As of this writing, moderate Republican Rick Snyder appears to be the winner of his party’s nomination for Michigan governor. How, in this Tea Party dominated year, did a moderate win? Apparently it takes a perfect storm.
First, he had no less than four opponents–three of them serious–all vying with each other to claim the mantle of the only Real True ConservativeTM. This means they can split the votes of the conservatives, while Snyder takes the lion’s share of the moderate votes.
Second, the state of Michigan has an open primary. Instead of receiving a ballot for the party with which you’re registered, you receive a ballot that has each party listed in its own column, (only two in my precinct–not even a Libertarian listed, to my surprise), and and you can choose either column to vote in (but not both). This allows independents to vote for you, which could not happen in a closed primary state.
Third, have a Democratic race featuring one candidate who is strongly pro-life and opposed to stem-cell research (in a state where the voters approved a stem cell research measure–predominantly through Democratic votes–just two years ago, and one candidate who has been called “the angriest mayor in America.” This presumably persuades most independents–like me–to choose the Republican column on the ballot rather than the Democratic one.
Fourth, have one of those Democrats (the angry one) apparently running away with the election, so that at least some Democrats feel comfortable ignoring that race and choosing to vote for their least-objectionable Republican.*
Snyder’s win by no means portends a rejection of Tea Party politics. The three serious conservative Republican candidates collectively received 62% of the vote to Snyder’s 37%. But if Snyder wins in November, against the very partisanly liberal Virg Bernero,** Michigan might have at least a brief return to its salad days of moderate Republican governors George Romney and Bill Milliken. I think that would be good for the state, whatever the RTCsTM might think.
*Or some, like one Democratic-leaning independent I personally know, simply didn’t like either Democratic candidate. With 64% of the precincts reporting, almost 380,000 more votes had been cast in the Republican than the Democratic primary. I don’t have enough data to know if that’s primarily from crossing-over, a lower Democratic turnout (possible, given that Dems have little reason to be enthusiastic this year, but the importance of the gubernatorial race makes me somewhat dubious), or a combination of both of those.
**Who has a B.A. in Political Science from my College, but earned long before I arrived there. I have met Bernero twice, both times briefly. I am 100% confident he wouldn’t remember or recognize me.