There are a lot of weird twists and turns in the rapidly approaching Michigan primary. To try to get a feel for what’s going on, National Review Online’s Mark Hemingway spoke with Bill Ballenger Friday, who’s been editing the respected Inside Michigan Politics newsletter for more than 20 years and is one of the most respected political commentators in the state.
NRO: What’s your general take on Michigan primary? Particularly the three-way race on the Republican side? How are things shaping up?
BILL BALLENGER: Well, I think Huck may do better here than a lot of people believe, and of course if he finishes ahead of one or both of his two major rivals, Romney or McCain, he’ll deal them a really devastating blow. Maybe he’ll knock Romney out of the race, or so weaken him that he’ll be a walking dead man if he decides to stay in with his money to Super Tuesday.
I give a slight edge to McCain right now. Obviously McCain and Romney are going to pull out all the stops. And we’ll just have to see what happens. A lot could depend on crossover voting, and it’s a very curious situation.
It’s not exactly like 2000, when you had virtually no Democratic election at all. Lyndon Larouche was on the ballot, but the Democrats had proclaimed that their primary was meaningless and they were going to have caucuses to select delegates. This year, this is the way they’re going to select delegates and this is their primary, but only Hillary is on the ballot with Kucinich, Chris Dodd, who has withdrawn from the race, and Mike Gravel.
So you know, people are speculating what the Dem voters and/or independents who might otherwise vote in the Democratic primary will do. Do they stay home in disgust because they don’t have a choice? Do they vote on the Democratic side? The governor and the Michigan Democratic party had a press conference a couple of days ago to encourage people to do that. It’s unclear what they’re trying to do — motivate people to get out and vote rather than not vote, or maybe discourage them from crossing over. They want to see them vote in the Dem primary, but the only thing people can do is vote for Hillary or one of these other [insignificant] candidates.