Whoever came up with the idea of Throwback Thursday was likely some Satanic genius who could dupe folks into thinking, “Wouldn’t it be fun to show off all our embarrassing pictures of whatever we looked like and wore in high school, or even younger more awkwardly weird ages?” because people have bought into it with passion and vigor.
Now, the re-election campaign of Governor Rick Snyder has gotten into the spirit of the idea, posting a picture on its Twitter feed of one Richard Dale Snyder holding up a line of fish.
Only it isn’t the governor we know today or the bearded fella who was seen around Ann Arbor in the 1990s. Nope, this is a brown-haired laddie with a massive grin and wearing a life vest.
Campaign officials did not return a call for an idea of how old Mr. Snyder was in the picture, but judging by his wardrobe and apparent age he looks about 6 or 7 years old.
And the campaign sells the picture saying, “The Governor has always been a fan of the outdoors.”
Three months ago, once the filing deadline had passed for candidates to file for state and federal office in Michigan, the prospects of tea party candidates getting bludgeoned – again – by their establishment counterparts in the Republican Party seemed more likely than not.
None of the challengers against Republican incumbents seemed especially strong. And it was unclear just how adept at campaigning many of the newcomers tea party supporters fielded in races without an incumbent running would be.
Now, one week to the primary election, tea party candidates have a legitimate opportunity for a breakthrough in Michigan Republican electoral politics.
For starters, they have several Republican incumbents sweating, perhaps even a couple on the ropes. Lee Chatfield of Levering has come out of nowhere to put Rep. Frank Foster (R-Petoskey) on the brink of defeat as a result of Mr. Foster’s support for Medicaid expansion, the Common Core State Standards and extending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to people based on sexual orientation.
Matt Maddock of Milford is giving Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake Township) fits and the Republican concern there is real. The same is true of Deb O’Hagan of West Bloomfield in her challenge to Rep. Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Township) and John O’Reilly of Oakland Township in his challenge to Rep. Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford).
For the tea party to rightfully claim success on primary election night, it has to knock out an incumbent. Open seat wins will be significant (more on that in a moment), but as a movement, it would be difficult to claim success if it cannot prove Republican voters are willing to eject a Republican incumbent because of policy views the tea party has insisted are out of step with Republican orthodoxy.
No Republican incumbent in the Michigan Legislature has lost a primary in memory as a result of policy positions. The only losses have come as a result of personal scandal. So any defeat of an incumbent would send shockwaves through the Republican legislative establishment.
Looking at the open House seats, tea party backed candidates are looking good by my count in nine of 15 key races. That’s not to say they have locked those races up over establishment opponents, but if I had to put money on those nine races today, I would bet on the tea party candidates.
There’s another five that are too unclear to predict anything with confidence. There’s one seat where the establishment candidate is the strong favorite.
So what is the bar of success for the tea party? Beyond knocking out at least one incumbent, it at minimum needs to see three of the four major figures in the movement running for the House (Todd Courser of Burlington Township, Wendy Day of Howell, Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell and Gary Glenn of Midland) score victories. That would make it a good night. Lana Theis has objected to being labeled a tea party candidate and indeed her background in Republican politics is broader, but her staunch fiscal conservatism puts her in the same ballpark. She is the favorite in her race and has won establishment backing too.
To make it a great night, then several of the folks like Mark Avery of Rochester Hills, Jeff Jacques of Jonesville, Phil Stinchcomb of Portage, Frank Pfaff Jr. of Comstock Park, Keith Allard of Grand Rapids, Geoff Haveman of Hudsonville and either Beau Vore of Kingsley or Robert Hentschel of Traverse City need to score wins. The best prospects in that group look like Avery, Allard (who would still have the huge task of ousting incumbent Democratic Winnie Brinks of Grand Rapids in the general election) and Haveman.
All of this could still go south for the tea party, of course. Most of these races are close. If movement candidates end up losing most of them, even if the results are close, it will be a major failure after all the intensity and anger supporters have fomented in the past year.
But say they can win seven of these open seats and knock out an incumbent? Yes, that would certainly qualify as momen-tea-um.
The other day Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer acknowledged that he voted in the 2012 Republican presidential primary, and the hooting has been ongoing since.
The Republicans have gotten the best line since Mr. Schauer made the acknowledgement with a Facebook post saying: “Vote Republican. Mark Schauer did.”
Certainly, it may look strange and even embarrassing for the Democratic candidate for the state’s top office to admit he voted Republican in February 2012. But it is just one more example of how Michigan’s presidential primary has so often been as much a sideshow act and as a serious political exercise.
In talking to reporters, Mr. Schauer acknowledged he probably did vote in the 2012 presidential primary that turned into a dogfight between Michigan native and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Who he voted for he would not say, saying like all voters he could keep his vote private. He also said he probably voted because he disliked missing elections.
Now, as to how anyone could know he voted in the primary, the fact that someone votes in an election is a public record (not how they voted, of course). How else would candidates be able to charge their opponent had missed vote in 28 of the last 29 elections? There really was only one election on February 28, 2012, so no mystery there regarding Mr. Schauer.
And because President Barack Obama was running unchallenged for re-nomination, Michigan Democrats did not hold a primary that day. So unless there was a local issue up for grabs in Calhoun County that day, Mr. Schauer voted in the GOP presidential primary.
Let’s go back to May 1972. Michigan’s first presidential primary. A very big deal in this state as people had been calling for such a primary for years.
Michigan is unlike most states in one key political aspect: when one registers to vote one does not indicate a party. And the state primaries have always been open so one can choose to vote in whichever party’s primary they choose.
In the Democratic primary that year, the big race was between then Sen. George McGovern, Sen. Hubert Humphrey and Alabama Governor George Wallace (then-President Richard Nixon was essentially unopposed on the Republican side and looking almost unbeatable, the primary was about a month before the Watergate break-in). The day before the primary, Mr. Wallace was shot and left paralyzed while he was campaigning in Maryland.
And Mr. Wallace then won the Michigan primary, easily.
Democrats were stunned and immediately blamed Republicans for crossing over. Yeah, Republicans probably did turn out for Mr. Wallace, but Democrats in 1972 were far more fractured and not as progressive as they would like to have believed.
At any rate, from that day on Democrats have said any primary had to be a closed primary. Republicans have generally resisted that.
But that has led to a number of shenanigans where members of one party have played games with the other. In 1980, former Governor William Milliken endorsed George H. W. Bush who was in a tough fight with former California Governor Ronald Reagan for the GOP nomination. The Republican Party was seriously splitting between moderates and conservatives that year.
Mr. Bush won the primary, probably because Democrats showed up to deny Mr. Reagan a critical win.
Even when there is no party crossing, the primary can look weird. In 2008, then U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton was the only major Democrat on the January primary ballot – because Democratic presidential candidates were trying not to be punished for running in a state before Iowa or New Hampshire, but when Ms. Clinton put her name down she figured she was a shoo-in for the nomination anyway – and supporters of then Sen. Barack Obama were delighted that “undecided” had such a strong second place showing.
And in 2012 Mr. Santorum was suddenly riding high on tea party enthusiasm. Democrats were hopeful he might be the candidate because they figured President Barack Obama would win in a walk against him and there was talk between Democrats of messing up the homestate favorite Mr. Romney by bringing in votes for Mr. Santorum.
So, Mr. Schauer voted in the 2012 GOP presidential primary. Okay. What is the next shocking revelation we should look forward to?