Everybody is concentrating on what key races to watch when the votes start coming in tomorrow night. But I’ll bet you a donut that there will be some surprises somewhere in races that aren’t on anybody’s list.
And political careers will begin tonight in Michigan and across the nation in other races barely noticed by the media.
Twelve years ago, the nation was stunned when angry voters turned both houses of Congress over to Republicans for the first time in forty years. Even most Republicans never expected that. But one Republican whose parents counted on getting elected governor came up short that night. His name was Jeb Bush.
Former President George Bush and his wife Barbara thought Jeb would win his race in Florida, but feared his older brother would fail to unseat the popular Ann Richards in Texas. But the opposite happened.
And so George W. Bush became the family’s heir apparent. Jeb did finally get elected in Florida, but he was four years behind.
In 1984, the night Ronald Reagan won every state except one, few noticed that an obscure young guy won re-election as governor of Arkansas. He had been defeated in the first Reagan landslide, but he survived the second one. He was, of course, Bill Clinton.
That same night, an even younger Democrat named Al Gore bucked the trend and got elected to the senate from Tennessee.
Sixteen years ago, Michigan was stunned by a contest that was on nobody’s list, because it wasn’t supposed to be competitive at all. Running for a third term, Governor Jim Blanchard led a State Senator named John Engler by fourteen points in the final poll.
Nobody expected Engler to win, even Engler. But win he did, by less than one percent. One shocked pollster took another poll to try and figure out how he had gotten it so wrong. The new poll still showed Blanchard winning. All we know for sure is that statewide turnout was abysmally low.
My favorite upset actually happened in Ohio, where a popular governor named John Gilligan posed with a sheep at the state fair in 1974. “Why don’t you shear the sheep, governor?” one reporter asked. “I don’t shear sheep, I shear taxpayers,” he quipped. Bad mistake.
The mother of all upsets happened in 1948, when Harry Truman’s overwhelming defeat was so certain the Detroit Free Press said in an editorial that he should appoint his rival as successor and resign immediately after the election to save time. But Truman won -- fairly easily. What happened?
Extensive studies found that newspapers and pollsters filtered out information indicating Truman was going to win, thinking it had to be flawed. After all, everybody just knew he was going to lose.
So they cooked the books. Pollsters try not to do that today. Of course, they did elect Freman Hendrix mayor of Detroit last year. Which just goes to prove two things. You never can tell, and you better vote.