Sunday, August 01, 2021

Political Rules Are Made to be Broken

In a recent article, Bill Ballenger excoriates Governor Gretchen Whitmer's record, but concludes that she will be reelected.

Whitmer may be Michigan’s worst governor ever, but she’s still likely to be re-elected

Aside from the question of whether Rs will field a quality candidate, Ballenger's argument rests on a historical pattern.

And no incumbent governor in Michigan history, of either major party, has EVER been defeated when seeking election to a second four-year term. Yes, after Sigler, Democrat John Swainson lost to Romney in 1962, but those were in the days of two-year terms. Yes, Democrat Jim Blanchard lost in 1990 to Engler, but Blanchard had already WON a second four-year term. A 1990 win would have given him a THIRD term. Bill Milliken and Engler won all three times they ran for four-year terms. In fact, their first re-elections were by bigger margins than their initial wins. Ditto Granholm. Snyder also won re-election in 2014, before he was term-limited.

This is one of those rules that holds until it doesn't.  Plenty of similar rules have failed in the past.  America never elected a black president until it did.  America never elected a president without previous government service until it did (Trump).

Incumbents certainly have an advantage seeking reelection.  They have already won a plurality of votes once.  They can spend their term fundraising and gaining publicity, while a challenger has much less time to do so.  But incumbents can lose, due to unpopular decisions or changes in the political landscape.  The fact that Jim Blanchard lost in 1990 proves it can happen.

In fact, there is another 'rule' that conflicts with the one Ballenger mentions.  Since 1975, Michigan has always elected a governor of the opposite party from the president, with the exception of the close election of 1990.  Thus since 1975, Michigan always elects a governor of the opposite party when there is an incumbent running for reelection the first time.  This 'rule' would predict that Whitmer will lose next year.

Of course, 'rules' don't decide elections, voters do.  Conservatives must work to defeat Whitmer next year.

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