Category Archives: Michigan

The Five Places McCain Should Go

Cross-posted at The Next Right.

Politico‘s Charlie Mahtesian and Amie Parnes wrote an article yesterday about the “Five Places Obama Should Go,” and four out of the five areas they identified were places where he struggled against Clinton: Broward County, FL (Jews), Youngstown, OH (blue-collar, gun-owning Catholics), San Antonio (Latinos) and Mingo Couny, WV (“the heart of the anti-Obama belt”). The fifth suggestion — Maricopa County, AZ — was clearly aimed at McCain.

If four out of the five places Obama has to go are aimed at shoring up his base, it means he still has plenty of loose ends to tie up from the primary before he starts trying to win over independents and Republicans.

With that in mind, where are the five places that McCain should go?

This is a tough one, since most of his weaknesses seem to be more personal (age, speaking skills, Bush) rather than geographic. Still, I think visiting areas where Obama is vulnerable and putting him on the defensive would be a smart move — So, how about:

  1. Ohio River Valley Tour — From Pittsburgh to St. Louis — When it comes to the Ohio River Valley, the bad news for the GOP is that the party’s brand is in poor shape in this border region and has been resulting in substantial loses on the congressional level (think PA-04, OH-18, KY-03, IN-08 and IN-09, and the near-miss in OH-02). The good news for the GOP is that Obama is very unpopular here and was pummeled by Hillary in the primaries. In one trip, McCain could hit competitive areas in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Missouri, while also challenging the myth that Kentucky could become competitve and even making a symbolic swing through the Land of Lincoln.
  2. Fairfield County, Conn. — A campaign stop with New York-area Jews and Joe Lieberman would inevitably shine a light on Obama’s comments about Iran and would fan media speculation that the state could become competitive. And Henry Kissinger lives in Kent, an hour up the beautiful Housatonic Valley from Fairfield County — perhaps he could lend an opinion on Obama’s foreign policy?
  3. Northern Suburbs of Milwaukee, Wis. — The suburbs will be key nationwide and Wisconsin is a vital target state for the GOP. The north and west ‘burbs of Milwaukee also “remain overwhelmingly Republican,” notes Democratic pollster Paul Maslin. But “If Obama can crack them to any degree he probably wins the state by several points.” Besides shoring up support with voters, a McCain appearance in the “Beer Capital of the World” would also remind the media that he’s the beer track candidate and Obama is the wine track one. It would also be smart to campaign with fellow Teddy Roosevelt Republican Tommy Thompson.
  4. Grand Rapids — Michigan might be Obama’s most blue vulnerable state and Gerald Ford’s hometown is at the ideological intersection of what Patrick Ruffini once called “the real dividing lines of” the GOP primary — wealthy suburbanites, religious conservatives and Ford-like mainline moderates. A smart sidekick would be Mitt Romney, who beat McCain in Grand Rapids by a 38-31% margin.
  5. Iowa, Early and Often — Iowa might be McCain’s most vulnerable state; he clearly has never built much of an operation here. He needs to visit Iowa… repeatedly.



Will John McCain Paint the Map Red?

John Fund sure thinks so. In a Wall Street Journal column from Monday (that I put off until day because of the Potomac Primary), Fund explains how McCain gets to 270:

  • New Hampshire: “The Granite State went only narrowly to Mr. Kerry, a senator from a neighboring state, and Mr. McCain has unique advantages there. New Hampshire elections are determined by how that state’s fiercely independent voters go, and Mr. McCain has won over many of them in both the 2000 and 2008 GOP primaries. He spent 47 days in New Hampshire before this year’s primary and is well-known in the state.”
  • Rocky Mountain West: “McCain’s roots in the Rocky Mountain West complicate Democratic efforts to take states in that region.”
  • Nevada and Colorado: “His fierce individualism and support for property rights play well in Nevada and Colorado, which were close in 2004.”
  • New Mexico: “Next door to Mr. McCain’s Arizona, gave Mr. Bush a very narrow 49.6% to 49% victory in 2004. But Mr. McCain’s nuanced position on immigration marks him as the GOP candidate who is most likely to hold the Hispanic voters who are the key to carrying New Mexico.”
  • Minnesota and Wisconsin: “Should he pick Minnesota’s Gov. Tim Pawlenty as his vice presidential choice, he might have a leg up on carrying both Minnesota and Wisconsin, which went narrowly for Mr. Kerry in 2004.”
  • Michigan and Oregon: “McCain can be competitive in other blue states. Michigan went Democratic in 2004 by only 3.4% of the total vote, and Oregon by just over 4%.”
  • California: “The latest Field Poll in California puts Mr. McCain and Hillary Clinton in a statistical tie.”
  • Connecticut: “Support from Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Party’s 2000 vice presidential candidate, could put Connecticut in contention.”
    • New Jersey: “Ditto New Jersey, which Mr. Bush lost by only 53% to 46% in 2004.”
  • Pennsylvania: “Michael Smerconish, the most popular talk-show host in Philadelphia, believes Mr. McCain has a real chance to carry the state…. His independence and maverick status are exactly the qualities that could help him carry the tightly contested Philadelphia suburbs that voted to re-elect GOP senator Arlen Specter, a moderate, in 2004 but rejected conservative Rick Santorum in 2006.”

Why did Fund stop there? He could have added that McCain could hold Virginia because its military personnel, or Florida because of all of its retirees.

Looks like Fund’s angling for a repeat of 1972.

1972 Electoral Map (Red denotes Democratic; blue denotes Republican)

1972 Electoral Map

Testing Patrick Ruffini’s Model in Grand Rapids

Patrick Ruffini sees the leading GOP candidates carrying the banner for three distinct camps in the Republican Party.

“Despite the different actors and alliances in different states, we are beginning to see the real dividing lines of this campaign. It’s the battle of the moderates (McCain), metro conservatives (Romney), and rural conservatives (Huckabee). Stripped of all other hangers-on (Fred, and increasingly, Rudy), nationwide this divide seems to work out to about 40-40-20, or 35-40-25. Conservatives ought to be winning this battle, but Huckabee’s lock on the rural vote (just 16% of the vote in Charleston County, btw) will prevent any kind of clear two-man race before February 5th. Every day that Huckabee’s nice guy act is allowed to continue is a gift to John McCain — and he knows it.

“Mitt Romney is fast becoming the candidate of conservatives in the suburbs and the exurbs. In Michigan, he dominated Oakland and Macomb counties with 46% of the vote in a multi-candidate field. In Nevada, he won most convincingly in Clark County. In Iowa, he did better in Des Moines than elsewhere in the state.

“The Romney and McCain coalitions also overlap. They represent two different sides of the establishment coin, with McCain representing an older, mainline establishment — the Republican Party of Gerry Ford, Howard Baker, and Bob Dole — and Romney representing the brasher, post-Reagan establishment that was built on the tax issue and whose alliance with modern-day Huckabee voters allowed them to take control of the party in 1994.”

I agree with Ruffini’s analysis of Romney — Most of the Republicans I know from Montgomery County, Md. or Fairfield County, Ct. are supporting him. I also think he hits the nail on the head for Huckabee — He clearly is a favorite among rural, religious voters. But McCain is a more difficult candidate to figure out. He’s done well in the suburban counties like Charleston, S.C. but also in areas where the religious Right has a strong presence like western Michigan.

The most interesting county nationwide may have been Kent County, Mich., home of Grand Rapids. As Gerald Ford’s hometown, it’s where his presidential library and Gerald Ford International Airport are located. Ford’s legacy is still strong in Grand Rapids, so by Ruffini’s analysis, McCain should have had an upper hand there. But Grand Rapids is also a very religious and culturally conservative county and has a very strong Dutch Reformed Church presence. Many pundits thought this fact would play well for Huckabee.

But it was Romney, and not McCain or Huckabee, who won Grand Rapids. Romney took 38% to McCain’s 31%. It’s a suburban county, so Ruffini’s analysis works, but the county has enough demographics cutting different ways to make it interesting.

Republican Primary in Grand Rapids



Michigan Electoral Map

Is the Mitt Romney campaign breathing a sigh of relief after winning their first major primary? Or do they not have time to bask in the victory before pivoting to the Battle Royale that will be South Carolina?

One thing’s for sure: The Republican primary race is now wide open with no clear frontrunner. Lewis Black might call it a cluster****.

Romney needed to run up the margins in Michigan, and sure enough he trumped John McCain 39-30%. Romney won the old industrial areas, the mature GOP suburbs northwest of Detroit and around Grand Rapids and the wealthy resort towns in the North. McCain won the Christian conservatives counties in the West and Upper Peninsula.

Maybe Romney’s success in Detroit’s sphere of influence stems from his father’s role as CEO of American Motor Company (the predecessor to Jeep) and later governor. As for McCain’s big wins in the West, despite the Arizona senator’s maverick label, he still does have a pretty strong rating on abortion and other issues important to social conservatives.

McCain ended up winning 42 counties but Romney won 41 of the more populous counties. Mike Huckabee, who was expected to perform well in the western part of the state, did not win a single county.’

UPDATE: It’s no surprise, but the Detroit News has exit polls showing that voters’ No. 1 concerns were the economy and jobs. Romney’s appeal on these issues may have led to his success in the Rust Belt part of the state.

Michigan Republican Electoral Map (Google Maps)
Michigan Republican Electoral Map

The New York Times is also up with their maps, including one for the Democratic contest between Hillary Clinton and Uncommitted. It turns out that two counties choose Uncommitted over Clinton. One was Emmet County up near Mackinack, and the second was Washtenaw County, home to Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan.

Michigan Democratic Electoral Map (New York Times)

Michigan Democratic Electoral Map

The Post’s Michigan Primer

The Washington Post is up with the latest in their series of maps of primary states. This time the paper details the strategies of the GOP candidates in Michigan. According to the Post:

  • Mike Huckabee is counting on support from Christian conservatives in western Michigan and in the Upper Peninsula.
  • Mitt Romney needs to excel in mainstream Republican areas like Oakland County outside of Detroit and among “GOP stalwarts in cities like Grand Rapids.”
  • John McCain had originally based his campaign (pre-implosion), but is looking for his go-to coalition of Republican and independents voters statewide.

Washington Post Michigan Republican Map
Washington Post Michigan Republican Map

Electoral Map Daily Compass

The pundits were in total agreement going into New Hampshire that Barack Obama would walk away with a win. In the aftermath, they’re once again on the same page, but this time the pundits are in agreement that they were all wrong — or more accurately, that they were foolish to trust the pollsters, who were the real screw-ups.

This all may be true, but it seems a little ridiculous that the CW is just as clear after the election as it way beforehand. Still, there are some smart voices in the crowd. Here are a few:

Analyzing New Hampshire

Real Clear PoliticsJay Cost: “Hillary Clinton won many elements of the traditional FDR coalition…. Obama, on the other hand, had a very different electorate – one that has a bit in common with the insurgent candidacies of Gary Hart and Bill Bradley…. Clinton’s is the type of electorate that has delivered Democrats the nomination again and again. These results remind me a great deal of the electorate that delivered Mondale the nomination in 1984.”

Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal: “Sen. Hillary Clinton won working-class neighborhoods and less-affluent rural areas. Sen. Barack Obama won the college towns and the gentrified neighborhoods of more affluent communities. Put another way, Mrs. Clinton won the beer drinkers, Mr. Obama the white wine crowd. And there are more beer drinkers than wine swillers in the Democratic Party.”

Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson: “The old divisions of class, and the sometime divisions of age, are plain to see. Like Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Al Gore before her, Clinton is winning downscale and older voters, and the support of party regulars. Like Eugene McCarthy, Gary Hart and Bill Bradley before him, Obama has the backing of more upscale and younger voters, and independents. Obama carried the college towns. Clinton swamped him in working-class Manchester.”

Beyond New Hampshire

Looking to Michigan, Detroit Free Press writer Justin Hyde reminds the GOP candidates that “Michigan has as many unemployed job seekers as Republicans had voters in Iowa and New Hampshire combined.”

Politico’s Jonathan Martin parses Michigan political geography and explains why Mike Huckabee could be a thorn in the side of Mitt Romney. Explaining Huckabee’s Michigan appeal, he writes, “First, the conservative Catholics, evangelicals and Dutch Reformed members.… have somebody who speaks their language about faith and the sanctity of life…. Second, Huck’s populist shtick, up now in his first Michigan TV spot, is bound to play well in a state suffering through an economic downturn with a heavy blue-collar population. Recall: Macomb County is the home of the Reagan Democrats. So Romney’s CEO polish could be appealing for some — but it could remind others that he’s a CEO’s son from Bloomfield Hills and Cranbrook.”

And in South Carolina, ABC’s Jake Tapper reports that Ed Rollins is pointing to “two groups of voters who would be amenable to Huckabee’s message: Evangelicals open to his faith and values, and disaffected former ‘Reagan Democrats’ who helped then-President Ronald Reagan win overwhelmingly in his 1984 re-election campaign.”

CBS News suggests that “Obama believes he has a chance to revolutionize Presidental politics in the south…. Obama talks about winning Mississippi, where a third of the population is black, and Georgia as well. He believes Tennessee and South Carolina could be in play as well. Former South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges is an Obama supporter.”

The New York Times ventures down to the “political testing ground” of Arkansas, a small state “where history has created an unusual blend of Southern conservatism and Western populism, and where storytelling is a cultural value.”

Catholics Could Redraw the Electoral Map in 2008

The 2008 election could be won or lost on the Catholic vote. There are nearly 70 million Catholics in the United States, according to Mark Penn‘s estimates in “Microtrends,” and most of them reside in crucial swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and the Southwest.

More importantly, they have a track record of picking the winner. “In every presidential election since 1972 the winner of the Catholic vote has won the national popular vote, something no other religious group – Jews, evangelicals, Protestants – can boast,” Tom Schaller noted in his Salon article on Monday.

Catholics have historically sided with Democrats, but George W. Bush made significant inroads in 2000. “One of the untold stories of the [2000] campaign is how the Bush forces worked subtly through little-publicized channels to win over strong, tradition-minded Catholics, obviously with some success,” Michael Barone wrote in a 2001 National Journal election postmortem.

Bush barely lost the Catholic vote in 2000, but four years later he took 52%. In 2006, when the issues shifted back from guns to butter, Democrats picked up 55% of the Catholic vote on their way to a national rout. In 2008, Catholics will be decisive but it’s uncertain which issues will motivate them.

To be clear, the Catholics are not as homogenous a voting bloc as some other religious groups (Jewish voters, for example, gave Gore nearly 80% of their vote in 2000) and different issues will motivate different kinds of Catholics.

Schaller suspects that abortion could be a key issue and major thorn in the side of Catholic Rudy Giuliani if wins the Republican nomination. But if terrorism is the issue of day, Rudy could redraw the whole map, wooing millions of Catholics.

Consider the Carmella Soprano vote. My colleague Howard Mortman at New Media Strategies wrote earlier in the year that she’s a suburban Catholic “security mother” who sided with Bush in 2004. “If she hasn’t been whacked by the time of the 2008 presidential primary, which Republican would Carmela back? An obvious first choice is Rudy Giuliani,” Mortman reasoned.

Schaller calculated that a Giuliani anti-terrorism platform tailored to Catholics could unlock the Northeast for Republicans:

“Catholics cast at least 31 percent of the vote in nine Northeastern states: New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Realistically, in a close election, only New Hampshire and Pennsylvania would truly be in play next fall. But both would represent GOP pickups, and Pennsylvania alone would be a crucial loss of electoral votes for Democrats.”

If the major issue “is the economy, stupid,” many Catholic voters could break a different way. Seth Gitell predicted in an October 23 column in the New York Sun that “It’s very possible that many Catholics voters will move back to the Democratic Party on economic grounds.” This could be especially true of lower middle-class Catholics voters in Rust Belt state and especially among Hispanic Catholics in the Southwest.

Gitell added that Hillary Clinton “has done well among upstate New York Catholic voters, a demographic that resembles other Rust Belt inhabitants.”

Both parties have candidates that can make a strong case in the Catholic community and both have issues that will win Catholics votes. Time will tell who is nominated and what issues prevail. But it’s certain that Catholics will be a major deciding factor in who ultimately wins the White House.

Catholic Adherents as a Percentage of Total Population

Catholic Voters