back home. Hoekstra: Can
Snyder wants somebody who shares his vision and values: Hoekstra
has no problem with that.
The calculus works, but the paring will not.
No one will talk about this on the record, so you have to read the
tea leaves.
For openers, Hoekstra did not grow up wanting to be President of
the Michigan Senate. The daily routine consists of banging the gavel
at 10 a.m. to start the senate's day and two hours later, banging it
again to end it. In between the Lt. Governor plays traffic cop and
school principal to keep the noisy senators quiet.
Secondly, if Mr. Snyder brings the Chuck and John Yob family into
his inner circle after they helped him secure the GOP nomination, it's
a good bet Hoekstra wants nothing to do with them. The Yob image in the
party is a mixed bag and leans toward disdain in many quarters.
Hoekstra is not a big fan.
However if the Yobs are out and a new and more meaty job
description could be worked out for Hoekstra, he might be more
But doesn't look like that will happen.
There are no, repeat, no signals out of the victorious Snyder camp
that Hoekstra is in the mix for L.G. The silence is deafening and can
be heard all the way over in Holland where Hoekstra hangs out.
Likewise on the Hoekstra side of the equation. "I've not ruled
anything in our ruled anything out," he recites the typical boilerplate
line for those who might be under consideration. He's said nothing more.
He's not campaigning for the second spot on the ticket and that
suits the Snyder suits just fine.
Look for the soon to be former Congressman and former front runner
for the GOP nomination to bow out quietly and move to the private
sector after the first of the year.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Really Outside the Box

This is one smart cookie.
One of the candidates for governor may be poised to take a giant
step to reduce
the anxiety surrounding his candidacy.
The word in town on Rick Snyder, in some corners is: "He's not
one of us. He doesn't have the foggiest notion on how to "work"
Lansing. He will be like a fish out of water.
Snyder could argue that none of that stuff is true, but instead
he's poised to eliminate the chatter by surrounding himself with
assistants who can find the bathrooms in the capitol.
"You can say it is looking this way," a source gives the green
light to do this story.
Long before you go to the polls in November, the GOP nominee for
governor could reveal some of his key appointments. That would likely
include, for example, a Chief of Staff, a budget director, maybe a jobs
development honcho and who knows what else?
Snyder is coy and won't confirm any of this but he said on FOX2
the other morning "I wouldn't promise because that's a work in
progress." In fact it's been in the playbook from the get go as part
of his reinvent Michigan blueprint.
Voters are picking more than a governor when they vote. He or she
brings along a host of subordinates who often are the "hands-on"
"go-to" guys to move the levers of government on behalf of the
governor. Think Bob Bowman who did that for Gov. Jim Blanchard and
Jerry Miller who was "deputy governor" to the real one Bill Milliken.
But as with everything in politics there is a potential downside
to stepping out front like this. It could hurt his image as the
"outsider" which many voters bought. The reasoning goes, he convinced
the voters that he was not part of the Lansing cabal and the first
thing he does is go to the roster of Lansing insiders to help him run
the ship of state.
Can you say mixed message?
But the savvy Snyder brain trust has apparently done the calculus
on this and it looks like he will go there.
If he does it will turn this town on its ear, cause no one has
ever had the guts to do this before.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bad Blood

Anybody remember the old Neil Sedeka hit, "Bad Blood?"
You could use it to describe the current relationship between
former and defeated candidates for governor Pete Hoekstra and Mike Cox.
The West Michigan and wanna be governor is livid.
"They were ugly and misleading at best and totally untrue is a
better description of what they were," Hoekstra expounds the day after
he lost the election he was suppose to win.
His reference is to the $3 million in negative ads that Cox and
company used to tear down Fortress Hoekstra which was his base of
support on the west side of the state.
"It gives you a little bit of heart burn every morning," when you
see another attack from Cox, Right to Life and who knows who else,
Hoekstra observes.
Give Cox credit. He knew he had to dismantle that base and his
ads did just that. And at the get-go, Hoekstra's response was tepid at
best and downright lousy at worse. He spend $5,000 to refute the Cox
attack on Hoekstra for being a big spender in Congress.
But sinse the word of the day in the GOP family is "unity",
Hoekstra was asked if he was ready to forgive Cox for the assault.
Oh my. Mr. Hokestra struggled with that. First he cleared his
throat and than stammered just a tad and finally came up with, "Should
I forgive him? I'm not going there O.K? It was not fair play. It was
Mr. Cox was asked to check in on all this. "I was talking about
the issues,' he began his defense of his offensive slam at poor ole
In the spirit of party unity, don't you owe him an apology?
"Yeah, except there is not a problem that I'm aware of," he
Cox was informed that Hoekstra did have a problem and Cox said
he had not talked with his former opponent about it and then he
offered, "You're just trying to instigate."
Everybody sing, "Baaaaad Blood. Baaaad Blood."

Monday, August 2, 2010

Feeling Helpless

Most successful candidates are control freaks and that is
especially evident as you watch their campaigns. They control
everything and are in second heaven when they do.
That's why election day is so freaky for them. If they could,
they'd control the weather and close all the beaches and golf courses
so that you had nothing else to do but vote.
But they are not omnipotent which is why today is the worse day
in their lives. They are out of control and voters have it all.
Somebody get the Pepto-Bismol.
Sure they can make last minute phone calls, shake a few more
hands, and put on a confident mug for the cameras, but be assured, deep
inside, they are in turmoil because they have no authority over what
the voters will do to them.
They can't make you vote and they can't force you to vote for
Can you say helpless?
In addition to that inner turmoil, there is the mental anguish
as they might spend most of the day second guessing themselves.
Rick Snyder might ask him, maybe the nerd thing will backfire?
Mike Cox might wonder if he was too aggressive in the debates?
Pete Hoekstra might regret that he did not spend more on TV ads
early on when he was being attacked.
Mike Bouchard might hear a voice inside his head going, "Maybe
I should have used my daughter in more TV ads?"
And Tom George might regret that he never robbed a bank to get
more money for his under funded effort.
Democrats Andy Dillon and Virg Bernero will be wondering a lot
of "What if's?", too.
Everyone believes he is going to win but only two will,
leaving the rest to wonder, "What went wrong?"
And here's the sad part, as confirmed control freaks, they
will begin their quest for that answer, by looking in the mirror.

Two GOP Primaries for Gov.

It will not be listed this way on your ballot on Tuesday, but there
are two GOP races for governor going on: One involving Mr. Cox,
Hoekstra, Bouchard and George and the other features Mr. Snyder.
Say what?
In case you missed it, Rick Snyder is not the darling of the
conservative base of the state GOP. Oh sure, he will pick up some of
them, but the other four guys are way more conservative than the
semi-moderate business guy from A2.
He is saying in public that he wants independent and democrats to
cross over and support him. That is his primary.
That's why Snyder in recent days has let his little secret out of the
bag. He is adored by former moderate Gov. Bill Milliken and former GOP
moderate candidate for governor John Schwarz.
Snyder also supported the embryonic stem cell research ballot
proposal which is an anathema to the other four GOP contenders not to
mention Michigan Right to Life.
When asked for his position on abortion Snyder says he is
"pro-life." Think about it, who isn't pro-life per se? Does Snyder's
statement mean he is anti-abortion or a closet pro-choicer?
It's those kinds of doubts that slice into his hopes of winning the
majority of conservative GOP voters.
In fact let's be real blunt here. If this was a two horse race
between Mr. Snyder and pick one guy from the quartet that is running,
this contest would be over. Just like it was over when the
aforementioned Mr. Schwarz challenged Dick Posthumus for the GOP gov's
nomination in 2002 and lost by a country mile.
The only reason Snyder is competitive and could actually win it, is
that there are four other guys who will divide up the 57% of the
conservative vote while Snyder hopes to nail most of the 38% still left
in the party who are moderate or lean that way.
Can you do the math to get there?
But just remember that the last time a moderate GOP candidate for
governor won the party nomination in Michigan it was 1978…over 8,000
days ago.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Envelope Please

Before you pick the real winners on Tuesday, it's time for some
The envelope please.
Best Commercial Category: Rick Snyder's nerd commercial. It
captured everyone's attention, stimulated chatter all over the joint on
whether it was the right image to win the governor's race. It moved
him from Rick Who into a dead heat for the nomination.
Worst Yard Sign: Rick Snyder again. His "Rick Michigan" sign
defies all logic in political advertising. The guy's name is Snyder not
Michigan and every voter looking for Rick Michigan may or may not
figure out who the heck he is.
Best Strategy Concept: Pete Hoekstra with his Fortress Hoekstra
idea. He started the campaign with a strong base on the west side of
the state which is why opponents have tried to tear the fortress down
with a ton of anti-Hoesktra commercials. He's a dead duck if the fort
is dismantled. Second place also goes to the Holland guy. Five years
ago, long before he thought about running for governor, he landed on
the concept of appearing on FOX News as often as he could. It built his
name recognition with the very voters he now needs to send him to
Best Makeover and Teflon Candidate: Mike Cox. He went from an
aggressive Marine taking hill, to being a polite gentleman thanking the
moderator in one debate for every question that was asked. Internal
polling may have shown Marines are O.K. for storming beaches, but
female voters are
looking for Dudley Do-Right. And despite at the negative stuff tossed
at him, he's still standing.
Best Idea that Failed: Mike Bouchard. It looked brilliant picking
Terri Lynn Land as a running mate. It was a way to peck away at
Fortress Hoeksta given her strong roots on the West side of the state.
it will take a Hail Mary, not a Hail Terri, for him to pull this one
Makes the Most Sense Award: Tom George. He was the conscience of
the campaign sniping at others who over promised too many tax cuts
without enough cash to pay for them. He was spot on, responsible and
very Lt. Governor like.
The Can't Pull Trigger Award: Hands down. Andy Dillon. His
decision to actually run was two years in the making which fostered the
feeling that his heart was never in it. He disagrees.
The Head of the Curve/Gutsy Move Award: Virg Bernero. Long before
anybody had the nerve to say John Cherry could not get the democratic
nomination for governor, there was Virg mouthing off and getting it
right. Cherry dropped out leaving him to ponder, what if?