The Race for Michigan’s Ninth
A snapshot of GOP troubles nationwide.


Henry Payne

Knollenberg is bitter about McCain’s retreat. Without the benefit of the senator’s visits to raise money — as well as the absence of McCain ads — Knollenberg fears Republican turnout will lag. When McCain’s ticket-mate, Sarah Palin, expressed regret at her own campaign’s surrender in Michigan, Knollenberg jumped at the chance to do an end-run on his own party’s nominee.

“My disappointment over Senator McCain’s decision to not campaign in Michigan was immediately overwhelmed by my excitement upon hearing of your desire to come back to our state,” wrote Knollenberg in an open letter to Palin this month. “Consider this a formal invitation to join me on the trail in Oakland County.”

Though demographic changes in the CD 9 have been anticipated for years — as Detroit’s black middle class emptied out into neighboring Oakland — political insiders here concede that demographics alone cannot explain what is happening in a district that seems poised to vote against its own pocketbook interests.

This year appears to be a “change” election pure and simple. Just as stock markets often behave irrationally, in ways that bely economic fundamentals, this year’s Michigan electorate is being driven by a psychology of change — even if those change agents, by any reasonable assessment, will institute policies that are contrary to voter interests.

A recent Democrat-commissioned Grove Insight survey of likely voters in CD 9 found that 84 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: “things in this part of Michigan are off on the wrong track.”

Voters in a change mood, however, may be surprised to find that, come January, the tax-hiking, Fannie-friendly, auto-bashing candidates they elected were the ones who derailed the train in the first place.

– Henry Payne is a writer and editorial cartoonist for The Detroit News.