Experience Still Counts
March 5, 2010
Everything you read these days about the political climate out there is bad news for anyone who even remotely resembles a career politician.
The anger is palpable, as citizens are mad at Republicans and Democrats. End of story.
Not so fast.
In the latest TV7-Detroit Free Press survey of the governor’s race, somebody apparently forgot to tell voters about the anti-incumbent mood.
When EPIC-MRA asked voters for their choice for governor, in what they call the blind question with no information about the candidates, each one of the candidates scored low.
But then respondents were read a short bio of each candidate, and on the Democratic side each of the four contenders is, without a doubt, a full-time politician with years of experience. So you would expect their numbers would go south once voters knew who they were.
They went north instead.
House Speaker Andy Dillon moved from 17 percent to 24 percent. Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith doubled her support from 7 percent to 14 percent. Former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee got a two-point bump to 14 percent, and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero gained five points to 13 percent.
Grasp the essence of these numbers. When voters found out the extensive political background of each, they were more likely to vote for them.
Now, the pundits don’t want to declare the anti-politician/anger thing dead, because it is a wonderful story line. But the numbers don’t lie. If, indeed, the rancor was out there, the quartet running for governor would have been voted off the island.
Instead, their career-politician resumes were applauded. However, it should be noted that the numbers might have changed had there been a true non-politician in the mix.
The same phenomenon was at work on the GOP side, but the impact was not as dynamic — suggesting Democrats may be more forgiving of their career politicians than the Republicans of theirs.
The guy who benefits the most from having his bio read to survey takers is Rick “The Nerd” Snyder. At a paltry 12 percent in the blind-poll question, he jumps to 22 percent. All of that may be traceable in part to the millions of dollars he is spending on campaign commercials, so the jump is not unexpected.
West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra gets a slight boost, from 27 percent to 29 percent, while Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard gets a tiny, one-point hike. The only candidate to take a hit after his bio is read is Attorney General Mike Cox, who falls from 21 percent to 18 percent after they find out who he is.
However, the outsider factor really comes into play when you look at the hardcore GOP voters. When they find out Snyder is not a career pol, he leapfrogs to first place with 31 percent of the vote.
It should also be said that the vast majority of citizens are not tuned into this race yet.
Eighty-two percent of voters have no idea who Virg Bernero is; 72 percent scratch their heads to identify Dan Kildee, which is really unusual in that his uncle Dale has been in Congress for a million years. You would expect some slopover from Dale to Dan, but that was not reflected here.
Dillon, despite a ton of state Capitol media coverage on an almost daily basis, is still unknown by 66 percent of the citizens. And despite all of his appearances on the FOX television news channel, 44 percent wonder what a Pete Hoekstra is.
All this will change, of course, when the TV commercials begin. You can hardly wait for that, right?
Tim Skubick is Michigan’s Senior Capitol correspondent and has anchored the weekly public TV series “Off the Record” since 1972. He also covers the Capitol and politics for WLNS-TV6 in Lansing.
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Virg on the Verge?
The caller was direct: I have it from a reliable source that the UAW is going to endorse the mayor of Lansing.
Wow. The “Virg” on the verge of a mondo endorsement.
Actually, the caller was a day late. On Tuesday another source sent along the same story.
That prompted a call to the man. When his recorded voice came on the line, this message was left: “I’d like to run the story that the UAW is going to endorse you. Give me a buzz.”
A short time later the return call came. “What have you heard? I have not heard anything,” the excited Virg Bernero reported.
The buzz is all over town and, of course, it is not official until it is official. But even the thought of landing such a plumb blessing is good news for Bernero, who desperately needs this to jumpstart his fundraising efforts.
The union would do him a huge favor by trotting it out now, and how ironic. At the time that Lt. Gov. John Cherry truly needed the UAW’s help late last year, the union stiffed him. And as Paul Harvey often said, “Now you know the rest of the story.”
Any Democrat would give almost anything to have the financial and grassroots support that comes with a UAW tap on the head.
But just having that, while important, does not guarantee a win.
Ask Larry Owen, who got lots of union support when he ran for the Democratic nomination for governor years ago and ended up losing the nomination to a guy named Fieger (as in Geoffrey). The UAW proceeded to stiff Fieger, and you know the rest of that story, too — John Engler wins a third term.
There are some who will see this pending endorsement as an effort to wedge another labor Democrat out of the race, namely Dan Kildee out of Genesee County. Kildee and others buy into the theory that he and Bernero would divide up the mainstream Democratic vote, and the Blue Dog and more conservative labor folks would hightail it to Andy Dillon, thus handing him the nomination.
Kildee is not about to be scared off by one endorsement, but he did concede the other day that if Bernero gets it, “It does change things.”
Oh yeah. It sure do. (sic)
Finger on the Trigger
He has cocked the gun, but not pulled the trigger. Yet this is the closest Joe Schwarz has come to running for governor as an independent candidate.
When we last visited the former state senator/GOP congressman, he was in the midst of deciding what to do about this bid as the state on Sunday watched the U.S. lose in O.T. to the folks north of us.
“I’m inclined to run,” he revealed on Monday morning and, lo and behold, by Tuesday afternoon he cocked the gun by forming an exploratory committee. He won’t actually pull the trigger unless the exploration produces money, supporters and his guts to take a risk…all of these are unanswered questions at this read.
Yet a possible independent bid for governor has the town talking. Schwarz actually followed the advice of what passes as his kitchen cabinet. A majority of them told him, “You’ll never know unless you try.”
A Schwarz candidacy potentially hurts Democrat Andy Dillon and Republican Pete Hoekstra the most.
Schwarz no longer considers himself a Republican because he is way too moderate for those who own the party. He’s out of step with Right to Life; he’s willing to work with Democrats to get things done, which puts him at odds with the Tea Party crowd, which loathes any compromising of their principles; and he’s open to a tax hike if elected.
In other words, Schwarz has appeal to the sensible center of both the GOP and Democratic parties, who are the very same voters both Hoekstra and Dillon need to win their party nominations.
Schwarz has seen recent “fresh data” suggesting he would siphon more votes from his former party while at the same time attracting some Democrats, too. That’s why he has a shot, albeit a long shot, at winning this thing.
He says the time has never been better for an independent party candidate to tap into an electorate that is fed up with incumbents and career politicians. Dr. Schwarz is a career politician, but maybe with the “I” for independent after his name, voters will not automatically rule him out.
Dillon’s Bouncy Launch
He looks the part, but his campaign does not…at least not yet.
Democratic candidate for governor Andy Dillon does look like a governor. All he needs is the votes to be one.
However, his campaign for governor that’s designed to deliver those votes is not exactly hitting on all eight cylinders…more like four.
Dillon needed to make a good impression in Lansing, where the political press corps thrives on politics and is capable of picking apart even the smallest flub. He might get away with this stuff in Grand Rapids or even in Detroit, but the Lansing visit should have been a flawless performance.
It was not.
His news conference was scheduled for 11 a.m. The appointed hour came and went as the press secretary told everyone it would be 11:15 instead. No sweat there. Former Gov. Jim Blanchard was always late, but he had the job. Dillon was auditioning for it. Huge difference.
At around 11:20 or so, still no Dillon, and his worker bees finally showed up with the sound system and the big Dillon for Michigan backdrop. They scrambled to get it all set up. Good thing the star was late.
“He’s in the building,” a flustered yet relieved media secretary Ken Coleman was able to tell all the scribes.
But instead of heading to the news conference, Dillon took a side trip to a meeting of business executives who happened to be in the building at the same time.
He dropped in to say hi, said he was running for governor and left for the news conference. It was now approaching 11:40.
En route a local reporter stopped him in the hallway. A seasoned campaign machine would have told her politely to get lost and go upstairs with the other reporters. But Team Dillon just stood there with the clock ticking off even more time while she asked some inane questions about something or other.
Finally, after five minutes or so, Coleman intervened: “Last question.”
Dillon, now some 45 minutes tardy, made his way to the news conference.
Asked afterwards about the delay, Dillon said the 11 a.m. time was when the media were supposed to be in place. Nobody said that before, and Dillon protested that he had been on time.
Close but no cigar.
Symbolism is everything in politics. His Lansing launch was not very pretty, and some of his inside circle knew it.
Dillon has time, despite this pratfall, to whip these folks into shape. If he doesn’t, he can forget about being late like Gov. Blanchard.