An Insiders' Guide to Michigan ...

Matt Lewis
Posted: Jan 10, 2008 11:37 AM

I just spoke with John Dunagan, a good friend and top-notch political pro who ran the Michigan campaign for Bush/Cheney '04.  Here are some random Michigan thoughts I gleaned from the conversation ...

On the state, itself 

Michigan is a more moderate state than people think.  The state, like many other states, is divided pretty clearly among regional lines, with Detroit being the Democrat stronghold.  

For Republicans, the base has always been Western Michigan.  Northern Michigan was always split -- with many Blue-Collar Democrats residing there.  The problem is that Grand Rapids is changing, just like other exurban areas around the country are changing, and Western Michigan is becoming more and more Democrat.

As such, McCain’s support for climate-control legislation will help him more than people realize.  The CAFE standards stuff may hurt a bit, but most of the voters who care passionaltey about the UAW jobs are registered Dems. 

When the results start coming in, keep in mind this contest is probably decided in the Detroit suburbs of Oakland and Macomb counties.  These are large counties that are very evenly-split. 

On the Romney Family Advantage

Ronna Romney Mitt Romney’s sister – ran for Senate there and lost in a primary.  Sure Governor Romney’s name is helpful in that state -- he came out and did the Bush/Cheney headquarters opening, so his name still has some cachet -- but he was governor in the late 60s -- that’s a long time ago.  Even 16 years ago for the Clinton’s is becoming ancient history...

Michigan has a very strong state party, and most of the establishment Republican insiders are backing Romney (the state party chairman is a personal supporter, although the party is obviously staying neutral).  McCain has the support of Chuck Yob – the National Committeeman.

Who Might Win?

... Michigan would’ve actually be a good state for Rudy Giuliani, but he’s not really campaigning there.  ... Ironically, Giuliani probably needs Mitt Romney to win, so that no one candidate racks up too many wins before we get to Feb. 5 …

... Huckabee probably finishes third.  His populist message will probably play well with in a state with a struggling economy.  Does he finish a respectable third?  He could do even better:  If Romney and McCain beat each other up -- and Huckabee campaigns hard -- he could even surprise everyone with a narrow victory.

Huckabee and Romney might split the conservative vote. And since Giuliani isn’t really campaigning hard, the bottom line is that McCain probably has the edge ...