Democrats picked off two incumbent GOP congressmen last fall, and carried the state for President Obama by the second biggest margin in history. They have a lock on our seats in the U.S. Senate.
Yet the tide may be turning in favor of the Republicans. Here’s one indication. We are going to elect a new governor next year. How many Democrats are there in the race at this point?
Only one: Lt. Gov. John Cherry.
How many major Republican candidates have thrown their hats in the ring? Lots. Congressman Pete Hoekstra. Attorney General Mike Cox. Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. Ann Arbor venture capitalist Rick Snyder and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.
Others may be mulling it over too. Now, some of these folks are term-limited and need a job. But they also all think whomever their party nominates will win.
What’s more, the Democrats fear they just might be right. I talked to one of the Democrats’ savviest old bulls yesterday. He is very much afraid his party will lose the governorship, and a lot more than that with it. Because next year isn’t just another election year.
It is a census year. Why does that matter? Because the politicians elected in 2010 will be the ones who draw the new boundaries for all the state’s election districts.
The party in command of that process will have a great deal of power to determine whether Republicans or Democrats dominate the legislature and the congressional delegation for the next decade.
Last time, Republicans drew the lines. As a result, even though Democrats got a solid majority of all the votes cast for state senate in 2006, they ended up with only 17 of the 38 seats.
When we draw the new lines two years from now, Michigan will have lost a seat in Congress. Will the reapportionment commission decide to eliminate a Democratic seat or a Republican one?
That will be determined by which party is in control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, and possibly the Michigan Supreme Court, if the redistricting decisions are challenged, as they almost always are. Right now, control of each of those institutions is up in the air. And Democrats are gravely worried.
The state is in an economic mess, and there is always a tendency to put the blame on the highest official. Jennifer Granholm can’t run again, so the fear is that people will take out their frustrations on John Cherry instead, if he is the nominee.
Even in good times, lieutenant governors traditionally lose. They may not admit it, but Democrats feel that the best thing that could happen to them is for President Obama to give Granholm a job, maybe something like Ambassador to Sweden.
That would give Cherry a chance to establish himself as his own man, much as Bill Milliken did in 1969. But for now, the clock is ticking, and with every tick, Democrats worry more about 2010.