What's next after the Michigan primary? We don't know.

Feb 24, 2012

One thing Americans like about presidential politics is the horse race – the fast-changing, up and down battle.

And on that score, the Republican primary this season has delivered.

The nutshell narrative goes something like this: Romney-the-inevitable has been muted by a series of flavor of the month challengers – Perry, Cain, Gingrich – and now Santorum.

And even if you’re just a mild political junkie, there’s a good chance you’ll turn on the radio or TV or go online next Tuesday - not just to find out whether Romney survived or Santorum surged.

You will want to know what those results mean.

And you’ll get plenty of  - analysis.

Romney is toast if he can’t close the deal. Santorum’s surge is not going to last - things like that.

Sure - some of it may sound more intelligent than that, but the idea is to assign long term meaning to what just happened.

But I've got to tell you something.

Wherever you’re getting information - local TV, cable news, online blogs - nobody really knows.

Look, I appreciate the powerful narrative we’ve got here.

Mitt Romney, son of former Michigan Governor George Romney, has been faltering in his native state.

If – IF – he loses – and Santorum wins, it will certainly be a big deal.

But the numbers behind the election show there is a disconnect between what gets prognosticated over the air, in print and online – versus – what happens on the ground.

For example, according to RealPolitics.com, so far only about 2.7 million people have voted in 9 states.

That’s a sliver of the big picture - somewhere in the range of less than 5 percent of people who will likely vote for a Republican candidate this November.

Not only that – but Michigan is not a winner-take-all state.

So even if Romney loses, he’ll still be ahead in the delegate count.

And don’t forget - Super Tuesday comes just a week after our primary – and could change things yet again.

So that begs the question, if media folks don’t really know, why do they sometimes act like they do?

My take:  nobody likes to say “I don’t know”.

Since I spent part of my career as a news reporter answering questions from TV anchors, I can tell you firsthand, it’s just not very sporting to say – “Well, Bill and Natalie – I don’t know.”

Much better to say – “Bill and Natalie – you’ve hit on the key question” – and then try to sound smart with more details about what  - you don’t know.

Cynical? Perhaps.

I’d say it’s more about media trying to give something that viewers and readers want – long term predictions – even when those things just can’t be given - especially in a volatile election cycle with so many twists and turns.

So in a word  - fellow Michiganders – we should feel good that our primary this season is not going to be a snoozer.

We matter.

Just don’t let it go to your heads, because on Tuesday, when it’s all over - it won’t be.