Friday, November 14, 2008

Analysis: Michigan

The 2008 election results in Michigan were bleak for Republicans.

Election Results:
President, US Senate, US House
Michigan House of Representatives
Ballot Propositions, Ed Boards, Judiciary

Barack Obama carried the state with 57% of the vote to 41% for John McCain. McCain's decision to pull out of Michigan was the right one, but the way it was handled was terrible. Republicans hoped that voters would blame democrats for Michigan's economic troubles, but this didn't happen.

Carl Levin defeated Jack Hoogendyk by 63% to 34%. Levin remains quite popular in Michigan, thanks in part to plenty of favorable media coverage. Jack was outspent something like 20:1. If he could have gotten out the message that Levin supported the bailout, amnesty, and gun control, this election might have been a lot closer. But that would have taken many millions of dollars.

Congressman Fred Upton won a clear victory over Don Cooney in the 6th congressional district. His margin was 59% to 39%, which is down a few points from previous elections.

Congressman Tim Walberg lost to Mark Schauer by a narrow 49% to 46% margin in the 7th congressional district. Walberg won the three southern tier counties, but lost the other four counties in his district. Walberg ran a strong campaign, hitting Schauer on taxes and illegal immigration, but it just wasn't enough. The national environment and lingering resentment from a bitter 2006 primary with Joe Schwarz, who endorsed Schauer, were too much to overcome. It is notable that of the seven state representative seats in the 7th congressional district, five will be held by democrats.

Congressman Joe Knollenberg lost to Gary Peters by a significant 52% to 43% margin in the 9th district. His Oakland County district has been trending democrat. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter won by a relatively narrow 51% to 45% margin in the 11th district. Expect him to be a top democrat target in two years. The Republican challenger to Carolyn Kilpatrick got 19% of the vote in her Detroit-based 13th district, indicating that there was an anti-Kilpatrick vote.

One of the most painful losses for Michigan was the loss of Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Cliff Taylor to liberal democrat Diane Hathaway. This race is covered in a separate post.

Republicans were wiped out in the education board races, which are mainly decided by party identification. The Republican who did best was Scott Romney, but even he lost by 3% (or 6%, depending on whether you use the percentage of total votes on the percentage of voters supporting each candidate).

Proposal 1, to legalize medical marijuana passed 63% to 37%. This is no surprise, as similar proposals have passed practically everywhere they have been on the ballot. The opposition was not particularly well-organized or effective.

Proposal 2, to legalize the destruction of human embryos for research, passed 53% to 47%. Both supporters and opponents spent a lot of money on this proposal. So why did it pass? The main argument for embryo destruction is that it will save a lot of lives. Supporters made this argument, and opponents never effectively rebutted it. Instead they argued that the proposal would lead to taxpayer funding and ran ads at least implying that the proposal itself would do this. But most people would support taxpayer funding for research if would save lots of lives.

Opponents also implying that bad things would happen if the proposal passed. Scaring people is sometimes an effective strategy, but you're going to do this, you have to be specific. The ads they ran were vague. Opponents should have spent less on computer graphics and more on developing a clear message.

Republicans lost nine seats in the Michigan House of Representatives. All nine were open seats which were vacated due to term limits (except one where the Republican left to pursue another office). The seats were spread across the state, in the Grosse Pointes, Canton, St. Claire Shores, northern Macomb County, West Bloomfield, Calhoun County, Montcalm County, the northwest lower peninsula, and the central upper peninsula. Most of them probably would have gone democratic in 2006 had they been open.

The legislators who voted to raise taxes in 2007 did not pay a political price at the ballot box. Speaker Andy Dillon was overwhelmingly reelected and the recall against him was defeated. The national anti-Republican tide hit Michigan hard, and McCain's pullout of Michigan hurt Republican efforts at the local level. Voters clearly blamed Bush for the bad economy, despite Michigan's single-state recession coming long before the current national economic troubles.

Were there any bright spots in Michigan's election results? Well, a gay rights-supporting Granholm-appointed judge in Allegan County was defeated by a conservative challenger. That's all that comes to mind.

Will democrats ever pay a price for their misrule of Michigan? Perhaps in 2010.

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