Monday, September 06, 2010

Snyder and Bernero

Now that the Labor Day weekend is over, the real campaign begins in Michigan. The race is now between Rick Snyder (R), an Ann Arbor businessman, and Lansing Mayor Virgil Bernero (D).

I'm tempted to not vote in this election, if not for the fact that I am more concerned with an issue on the ballot. This year a question will be put to the voters whether or not to call a constitutional convention. Per the Michigan Constitution, the state is to ask voters every fourteen years if they'd like to keep the current, or rewrite a new one. Since we badly need a new constitution (the current one went into effect in 1963), I wholeheartedly will vote "yes."

But most people's attention will be on the Governor's race. President Obama is not at the top of the ticket and our current Governor, Jennifer Granholm, is very unpopular after 7.5 years. The latest EPIC-MRA poll has put Snyder 22 points ahead of Bernero, 51%-29%.

Bernero has a myriad of problems. Him being down so many points, the only place you would think he could go is up, and that is technically true. The problem on one end is that, Snyder can also go up. Bernero has only two months to make up this deficit, and I don't think he can.

The second reason is Bernero's negatives. Bernero was behind Andy Dillon most of the way in the Democratic Primary. Bernero spent almost $2 million from his campaign trashing Dillon instead of showcasing himself. That has left him with a lot of negatives going into the general.

The economy is and always will be a politician's single greatest asset/liability. Bernero is the heir to Gov. Granholm's legacy, whether he likes it or not. Voters are very simplistic. They see their fortunes, they look to the people in charge, and whatever letter is next to their name, they either are rewarded or punished. It's political science 101.

Snyder's problems are somewhat less critical. His moderate stances have rubbed a lot of conservative Tea Partiers the wrong way. His liability may be overshadowed by the unpopularity of the Granholm administration, the same way John McCain's fortunes were tied to President Bush in 2008. I expect one recurring theme of Snyder's campaign will be to link Bernero to Granholm the same way Obama linked McCain to Bush.

Even if Obama comes to Michigan to campaign for Bernero, his visit won't do much good. In fact, he may even hurt Bernero's chances even further. Even if Obama can bring in some badly needed cash to replenish Bernero's war chest, the acrimony among voters in this state toward Obama will only be reinforced.

Bernero has picked Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence to be his Lieutenant Governor for obvious reasons. The rule among Michigan Democrats about nominating a candidate for one of the top four spots on the ticket include having at least one female candidate (which will be Jocelyn Benson for Secretary of State), and one African-American candidate (Lawrence). Lawrence is a Detroit native and former candidate for Oakland County Executive in 2008. She is expected to draw interest among likely Democratic voters in southeastern Michigan.

Unfortunately, Lawrence won't draw enough because people don't vote for Lt. Governor. To add to that, Bernero is apparently getting trounced by Snyder everywhere but Wayne County. To be fair, one poll shows Snyder up 14 points in Detroit. Expect that one to come down a bit by November. According to Tim Skubick (since I can't yet cite EPIC-MRA on this one), Bernero is even getting beat in the Flint-Saginaw corridor. That is a trend more likely to hold for Snyder than Detroit.

Snyder being up 51%-29% tells me there are a lot of undecideds left in the state. I suspect Bernero can win most of that undecided 20%, but I also suspect those who've made their choice by now are staying with that choice through Election Day. That means Snyder's 51% margin will only go up, even if he picks up only 6-8% more of that undecided 20.

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