Sunday, January 13, 2008

Expect the unexpected in Michigan's primary

Michigan's presidential primary may produce results as unexpected as the election is peculiar.

"God knows what is going to happen on the Democratic side," said Stewart L. French, professor of political science at Saginaw Valley State University. French thinks that in Michigan: Sen. Hillary Clinton faces a lose-lose situation, Mike Huckabee's populist message will win crossover votes and that even if Mitt Romney loses the state his campaign will continue.

Clinton faces opposition from 'uncommitted,' which could include supporters of Sen. Barack Obama, John Edwards, Al Gore and general protest votes. French, who specializes in political parties and elections, considers 60 percent to be the threshold for declaring a Clinton victory. But such a win will be hollow. "If she gets 60 percent, everyone will shrug and say of course she won, she was the only one on the ballot," French said alluding to political pundits. The worst case scenario for Clinton would be if 'uncommitted' wins. Edwards and Obama could use that to cast doubt on Clinton's candidacy going forward.

"On the Republican side, I think Huckabee is going to do much better than people expect," he said. French attributes this to Huckabee's persuasive populist message in an economically depressed Michigan. "He is actively trying to get people from the Democratic side to come over and vote for him." Huckabee's message is aimed at evangelical and religious Democrats and those who are stressed economically, in particular union members. In addition, Edwards, the only Democrat with a similarly strong populist message, is absent from the ballot.

"If you are making a populist economic appeal along with conservative social issues, you have a formidable opponent for the Democrats," French said. He believes that if Huckabee doesn't win the Republican nomination he will be chosen as the Vice Presidential candidate.

Some analysts consider Michigan a do or die state for Mitt Romney, but French disagrees and thinks Romney will stay in the race regardless of how he does Tuesday. " If he is still doing okay among Republican voters he will stay in because he has the money to do so." Romney may be motivated to stay in the race by the prospect of a brokered convention.

If primary elections across the country fail to produce a clear leader in either party, that party's convention would be "brokered." In a brokered convention, no candidate has a majority of delegates necessary to win the nomination. As a result, deal making plays a role in achieving a nomination. French speculates that a brokered convention is possible for both parties.

"I don't know that Super Tuesday is going to determine the Republicans' race. If Edwards stays in it and continues to scrape off 20 percent you may have two brokered conventions. One with Edwards as king maker and someone like Romney a possible king maker."