Pink and Blue Sounded Nice But Did Greenbacks Call the Tune?

Politicos can talk all they want about the 2018 elections with references to pink or blue waves, but in Michigan's two big Congressional district "turnover" races -- the 8th and 11th - the winning Democrats, new U.S. Rep. Elissa SLOTIN (D-Holly), and new U.S. Rep. Haley STEVENS (D-Birmingham), appear to have won the old-fashioned way -- with lots and lots of money.

So, to what extent do widely-held perceptions about what happened in the election reflect reality? MIRS asked a panel of political pundits to wrestle with that question as well as some others. Will Michigan's election in 2020 play out on altered maps? Should we expect the Gov. Gretchen WHITMER administration to adopt a kind and gentle approach to enforcing Michigan's Medicaid work requirement? And will the early bipartisan wins some legislative leaders have been talking about actually materialize?

According to T.J. BUCHOLZ, president of Vanguard Public Affairs, the winners of elections typically attract big-money backing.

"Women across the nation did better than average in congressional races, but even if every woman running at the national level won, women would have still be in the Congressional minority," Bucholz continued. "In order to achieve true equity in America, more women need to represent districts in Congress. So, I think the blue wave and pink wave were significant for Democrats, but the green wave is more dependent on external circumstances and targeting. Funders like to bet on sure things. This past particular cycle, blue and pink waves were statistically more likely to win than average and the green wave followed the trends."

What are the odds that the 2020 election will play out on Michigan's current political maps?

Bucholz said the Democrats aren't relying on the possibility that there will be a new map next year.

"As new MDP Chairwoman Lavora BARNES said this weekend at the convention, in order for history to repeat itself, Dems have a lot of work to do between now and 2020," Bucholz asserted. "A closer look shows that critical districts usually reserved for Democratic wins are still very much in play, and how President Donald TRUMP does in Michigan will determine the success or failure of Republicans both here and across the nation."

"Counties like Bay and Macomb were very tight in both 2016 and 2018," Bucholz continued. "For Democrats to have wins there, they are going to need to make a case on the ground for both the Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Gary PETERS (D-Bloomfield Twp.). Michigan will be a major target for Republicans nationally and I expect they will dump millions of dollars here to have a repeat of 2016 for Trump. So, as long as they are at it, why not work to try and defeat Senator Peters, already one of the top two Senatorial targets in the nation? Michigan will be the ground zero battleground along with Ohio in 2020 so it remains to be seen if Democrats can replicate their 2018 successes. Money, message, and organization will be critical."

Would you expect the Gretchen Whitmer administration to oversee implementation of Michigan's Medicaid work requirement differently than would have been the case under a Republican administration?

"When the state's Healthy Michigan plan was funded, its primary goal was to get as many people covered by health insurance as possible," Bucholz said. "The more citizens are covered by private or public health insurance plans, the -- wait for it -- cheaper health insurance is for everyone. The very nature of the work requirements breaks the promise of the program. Work requirements have been a disaster in other states. The state of Arkansas is failing in this endeavor and we should use that as a warning sign. Already, more than 17,000 people have lost coverage in Arkansas and you could argue that those numbers will be bigger in Michigan because our Medicaid population is significantly bigger.

Do you expect to see some politically significant early bipartisan legislative accomplishments over the next few months?

Bucholz sees only a brief spell of bipartisan action.

"I think one significant accomplishment was already achieved in early 2019 and that was the compromise between Speaker Lee CHATFIELD (R-Levering) and Attorney General Dana NESSEL over reforms to the state's asset forfeiture laws," Bucholz said. "While that was a big win, I'm pretty sure those bipartisan wins might be few and far between moving forward. I believe the moment bipartisanship ends and politics begins will be the Governor's official budget presentation later this month."

"I think post State of the State and after that budget presentation, the same partisan lines over new divisive issues will reappear," Bucholz added. "Most of the rhetoric around bipartisan cooperation is whipped cream. While the Governor needs to demonstrate out of the gate that she is willing to listen to bipartisan solutions, there are those in the state Legislature whose sole purpose will be to defeat her at every turn. It's a game that the state Capitol is now founded on and while people may tire of it, it's not going away any time soon."

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