**Election 2008 Update: Michigan Primary Postmortem**
"What happened, Hooper?" you might be asking. "Why didn't you send us that GOP follow-up yesterday?" Work and American Idol obviously precede politics.
Were I to have sent another political brief, I would've stated my belief that McCain would eke out a small victory or a statistical tie with Romney, that McCain's economic view would've put more into Romney's camp, but independents would balance that at the polls, and that Huckabee would be for naught. Furthermore, I would've expounded at length on Romney's penchant for handing out verbal rose-colored glasses, false optimism that the same jobs lost would return, instead of McCain's pragmatic and far more encouraging idea that the old jobs are lost for good and it is up the people and the government to promote new jobs and their necessary training (community colleges, learning annexes and the like), the sum total being to move the economy away from oil-dependent technology to newer pastures. Beyond the GOP, I might've spouted about how if Hillary doesn't get at least 50% of the vote, she'll have lost to Obama and Edwards, the anti-Clinton, pro-change vote that would fall into the "undecided" category.
So what really happened that night in Michigan?
Conservative Republicans chose Romney (39%) - Republicans in general chose him 2:1 over McCain. While McCain (30%) picked up the lion's share of Independent and Democratic votes, they were not enough to offset his showing with the rank-and-file party members. Huckabee made an OK showing, but distant third (16%). Giuliani, Thompson, Paul, "undecided" and Hunter trail in the single digits. CNN has a pretty good breakdown of the exit poll, but it's all stuff you've read before. Romney pulled ahead thanks to his "conservative" credentials (that he bought someplace last year) and McCain suffered from his darker (though realistic) take on the economy.
What does this mean? The South Carolina primary this weekend is a wonderful toss-up. You have Fred Thompson making his last stand (and what a poor one it will be) and Mike Huckabee playing up the evangelical bent, two major forces that could damage the (nominal) front-runners Romney and McCain leading into Florida, an even more wonky affair. Giuliani is again sitting it out. If he doesn't win Florida, expect a major collapse on Super Tuesday for the Giulianians of the Republican party. He and McCain are centrist candidates that stand a decent chance against either Hillary or Obama; the others would get trounced (it would be beautiful in its tragedy, a defeat of Shakespearian proportion that put the Republicans just a notch about the US Communist party in national prominence).
My predictions about last night did not come through and Michigan votes said, "Give us our boy!" Romney is the son of George Romney, one-term (but popular) governor of Michigan, successful businessman, one-time Presidential candidate ('68; made some odd "Viet Nam" remarks that bombed his chances), Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Nixon (first term), an all-around senior statesman for Michiganites. Some might argue it was a forgone conclusion that Romney would at least manage a slim victory. He came out 39% to McCain's 30%.
As I said, it was the economy that did it. Michigan leads the country in unemployment at around 7.4% if my spottily checked sources are right. Detroit has taken a drubbing in the last few years (decade?) with the rise of oil prices, fuel economy, cheaper foreign cars (the perennial threat) and "green technology." Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost - according to McCain, for good; Romney says they're hiding in the woodshed - due to massive lay-offs in the automotive industry. It's old hat, we all know this but many have deluded themselves into thinking there's some cycle underlying the industry. People will want big, gas-guzzling behemoths (or small, two-door ones) as gas prices tick closer to historic highs (adjusted for inflation, we haven't reached the ceiling yet…). There is no cycle, only memory. McCain's view, that we must inexorably move only forward towards a new, not recycled future fell on deaf ears in some of the harder-hit areas of the state. South Carolina will be the second verse of this song, as they too have economic woes not exactly felt by the rest of the country.
On a lighter note, the Michigan GOP sent out this statement when returns started coming in: "In a close-fought victory, Senator John McCain succeeded again (in) the Michigan Republican primary, winning over a traditionally unpredictable voter base in Michigan." Five minutes later they sent out a corrected response: "In a close-fought victory, native son Governor Mitt Romney won an important contest here tonight." They had both statements prepared and "pressed the wrong button."
Sen. H. R. Clinton won the Michigan primary…against no one! Over 40% voted for "undecided," meaning Obama and Edwards, as their campaigns instructed supporters to do. Should the DNC grant Michigan its delegates in the fall, and if it's a close race, Clinton will be glad she did not show solidarity with the party in keeping her name on the ballot. It is awfully funny to see her barely get half the vote when she's running against Dodd (dropped out a while ago) and Kucinich (who…sigh. It's too easy, really. Let's say he can't win for lack of trying).
The Dems are tested next in Nevada, where controversy is a-brewing! Unions are arguing over whether to hold caucuses in casinos, as there are nine casinos servicing tens of thousands of individuals who work for the Culinary Union (supporting Obama). The Teachers' Union (supporting Clinton) filed suit, saying this gives the CU unfair advantage with the caucus. The state dropped the lawsuit, but the issue remains.
Posit this: is Edwards solely in the race now to become Obama's VP candidate, should the IL Senator get the nod?
The Dems held a debate last night in Nevada where Hilary and Obama exchanged words about toning down the harsh campaigning (race issues). They were also asked what the they thought the Presidency was. Obama said that being president "involves having a vision of where the country needs to go," while Hillary agreed that there was certainly vision involved, but "the president is the chief executive officer…I think you have to be able to manage and run the bureaucracy." Just a little FYI.
And sitting comfortably in New Mexico, if a little despondent, Gov. Richardson was interviewed today by NPR, saying the campaign was an "extraordinary experience" and he's glad the other candidates have adopted his view on total withdrawal from Iraq, calling it an "aggressive policy" in the short term that would be followed by major diplomatic effort.
When asked about his experience, and whether it helped or hurt him, he responded that his "message of change and experience didn't catch on as much as just change," what Edwards and Obama were preaching. "You can't escape what you've done before."
He will likely endorse a candidate after February 5th and his New Mexicans (Mexicoans?) get a chance to voice their choice.
This Saturday (Jan. 19th) is the Nevada caucus (R & D) and the S. Carolina primary (D). Expect coverage Friday and a wrap-up Monday as we look to the Dems in S. Carolina, Florida and SUPER TUESDAY!
More news as I see fit to comment.
January 19—Nevada Caucus / Republican South Carolina Primary
January 26—Democratic South Carolina Primary
January 29—Florida Primary
February 1-February 2―Republican Maine caucus
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Wednesday, January 16, 2008