Monday, September 28, 2009

The Straw Poll. Winners: Hoekstra and McManus. "Losers": Snyder and Scott

Over the weekend at the GOP Conference on Mackinac Island, a straw poll was held to get a sense from the party faithful who their favorites are for governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General. The intention is to poll only the paid attendees to the conference. Your right to vote is included in your $100 registration fee.

At every bi-annual conference, there are volunteers who come to the island to help get the word out and campaign for the candidates. It is not unusual to see a dozen to 50 or 60 enthusiastic T-shirt wearing college students carrying signs, handing out literature and cheering on their favorite candidate. In return, these kids usually get a free ferry ride, a hotel room and all the chicken wings and refreshing beverages they can consume. NPR has a great article online about the straw poll. Read it here.

This year, however, it was a little different for one candidate in particular. Rick Snyder's campaign brought as many as 500 volunteers to the island. (At least that is the number rumored to have registered with the Snyder campaign in the last week alone.) They were easy to spot; they all had day-glow lime green t-shirts on. You knew they weren't road builders, Mackinac Island doesn't even allow cars.

All 500 of these volunteers were allowed to vote in the straw poll because the Snyder campaign paid the $100 for every one of them. (Nice $50,000 bump for the party coffers!) What is curious is why Snyder  received only 396 votes. What was even more startling was the method used by the campaign to ensure that the "volunteers" were voting properly. I happened to notice when I was up at the hotel to vote that a Snyder campaign employee was standing inside the cordoned off voting area. Each Snyder green shirt who voted had to hand the ballot card to be checked for accuracy. Once the campaign employee was satisfied, he would stamp the hand of the voter. (Can you say "card check"? So much for secret ballots...)

To nobody's surprise, Snyder came in first in the straw poll. What was a surprise was how well Pete Hoekstra did. The Congressman from Holland is not as well known statewide as Mike Bouchard who ran on the statewide ballot in 2006 or Attorney General Mike Cox who has been elected statewide twice. Pete did not pay the way for 500 campaign workers, in fact, I saw a relatively small number of shirts with his name on them. I guess Pete received 219 votes because delegates actually liked his message and performance in the debate. Bouchard and Cox virtually tied with 300 and 298 votes respectively, very impressive indeed.

In the race for Secretary of State, Michelle McManus did very well. She garnered 404 votes; Sen. Cameron Brown, 311; Calhoun County Clerk Anne Norlander, 248; and Paul Scott, 212. So what is the deal with Paul Scott? He is a 26-year old freshman lawmaker with all of 9 months experience in elected office. Here is the inside story. The same organization that is "master-minding" the Snyder campaign has also recruited Rep. Scott, apparently convincing him that he is a viable candidate. So the word went out to the Snyder army that while voting for Snyder for governor, they should vote for Scott for SOS. Obviously, barely over half of them did. Get all the results here.

Incidentally, I had a brief conversation with one of the green-shirted volunteers. When I asked her if the guy she was supporting was going to be the next governor, seriously, her response to me was, "Who's that?" I replied, "You know, Rick." She had a blank look on her face. I pointed to her shirt and continued, "Rick...Snyder." She looked down at her shirt, her face brightened and she said, "Oh, yeah, duh. Gee, that was a real blond thing to do, wasn't it?" Here is a YouTube from Right Michigan that further illustrates the point.

Well, its early. What counts is not the straw poll. That was really just a fund-raiser for the Republican Party. What matters is leadership. We will find out in the coming months who those leaders really are. I think we have some very good candidates to consider.


Republican Michigander said...

Interesting post, Jack. There was a funny youtube moment posted on RightMichigan ( that interviewed another Snyder supporter.

I've endorsed Mike Cox. If someone puts me on the spot, I can give some good reasons why I support him (ability to win statewide, no tax pledge, street fighting candidate, GREAT on 2nd Amendment). Most of Mike's supporters have been there before. I know a lot of them. Bouchard and Land had their supporters and most I know there could give reasons for their support. Same for Hoekstra.

I'm still undecided for Sec of State and AG since I happen to like both McManus and Norlander (nothing against Brown, I know the other two better), as well as both Schuette and Bishop. I'm waiting and seeing how things play out there since that's going to be two tough decisions for me.

As far as Paul Scott goes, he did a great job winning a difficult open seat district that was democrat as recently as 2001 (Lockwood). He has my respect for that. I hope Dave Robertson or someone influential in that area gives him a call. We need Paul in Grand Blanc. I hope he stays there for two more terms. Maybe he can draw up a good congressional district there with redistricting to give Mr. Kildee a run for his money.

Anonymous said...

When our LEADERSHIP, (both state and national) Take a 10% pay cut as a lot of people had to do to maintain their jobs, and forfeit some of their fringe benefits, I will consider them to be leaders. Until then they are still just political junkies

Anonymous said...

I really like Pete Hoekstra and think he would make a great governor. I do not TRUST Mike Cox and while Bouchard is very likable guy I think he is just another politician.

Anonymous said...

Also, my husband and I traveled to Burt Lake for a short weekend at our cottage and we saw all the signs on the side of I-75 for the candidates. The Lansing State Journal's John Schneider saw them also and has an article on it quoting the State Police from Gaylord. Posting these signs is illegal and did not bode well for Atty. General Cox in the article. Was glad to see Hoestra did not have any signs anywhere.

Diane Mysinger said...

My husband and I were at the conference and we worked on the Snyder, Rick for Michigan, campaign. We were not checked on whether we voted for Snyder or not, just that we voted. I sure do hope that this will correct the information in the article.
Thank You,
Jeff and Diane Mysinger
DeWitt, MI

Anonymous said...

Great blog, Jack!!! Your name came up in a conference call last night and everyone on the call spoke highly of you. We all agreed that you are a person who might be in politics, but is not a politician, and whose promise to do something is backed up with action.

Dan Sheill said...

"What was a surprise was how well Pete Hoekstra did. The Congressman from Holland is not as well known statewide as Mike Bouchard who ran on the statewide ballot in 2006 or Attorney General Mike Cox who has been elected statewide twice."

I disagree. Hoekstra is very well known across the west side of the state. Bouchard may have recently run for Senate, but few people outside of Southeast Michigan can still identify him. For example, you ran for US Senate last year, however, I'm sure that if you ran for governor your name ID would still be lower than Hoekstra's whose district probably covers a geographic area larger than Oakland County and your former state house district combined.

Hoekstra has been around the block enough to have known what was expected to win on the island. Sure Snyder was going to outspend everyone, but Hoekstra could have still focused on what was within his control. This included, showing up with at least 20 volunteers! Any Congressman in office for more than a decade who cannot scrounge up at least 20 volunteers has problems.

A candidate cannot claim moral victory just because, after not trying hard enough, his opponent did not beat him as badly as his opponent should have.

The reason why Hoekstra finished last was because his only real advantage in this race (besides being the only candidate who resides in West Michigan; Tom George doesn't count) was to run on a conservative platform. However, Hoekstra supported bank bailouts last fall as well bridge loans for the domestic autos, and finally, he even "outshilled" Thad McCotter by becoming the FOX News posterchild in favor of cash for clunkers. These are not the positions of an economic conservative, which Hoekstra "once upon a time" was.

Many people asked after last fall's election whether the GOP lost because it became too moderate. And while I cannot say that the party has really gotten more moderate on social issues, it surely has gotten far too liberal on economic issues. And most Americans, moreover, most Michiganders care about "making ends meat" first and foremost. In Michigan, when the most "conservative" Congressman in the state is an economic populist and a placater of the militant Teamsters, it's not hard to figure out why the state has as many problems as it does. From a leadership standpoint, Pete Hoekstra is failing the conservative movement. And Jack I can only hope that you ascend as the leader of the conservative movement in Michigan. Because you are one of a very small group of people that I have met who will not compromise what is right simply to stay in office (or get elected to a new office such as governor).