It's Just Politics

It's Just Politics
4:22 pm
Fri March 15, 2013

Political futures can be as hard to manage as Detroit under Emergency Management

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

The path of emergency management in Detroit is packed with political peril and promise (we decided to be quite alliterative this week). As Joe Biden once said, “This is a big deal.”

An Emergency Manager for the state’s largest city: It’s big. It’s complicated. Success would be sweet, but it’s certainly not guaranteed.

You could say Governor Rick Snyder now owns the city of Detroit, or at least its problems. And yet, his fate -  his political fate, the fate of his aspiration to be the governor who finally fixes Detroit - is now in the hands of someone else: Kevyn Orr. Orr was named Emergency Manager yesterday afternoon in Detroit. Orr’s success or failure will be Rick Snyder’s success or failure.

There’s already been a lot of talk about what this means for Rick Snyder’s future as he gets ready to run for reelection next year. And opinions are mixed. One take: The governor looks assertive and he’s taking action, which helps him regardless of the result. The other side: He’s taking a big risk and can be tagged as a failure if Detroit isn’t showing some real improvement by next spring or summer.

Here’s what’s difficult about any analysis of this situation: Ceteris paribus. It’s a common Latin phrase that economists use. It means “all things being equal.” And any analysis of any individual situation has to assume there’s some stability in the circumstances surrounding it. And in politics that’s not the case. Ever. There are always moving parts that are forcing other moving parts into new directions.

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It's Just Politics
3:31 pm
Fri March 8, 2013

This isn't another Levin retrospective... we're talking political implications of his retirement

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

The political chattering class is busy today in Michigan talking about Senator Carl Levin – retiring after three decades in the US Senate. Politicos are remembering a long and distinguished career – a career, we should mention, that is certainly not yet over. Senator Levin still has another 20 months before the end of his term. But if we’re honest – really honest – this announcement kicks off the insider talk about who will run to replace him. Right now, that’s a delicate subject: sort of like talking about what’s in the will while you’re still at the funeral. But, the plotting has already begun… this is politics, after all.

It would be somewhat uncouth - slightly tacky - for anyone to publicly express interest in the seat this soon. But, let’s just say, anyone who has not taken themselves out is either in or thinking about it. On the Democratic side, we’ve got Congressman Gary Peters and Democratic National Committeewoman and southeast Michigan power broker Debbie Dingell. On the Republican side we’ve got Congressman Justin Amash, former Sectary of State Terri Lynn Land and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.

Calley, however, is in a bit of an awkward position if his name keeps getting mentioned.  Attorney General Bill Schuette made sure he took his own name out of consideration very quickly. For his office, like lieutenant governor and secretary of state, the nomination is made at a party convention. If Schuette, Calley or Secretary of State Ruth Johnson keep popping up on people’s lists of possible Senate candidates, that invites an effort for other contenders for their jobs to organize a convention challenge – which is just a couple thousand people; something that’s do-able for a lot of people who might not have the wherewithal to organizer a primary campaign. So, some possible contenders really have to decide quickly: fish or cut bait. It may be an honor to be mentioned… but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing.

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It's Just Politics
8:18 pm
Sat March 2, 2013

Grab your white gloves, it's time for a Tea Party

Matthileo Flickr

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

Anyone in need of a biscuit? A lump of sugar? Grab a cuppa, because it’s time for a Tea Party edition of It’s Just Politics. And we think this classic quote from Maxwell Smart kind of sums up this past week for the Tea Party in Michigan: “Missed it by this much…”

A Tea Party insurgency at last weekend’s state Republican convention came very close to unseating incumbent Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak.

“Missed it by this much…”

For whatever reasons, Schostak has never been able to convince a wide swath of the Tea Party that he’s one of them. Also, Governor Rick Snyder – once again – bucked the Tea Party to back the Medicaid expansion (an option part of Obamacare). The state would get federal money to add hundreds of thousands of people to Medicaid. It’s part of the Governor’s budget. He’s still trying to sell that. But this week, the state House Republican leadership did something that for the last two years was unthinkable – it passed legislation with a majority made up of more Democrats than Republicans.

Twenty-nine House Republicans nervously brushed off a full-throttled Tea Party effort to reject federal funds to set up a partnership online exchange – between the state and the federal government –to sell health insurance. Another big part of Obamacare.

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It's Just Politics
10:59 am
Sat February 9, 2013

After delivering his budget proposal, Gov. Snyder now has to figure out how to sell it

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

This week’s It’s Just Politics is all about the dineros, somolians, greenbacks, dead presidents. In other words, it’s the budget-rollout edition… so, we’re talking moolah.

Governor Snyder delivered his budget proposal for the next fiscal year this week and the headline seems to be: Tough calls have been made; good times are head, but we’ve got to pay for it.

In his third budget proposal since taking office, Governor Snyder proposed more money for roads, harbors, schools, colleges and universities. And, more funds for early childhood education and law enforcement. This budget is all about investment: spend now to save later.

And, it’s interesting to take a look back and see what a difference a couple years can make. When Governor Snyder first took office he talked about how surprising it was to see folks in Lansing constantly asking for money for their departments, projects and programs; now the Governor is the one asking for some bread, coinage, clams. He might be asking nicely for more money but he’s going to also have to do some convincing. He’s got to sell his spending plan to fellow Republicans, the party that’s typically averse to so-called “revenue enhancements.”

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It's Just Politics
11:53 am
Sun February 3, 2013

Electoral College reform, 2014 Gov race, and Democratic infighting (Oh my!)

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

What a week in Michigan politics! The litigating has begun on the state’s new right-to-work law, keeping the controversy alive, in the media, and in the public eye. There’s a right-to-work case in a lower court as well, but Governor Snyder asked the Michigan Supreme Court to make some key rulings so state employees can start dropping out of their unions as soon as the end of March.

Electoral College Changes?

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It's Just Politics
11:28 am
Sat January 26, 2013

'Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf'... The politics behind a wolf-hunt in Michigan

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

Today on It’s Just Politics, it’s all about the politics of wildlife. Or, wildlife management that is. Okay, might sound slightly boring so, how about this: “shooting wolves.” That tends to get people worked up.

In fact, groups are worked up. So worked up that they're gathering signatures right now to put a referendum on next year’s ballot to try and reverse the new state law that could clear the way for a wolf hunting season in the Upper Peninsula. We should point out this does not create a wolf-hunting season. Instead, it makes the wolf a game mammal, and allows the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to declare a wolf-hunting season if it sees a need.

Opponents say it’s too soon for a wolf-hunt, that the gray wolf just came off the endangered species list last year. But there have been some problems with wolves moving into "people territory," chasing pets, getting into trash… you know, being all wolfish. Eight wolves were shot last year in Iron Mountain by wildlife officials.

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It's Just Politics
12:26 pm
Sun January 20, 2013

Snyder delivers his State of the State address, but is it enough to change the Lansing agenda?

Governor Rick Snyder (MI-R)
Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

Governor Rick Snyder delivered his third State of the State address this past Wednesday; the annual ritual when governors defend what they’ve done over the past 12 months and lay out their vision for the coming year. It’s a night for official Lansing to step out. Some people actually buy new clothes for it. There are receptions and parties afterward, which goes largely unseen by the public, who just tune in for the speech and opposition response. That is, of course, if they tune it at all.

The State of the State speech – and, nationally, the State of the Union address – is a challenge: it’s long. It’s a laundry list of policy and wonky, political-speak. It’s hard to keep people’s attention. And, we’re not just talking the TV or radio audience. It’s hard to sometimes even keep the attention of the people in the House chamber where the Governor delivers the speech.

In order to try and spice things up a bit this year, Governor Snyder literally took it down a level. He delivered his address from the clerk’s perch on the dais of the state House of Representatives instead of from higher-up where the state House Speaker presides over the session. Snyder wanted to do it standing on the floor of the House, walking around with a wireless headset. No notes. Very Silicon Valley, tech company, CEO style.

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It's Just Politics
2:41 pm
Fri January 11, 2013

Will Republicans and Democrats play nice in Lansing in 2013?

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

The 97th Legislature of the state of Michigan began this week, having still not shaken off the hangover of last year, as Republicans forced through controversial issues like right-to-work during last month’s lame duck session. And, it’s probably fair to say that this is more than a double-aspirin hangover.

There are however, some efforts toward mending some of the very hard feelings leftover. “This past year has strained relationships,” state House Speaker Jase Bolger said on the House floor, “however, we can and should leave that past behind us.” Of course, that’s easy to say when you’re not the one still spitting the sand out of your mouth. But, Democrats and Republicans did negotiate for a peaceful opening day.

Yet, Democrats and unions have made it plain that forgive and forget is not in the cards.  They want the last two years, especially everything that happened in December, to be the main topic of conversation in Michigan politics for the next two years. And it certainly seemed like another thumb in their eye when the Michigan Economic Development Corporation paid for an ad in the Wall Street Journal touting Michigan as the nation’s newest right-to-work state under the banner of the very successful and super popular Pure Michigan brand. Democrats say it’s politicizing the brand and some marketing experts are even saying it might not have been the wisest choice.

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It's Just Politics
9:32 pm
Fri January 4, 2013

MI politics? Newton had it right: to every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction

Matthileo Flickr

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It’s the first It’s Just Politics of the new year and we took advantage of our sabbatical to ponder what might be the big political news in 2013. We say “might” because, well, really, who would have thought at the beginning of 2012 that our biggest political story would be Michigan becoming a right-to-work state? The biggest story out of a year already filled with intrigue, political gossip and bombshells.

Right-to-work consequences

Certainly, there’s already intrigue afoot over how Democrats and labor are going to respond to the passage of right-to-work. It can be argued that the escalation really began in 2011. That’s when the Michigan Education Association, in particular, responded to some Republican anti-union legislation by launching a recall effort. They succeeded in recalling state Representative Paul Scott, then-chair of the state House Education Committee.

Skip ahead to November 2012 and Proposal Two. Prop Two failed, and, then, voila!, Michigan the country’s 24th right-to-work state. Now, that’s just a simple version of what’s a much more complex tale. But, it does give one a sense of how politics is played here in Michigan… kinda reminds us of Sean Connery’s line in “The Untouchables."

Connery: He pulls a knife. You pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital. You send one of his to the morgue.

When talking about Michigan politics, Newton had it right, “to every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.”

Retaliation

Unions and progressives could try to challenge what happened in the lame duck session on the November 2014 ballot; not just challenging right-to-work but the new emergency manager law, too. The new EM law is a rewrite of the 2011 law that voters rejected via referendum in November. The organizers of that ballot drive are now crying foul, saying the new EM law is similar to the one that voters already said "no" to.

Meanwhile, Governor Snyder and legislative Republicans made it impossible for voters to repeal this new EM law. We’ve talked about this often on It’s Just Politics: lawmakers can make it impossible for voters to repeal a law by adding money – appropriations – into the measure. Voters cannot repeal legislation with money in it. So, lawmakers added appropriations to the emergency manager and the right-to-work laws.

But, that doesn’t mean opponents still can’t go to the ballot.

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It's Just Politics
2:23 pm
Fri December 21, 2012

Governor Snyder's push for a new message for the New Year

Governor Rick Snyder
Snyder Administration

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta. Friday, December 21st, 2012

Governor Rick Snyder held a year-end roundtable with reporters today.  That’s on top of the public bill-signings and one-on-one interviews and meet-ups he’s held with various reporters and editorial boards in the past few weeks. These meetings are a December staple of the Lansing political-journalism culture. But, today’s additional roundtable with reporters raises the question: after hours and hours already spent being interviewed, why is the Governor holding yet another meeting with the press?

A likely answer: The governor wants to reset the conversation, at least a little, and shift some attention from controversies like Michigan’s new right-to-work law and his veto of concealed weapons legislation to some good news stories – or, at least, what he calls good news stories.

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Politics & Government
5:28 pm
Thu December 20, 2012

Stateside: It's just a year of politics

As the year concludes, we're looking back at the momentous events that made 2012’s headlines.

Here are the following stories Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta of Michigan Public Radio Network discussed today:

Right-to-work

Speaker of the House Jase Bolger

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It's Just Politics
1:21 pm
Sat December 15, 2012

With lame duck over, (political) eyes turn to 2014

State Capitol building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

This week we saw the wrap-up of the Legislature’s lame duck session. It was big and messy and there’s still a lot to sort out.  But clearly the biggest news, history-making, really, was that Michigan will become the nation’s 24th right-to-work state. Right-to-work is a loaded issue with passionate supporters and
opponents. Thousands and thousands of protesters turned out to try and make their voices heard. This will be an issue that resonates for a long time. It has huge cultural consequences. But, as always, on It’s Just Politics, we want to focus on the inside mechanics, the down-and-dirty politics.

And, some of the politics during lame-duck sure was down and dirty. One of the final actions of the Republican-controlled Legislature was to make it much harder to recall elected officials. Recalls are among the retributions being plotted by labor in the face of right-to-work. This could be a bit of a game changer before that’s even started. That should have state Senator Partrick Colbeck, a Republican from a swing district in western Wayne County, breathing a little easier. Colbeck was a big backer of right-to-work and is now considering a top recall target by Democrats.

Republicans also made sure their work won’t be the target of a referendum campaign by putting an expenditure in it. GOP lawmakers also did this when they passed a new emergency manager law this week. We’ve talked about this before on It’s Just Politics: how Republicans in this session have used this provision in the Michigan Constitution that’s meant to protect the state’s ability to pay its bills. But, it’s being used, time and again, to shield laws from the threat of voter-reversal through a referendum.

This week, after months – years, really – of saying right-to-work wasn’t something he wanted, that it was too divisive of an issue, Governor Snyder signed the legislation into law. To many, it seemed almost like it was forced on him. Particularly after One Tough Nerd had been a Hamlet on the question, “to be right-to-work or not to be right-to-work…?” This has many political observers wondering: was this just a Kabuki  dance all along? Was there always a plan to “do” right-to-work?

Meanwhile, compare the Governor’s apprehension with Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger. Bolger, who just might be Lansing’s most-powerful politician right now, was *never* coy about the issue. No doubt about it: he wanted, pushed for, worked for right-to-work. And, how interesting it is that it was just a little over a month ago that Bolger was teetering on the edge of humiliation. House Republicans had mismanaged a couple of controversies (think the Roy Schmidt party-changing episode and “Vagina-gate”) and Bolger came close to becoming the first House Speaker in 20 years to lose his seat. But, he came back to Lansing after the election, seemingly unharmed,  and waged the battle over right-to-work.

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It's Just Politics
12:03 pm
Sun December 9, 2012

The big question: after Governor Snyder says he'll sign Right to Work... what happens next?

What a week it was.

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

Shouting and chanting filled the halls and rotunda of the State Capitol building on Thursday as Right to Work bills made their way into the state House and Senate. And, more protests are likely this week as the Legislature will take what are likely the final votes to send this so-called “right to work”-  or “freedom to work” bills as they’re known to some supporters and “right to work for less” if you’re on the union side – to the governor’s desk.

And Snyder will almost certainly sign them. This week, within the space of 72 hours, right-to-work went from “not on my agenda” to “on THE agenda” to Governor Snyder embracing the issue… even after months – years, really – of saying he didn’t want to take up such a divisive issue.

Here at It’s Just Politics, we’re wondering if it’s about time that the phrase “not on my agenda” has to be retired. The Governor has used the “not on my agenda” phrase before – over the issue of repealing the motorcycle helmet law and domestic partner benefits – and, yet, when these issues actually reach his desk: he signs them.

So, the question this week is: what changed in the Governor’s mind? What made him give-in? Was it simply a matter of inevitability? Right-to-work had just kind of taken on a life of its own after voters knocked down Proposal Two and a lot of interest groups were arguing that that could be interpreted as a referendum on “right-to-work” by Michigan voters; some Republican lawmakers took it as a sign that now was the time to try and introduce the issue. Maybe the governor just had to make the best deal he could once it became clear he was getting a right-to-work bill no matter what.

It certainly makes his life less complicated vis a vis a potential Republican primary in 2014. But it does complicate his general election prospects when this will almost certainly be used against him.

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It's Just Politics
1:50 pm
Sat December 1, 2012

Governor Snyder: Right to work, "takes the oxygen out of the room"

Governor Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, for political junkies, the best time is still Election Day. But, the lame duck legislative season sure ain’t that bad either for Capitol-watchers. And, this year’s lame duck sure is serving up plenty of plots and intrigue; almost all of it revolving around right to work, an issue that’s not even officially on the agenda. In fact, there’s no bill yet. Nothing in writing. But just the prospect, the very possibility of right to work, is sapping up Lansing’s energy; every lobbyist, every legislator is paying attention to it.

And that’s become a problem for Governor Rick Snyder. “It’s a divisive issue. And you just look at all the activity and there are a lot of things we are talking about otherwise and it just kind of takes the oxygen out of the room, so hopefully this is something that can get some closure relatively quickly,” Snyder said this week at the state Capitol.

The issue is hanging over and holding up school reforms, a tax rollback for manufacturers and other businesses, overhauling Blue Cross-Blue Shield… the list goes on and on. There’s a small subset of issues where Democrats in their minority wilderness in Lansing can try to pull a power play – and they’re threatening to without some assurances that right to work is off the table in the lame duck session. The tension is palpable. A platoon of State Police troopers was called to the Capitol as a preemptive measure on Thursday against a Wisconsin-style state Capitol takeover in case right to work does come up.

It would seem that Governor Rick Snyder could settle the uncertainty. But, instead, he says “On any of this, I’ve been very clear for the past 2 or 3 years – right to work is not on my agenda and that’s what I’m going to say on this topic and that’s it.” So, it raises the question: why won’t Governor Snyder put this to rest? Why doesn’t he make it go away by saying, “I will veto this if it reaches my desk”? Well, there’s a bunch of reasons. First and foremost, it wouldn’t make his troubles go away. It would only trade one set of problems for another. That’s because debating and certainly signing right to work would launch a war with labor. Recalls are already being threatened. Governor Snyder has aspirations to be a two-term governor. Vetoing or promising to veto right to work pretty much guarantees him a credible Republican primary challenge.

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It's Just Politics
4:55 pm
Fri November 23, 2012

The “It’s Just Politics” Lexicon of Political Euphemism, Evasion, and Parenthetical Honesty

Welcome to the post-Thanksgiving tryptophan edition of “It’s Just Politics,” and we are humbled by your support. Yes, “humbled,” we say. The word “humble,” it’s become a standard part of the election night victory speech. And it does appear to be a sincere acknowledgement that a candidate didn’t get elected on their own; there was campaign staff, volunteers, donors and, of course, voters.

But, it’s election night. The candidate has vanquished their opponent, people are screaming and cheering for the winner, and what that candidate decides to announce at that moment, what their feeling is “humbled?”

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

With that in mind, we’ve decided it’s back-to-school time with the “It’s Just Politics” Lexicon of Political Euphemism, Evasion, and Parenthetical Honesty. Our translator, Rick Pluta, has been covering Michigan politics for twenty-five years and has come to recognize the nuances of the political dialect. Like, when Governor Rick Snyder says “not on my agenda,” that actually means “ain’t sayin’ no.” Now, we’ve all done this, right? When you say this, you really mean that. Your teenager says, “I’ll be home by 10.” That really means tomorrow by sunrise.

To launch our lexicon, you will find a commonly used political phrase in Italics followed by its common meaning – outside of the environs populated by political types – in Bold. Feel free to play along and see how many translations you can come up with!

This is above politics = This is all about politics

I’m willing to listen = I’ve made up my mind

We need to set aside politics = They need to set aside their politics

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It's Just Politics
2:01 pm
Fri November 16, 2012

Post-election the Michigan Tea Party continues to try to flex its muscle

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta for Friday, November 16th, 2012

Before we get down to pure-politics this week, we want to first take a moment to remember former Michigan First Lady Helen Milliken, who just passed away. She was married to Michigan’s longest-serving governor, Bill Milliken, thus, making Ms. Milliken the state’s longest serving first lady. She was not a woman content to simply stand in the shadow of her husband’s accomplishments. She was part of that generation of first ladies, embodied also by Betty Ford, who made it clear that even though they were married to their husbands, they had their own opinions, their own causes, and their own accomplishments.

First Lady Milliken was an advocate for the arts, for environmental causes, feminism and abortion rights. She was an ardent enough activist in her own right that when Michigan environmentalists wanted to recognize environmental activism they named it the Helen and William Milliken Distinguished Service Award. She exerted some influence in making those Bill Milliken’s priorities, as well, even though at times it put both of them at odds with the more-conservative elements of the Republican Party.

And, interestingly enough, this brings us to the current Republican administration. There are some tensions between Snyder-Republicans and the right wing of the Republican Party, especially the Tea Party. The Tea Party continues to send the message that it is not planning on going away, that it’s going to continue to push Republicans in the most-conservative direction possible. And we’re really seeing this play out with two particular issues right now in Michigan: health insurance exchanges and right to work.

The politics of the Exchanges

The health insurance exchanges are the online marketplaces where people and small businesses will shop for health insurance under Obamacare. Like Orbitz or Travelocity, but for health insurance. Basically, Michigan has three options: a state-run exchange, a federally run exchange, or some type of hybrid. Governor Snyder and a lot of business groups wanted a state exchange. But, all year-long, state House Republicans kept saying, “No, not yet.”

First House Republicans wanted to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. When that didn’t go the way they wanted, they said the state should wait for the November election and see who’s elected president, with the idea that if Governor Romney was elected, then Obamacare would be repealed and the health insurance exchanges would be a moot point. But, as we know, that didn’t go the way they wanted either. And, now, they’re still dragging their feet, saying they still have more questions.

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It's Just Politics
6:40 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

So... did last week's election really change anything in Michigan?

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It’s time for a post-mortem edition of It’s Just Politics and, as the saying goes, it’s time for political reporters to come down from the hills after the battle to bayonet the wounded. Are your blades sharpened?

All six of the state’s ballot questions were voted down with a majority of “no” votes. “No” was what the people who put Proposal One on the ballot wanted – voter rejection of the state’s super controversial emergency manager law. That was bad news for Governor Rick Snyder. Public Act Four was one of the first laws he signed as a big supporter of tough medicine for cities and school districts that find themselves in big financial trouble. The Governor’s chosen candidate for U.S. Senate, former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra, lost to incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. His endorsement didn’t seem to do Mitt Romney much good in Michigan either. But still, he’s a happy guy… you can’t keep this nerd down.  

In fact, the Governor has five reasons to be happy: Proposals Two through Six went down in defeat, just as he wanted. It’s pretty interesting to note that after millions and millions of dollars were spent – on both sides of the proposals – that they all went down by pretty large margins. Proposal One made a race of it. But we just have to wonder if it didn’t get pulled down by the “just say ‘no’” campaign waged by Snyder, business groups, and many Republicans.

On the very top of the ticket, however, voters said “Yes” to Democrats. For the sixth time in a row, Michigan voted for the Democratic candidate for President. And, the Obama machine was just that – a machine. Data-driven, organized and relentless. Republicans thought they had a shot at Michigan – never happened. Meanwhile, as we mentioned, incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow won a third term in the U.S. Senate. The GOP thought they had a shot at the seat. Never happened.  Pete Hoekstra never seemed to recover after the China Super Bowl ad debacle. He won the primary, true, but his campaign never picked up steam.

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It's Just Politics
1:14 pm
Sat November 3, 2012

With three days to go, Michigan's must-watch races

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It’s so close, we can smell it: Election Day. Three days away. And, apparently, three was the magic number this week as three presidential polls in Michigan were released.

The Detroit News got political pundits talking with a Glengariff poll that showed Mitt Romney and President Obama locked in a battle for Michigan. The point spread was three points, inside the margin of error. This had Republicans saying, “It’s a race here in Michigan!” To which the Obama campaigned responded, “Not so much.”

“With all due respect, I don’t think The Detroit News poll reflects where this race is in Michigan, and everything we see, all the data we get suggests there is a wider gap there,” concluded Senior Advisor to President Obama, David Axelrod. In fact, Axelrod is so confident of a Michigan-win for the President that he says he’ll shave off his mustache if Democrats don’t take the state’s 16 electoral votes. Republicans responded by dropping off a razor and shaving cream at the Obama headquarters in Lansing.

But, since then, two other polls seem to support that Michigan still leans Obama. EPIC MRA did a survey for The Detroit Free Press that showed President Obama with a slight lead – 48 to 42 percent, the same as earlier polls. But, that still means the president is below 50 percent.  Undecideds are still making a difference. Finally, a new Public Policy Polling survey showed the President with a commanding 53-45 lead in the state, although it does show Governor Romney’s position has improved slightly since the last PPP poll.

Meanwhile, the Romney-affiliated Super PAC has ramped up its spending in Michigan, and the Obama campaign has bought ads in metro Detroit for the first time. But we’re still not seeing the levels of spending and attention that suggests Michigan is really a presidential battleground state. That's certainly not to say, however,  that we don’t still have some battlegrounds in the state...

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It's Just Politics
6:00 am
Sat October 27, 2012

Though you won't find his name on the November ballot, Governor Snyder hits the campaign trail

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics, October 26th, 2012

Next week, with just a week and a half to go before Election Day, Governor Snyder will board a bus to tour the state. The purpose of the trip: to focus attention on the Emergency Manager Law referendum and the five proposed amendments to the state constitution that you’ll find on the November ballot.

The Governor says he’s going all out, “I’m in campaign mode, to be open with you. I’m not running for office, as you know, right now… I’m setting up a schedule to say this is a campaign, because this is a campaign for Michigan’s future.” The governor is calling for a “yes” vote on Proposal One and “no” on the rest. This election has been called a referendum that will determine the success of the rest of his first term.

So, for us political junkies, it raises the question: can a governor, particularly one “in campaign mode,” really push the results of a ballot campaign in one direction or another. Typically, the answer is “no.” It’s often tried but usually a politician’s appeal or popularity does not rub off onto ballot proposals. Though they can gather a bit of media attention at first, endorsements are one of the most overrated political activities. The fact is, campaigns win or lose on the strength of message and organization. So, then, why do politicians engage in endorsements? Well, because politicians work with what they’ve got. A governor still has a platform, and it’s easier to sow seeds of doubt than to sell a ballot question. That’s why the governor is already working on a Plan B for a re-vamped Emergency Manager Law after the election, in case the EM Law is overturned.

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It's Just Politics
2:38 pm
Sun October 21, 2012

Voting for state Supreme Court Justices is a complicated affair

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This week on It’s Just Politics we take a look at Michigan’s Supreme Court races.

State Supreme Court candidates appear on the non-partisan part of the ballot with no hint of party-affiliation, except if a candidate is an incumbent. But these justices are initially nominated by political parties at conventions. It’s slightly bizarre. The idea was the political parties would do the initial vetting, but then the candidates – and the Supreme Court – would be independent of partisan influence. As a matter of fact, an incumbent Supreme Court justice can nominate himself or herself without having to win at a party convention. Justice Charles Levin used to do that that until he retired in 1996. However, this hasn’t happened since, largely because of money.

The Supreme Court nominees don’t get the benefit of straight-ticket voting. But they do get all the other benefits of major party nominations. The Republican and Democratic parties and their kindred interest groups spend millions of dollars to get their candidates elected to the Supreme Court. Those kindred interests are business groups, the insurance industry for Republicans; the trial bar for Democrats. The campaigns go largely unnoticed, but they’re fierce, even personal sometimes.

There was the “sleeping judge” ad in 2008 that depicted then-Chief Justice Cliff Taylor as someone who slept through arguments (which wasn’t true). The ad helped make Taylor the first sitting justice to lose his job in an election in something like a quarter century. One year, Republicans ran an ad against a Democrat that showed this shady character’s shifty eyes and said as a judge, he favored lenient treatment for all kinds of horrid criminals. And, just this year, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer said Republican Justice Stephen Markman would be sympathetic as a judge to Jerry Sandusky, the assistant Penn State coach charged with child molestation.

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