If you’re looking for something unusual to come out of Michigan’s March 8 primary election, be ready to be disappointed.
The latest polling data shows GOP businessman and reality television darling Donald Trump and former Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with sizable leads.
Even Ohio Governor John Kasich right across the border is now acknowledging that even he won’t be competitive in the Great Lakes state.
So, it’s Trump and Clinton FTW in Michigan. A yawner.
There’s been some misunderstanding and confusion about Michigan’s primary process in the media as of late. Let me break it down for you – neither the Republican nor Democratic primary are closed. You get a ballot. It has a Republican side and a Democratic side. You vote in one of them.
The results are proportional as long as you receive 15 percent of the vote. If you are – say – Ben Carson and only receive 2 percent of the vote, you walk away empty and your party’s delegates are split among the top vote getters who exceeded the 15 percent threshold. For a guy like Trump – who might receive 40 percent of the vote, 40 percent of all GOP delegates are his.
So, in other words, Michigan will follow trends that we will see in Super Tuesday primaries across the country on March 1. More candidates will drop out and the races will consolidate among fewer and fewer candidates.
No later than May, both parties will have gravitated around their likely nominees – Trump and Clinton.
And then we’re off to the races with bitter national partisan attacks and rancor from now until November. Tens of millions spent on political advertisements to sway voters in swing states. National news programs with their barking surrogates yelling and screaming. Literature choking your mail box and email inbox convincing you that one party is right and the other wrong.
And with the advent of digital media, expect to be bombarded more than ever on your computer, phone, and mobile devices.
However, be thankful that the Internet wasn’t around in 1976 if you like your privacy.
Michigan used to be an important state in the general election, but its influence has waned over time for two reasons:
1) Economic slowdowns in the state have forced people to leave and seek work elsewhere, diminishing our population centers and negatively impacting Michigan’s population count in the census. Michigan was the only state to lose population in the 2010 Census. It lost one electoral vote, giving it 16 through the 2020 presidential election – the fourth consecutive Census where Michigan has lost at least one electoral vote.
During the 1970s, Michigan’s 21 electoral votes made the state a force to be reckoned with nationally. Today, our 16 votes put us on par with also-ran places like Georgia (16) and North Carolina (15).
2) Michigan’s electoral trend over the last several years makes it difficult for Republicans to do well here. The last Republican presidential candidate to carry the state of Michigan in a contested year was in 1988 – when George H.W. Bush, on the coattails of a halcyon Ronald Reagan goodwill wave, won Michigan’s then 20 electoral votes.
Expect the Democratic nominee – Hillary Clinton – to carry Michigan handily in November 2016. And what does this mean for political junkies and spectators? Political dollars will be spent to influence voters in other states, not here.
Today’s presidential elections play out in two spaces: East and West Coast versus the Middle, and urban centers versus rural areas. If you look at an electoral map of the 2012 election between President Barack Obama and GOP Candidate Mitt Romney, the country looks mostly Republican red from a distance, but up close, the democratic blue color becomes vitally important in cities and counties with heavier population centers.
Our primaries function precisely as the founding fathers designed them – and any adjustment to the current process is unnecessary. The Electoral College is structured to favor where the voters are – and any attempt to change that process is purely politically motivated individuals and organizations trying to tip the scale in their favor.
Too bad, so sad for Michigan, but that's life in the big city.
In short, don’t expect to see heavy rotation of political ads on your screen here in Michigan. Candidates will take a lazy swipe at us late in the game, but will save their resources for true battleground states like Ohio, Florida, and Illinois.
So, while all citizens in Michigan should continue to vote in primary and general elections and exercise their rights, the 2016 election will be – for better or worse - decided elsewhere.