It's Just Politics

Election 2012
3:58 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

China-bashing is nothing new in Michigan politics

Mandiberg Flickr

Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra wants to be your next Senator. He’s currently running in the GOP primary to try and unseat Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow. Hoekstra’s campaign premiered a controversial ad yesterday that’s being called, “xenophobic,” “racially-insensitive” and a “mistake;” Hoekstra calls the ad, in which a young Chinese woman speaks broken English and thanks Senator Stabenow (in the ad, Stabenow is referred to as “Senator Spend-it-now") for helping the Chinese economy, “aggressive.”

As the political pundits are debating whether or not the ad is detrimental to the Hoekstra campaign – one thing is for sure: China-bashing is nothing new in Michigan.

While Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I usually talk state politics on Fridays, we just couldn’t ignore this story. So, take a listen as we dissect the ad and take a look back at past political ads that have targeted various politicians and their relationships with China.

And, for some visuals,  here are a few attack ads from the 2006 Michigan gubernatorial campaign:

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Election 2012
1:23 pm
Fri February 3, 2012

The Michigan Presidential primary is like that scene in Star Wars (kind of)

On Fridays, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I have been taking a look at state politics, we’ve been trying to dig a little deeper beneath the week's political news. And, it sure seemed like one story, in particular, was making all the headlines this week.  Headlines like, “Romney Rebounds with Victory in Florida,” and, “Where Has the Newt-Mentum Gone?”

Just like Star Wars… (Well, sort of)

This week’s 2012 GOP Presidential primary storyline got us thinking about that classic scene from Stars Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi where Princess Leia and Han Solo have been captured by Jabba the Hutt and Luke Skywalker tries to come to their rescue. Things don’t go as planned and Luke ends up captured, too. Trying to gauge the severity of the situation Han asks Luke, “How are we doing?” Luke answers, “The same as always.” Han, with his characteristically dry sense of humor, responds, “that bad, huh?”

“Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and crew sort of made us think of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, coming into the Michigan primary – which is now just about three weeks away – and Gingrich almost seems to be in a position of ‘now, I’ve got them exactly where I want them.’ You know, he’s an underdog, the odds are stacked against him… what Gingrich, Santorum and Paul all seem to be fighting is this aura of inevitability that is surrounding Romney,” Pluta explains.

Okay, so maybe it’s not an exact parallel but Pluta and I, at least, had a reason to watch some scenes from Star Wars. (And, just as a side note, there’s quite a bit in the Star Wars movies that can be compared to American politics. But, that’s a whole different story for a whole different time).

“A couple of weeks is a long time in American Politics.” – Peter Jennings

That well-known saying from Peter Jennings is something I always try to remember as I’m listening to or reading the latest from the political pundits. Yes, Romney surely seems to have the “Big-Mo” (the all-important “momentum” that Pluta and I have discussed before) coming out of Florida, but, let’s play Devil’s Advocate for a minute, shall we? Pluta explains that, contrary to conventional wisdom, there are some reasons that Romney could have a difficult time winning the Michigan primary:

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Election 2012
7:50 am
Mon January 30, 2012

Forget about Florida… What about the Michigan primary?

Unless you’ve been living on Mars, or, at least, somewhere where there isn’t radio, television or the internet, you’ve most likely heard MORE than enough about the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, the “game-changing” South Carolina primary and, of course, who could forget about tomorrow's all-important Florida primary.

Well, maybe you’re like me and Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing Bureau Chief Rick Pluta and you feel like Michigan is getting left out of the conversation. Well, fear not, Pluta joined me on Friday to take a look at  Michigan’s Republican primary, scheduled for February 28th.

Romney has got this thing wrapped up... No, he doesn't. Oh wait, yes, he does.

We've got about a month to go before Michigan voters head to the polls for the state's presidential primary and it seems like one day we're hearing that Michigan's primary REALLY matters - that, indeed, the state will be influential in the Republican nominating process. But, then, just when we thought Michigan was important we hear the political pundits take back their political proclamations - claiming that no, in fact, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has got the state wrapped up. "I guess this is further evidence," Pluta says, "that anyone who is allowed to be a pundit should be required to wear something that says 'Don't follow me, I'm lost.'"

Michigan will matter... Really!

"Just a few weeks ago, we were written off," Pluta says, but, "things have changed so much since New Hampshire, we then had the Newt Gingrich surge... called Newtmentum. So, now... everyone is waiting to see what happens in Florida... and, then, we'll come out of that, and we'll go into Colorado and Minnesota - state's that really aren't as big as Michigan - and then, after February 7th, we have 21 days where there's nothing... and then the Michigan and Arizona primaries. And, Michigan WILL matter because momentum is everything going into Super Tuesday which happens shorty after Michigan and Arizona."

It's all about the "Big-Mo"... (Momentum, that is)

It's called the Big-Mo, or Big-Momentum, at least that's what political scientists and campaign strategists call it, and it's important. "I've talked to Republican strategists and they say, in a primary season, everything is about momentum. People are jumping in with whoever is surging and they're dropping off with whoever is lagging and so that's what you really, really want going into that all important Super Tuesday primary and Michigan is going to set the stage for that," Pluta explains. So, the idea is this: win Michigan and you go into Super Tuesday as a strong candidate with the air of inevitability.

Early primary = Fewer delegates

We reported quite a bit, last year, as the Michigan legislature tried to pick a date for the Michigan primary. Republican leaders wanted an early date for the primary - figuring that the earlier in the year the primary was held, the more influence the state would have in the national Republican campaign.

The only problem: Michigan broke the rules by holding an early primary. The date, "violates [Republican] Party rules and that will very likely result in Michigan's delegation to the Republican National Convention to be cut in half but, the [State] Legislature is really dominated by Romney supporters and what they wanted to do was... give Romney an early victory... that creates momentum going forward. It was actually considered more important for Romney to have that early momentum going ahead than to actually rack up as many delegates as he possibly could coming out of Michigan," Pluta explains.

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Politics
3:34 pm
Fri January 13, 2012

Checking in on the state's budget

Thinkpanama Flickr

We all like to know the balance in our checking or our savings account, right? My guess is, every so often, you go online or you go to the bank and you see what your balance looks like. Maybe, if you’ve got a few extra bucks, you buy yourself something nice. Or, maybe the account is a little dry and, then, you know it’s time to cut back. Well, just like you, the state has an account… given, it’s probably MUCH larger… with many more zeros than you have… but the idea is the same.

This morning, in Lansing, the officials that keep an eye on the state’s bank account met at what’s officially called the Revenue Estimating Conference. Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network was at the conference, and he spoke with me this afternoon from the Capitol building about what the numbers for the state's "bank account" look like for 2012.

To boil it down, consider some basic questions you might ask about your own finances:

  • How much? : Pluta reports that a figure of $1 billion in budget surplus has been tossed around a lot by reporters over the last few days, but once upcoming spending pressures for 2012 are factored in, that number comes down to roughly $457 million.
  • Spend or save? : Pluta says that according to the state's budget director, some surplus money could go into things like Medicaid and schools, but to improve the state's bond ratings, a portion will also likely go into savings.
  • What about the economy? : Economists also weighed in at the conference and according to Pluta, the general consensus was that Michigan saw decent economic improvement early on in 2011 with growth of about 64,000 jobs for the year, but in recent moths things have become more sluggish--a trend that is expected to continue in 2012. Economists predict growth to the tune of roughly 27,000 new jobs in the state.
  • What does the governor think? : Okay, so maybe you wouldn't ask yourself that question when thinking about your banking, but Pluta reports that regarding the state's money, Governor Rick Snyder plans to release recommendations soon, both about how the surplus should be used and what the next fiscal-year budget should look like.
Politics
6:39 am
Fri October 28, 2011

How state lawmakers are making sure you can’t repeal their laws

Michigan lawmakers are using a political maneuver to ensure that it's more difficult for Michigan voters to repeal unpopular, controversial bills.
Matthileo Flickr

In Michigan, voters are allowed to overturn laws they don't like. This is how it works: you try and get enough signatures to get a referendum to repeal the law on a ballot. If a majority of voters vote against the law... it's repealed. But there's a catch: laws that have appropriations attached to them cannot be repealed by voters.

Just this week, Michigan Radio reported on a proposal that would drastically alter the state’s no-fault auto insurance law. The House proposal includes a $50,000 appropriation that protects the measure from a voter-led ballot initiative.

This is the fourth time this year Republican lawmakers at the state Capitol have added appropriations to a controversial bill to keep it referendum-proof.

I spoke with Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, about this cunning, political maneuver. He’s been keeping an eye on this story for months.

Why We Should Care

For some, the words, “referendum,” “appropriation,” and “voter-led ballot” aren’t that important; in fact, maybe they just sound like more of the same insider politics. But, Pluta explains it this way:

If you’re a voter who does not think that anything the legislature does should ever be challenged, I guess you would consider [this] not too terribly important. But, if you do think that [the right to vote against a law in a referendum] should be preserved… then you might find the whole thing to be a little devious.

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