As everyone knows, Rick Snyder won a tremendous victory this week over Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. But late yesterday I started looking at the numbers, and I noticed something interesting.
The Snyder landslide was a little different than you might have been led to believe. Okay, go ahead and make fun of me. After all, what kind of guy analyzes election returns on a Wednesday night?
Tell you what: Just think of me for now as one not-so-tough, and, unfortunately, not-so-rich nerd, and we’ll do fine. But, bear with me a moment. Here’s what really happened in the election. White independent voters, most of them middle-class or better, switched to Snyder. Republicans were also enthusiastic about his candidacy.
Though some may have wished he were a little more conservative, virtually none preferred Bernero. And Republicans were enthusiastic, either because they wanted to send a message to Washington, or because they felt they were going to win.
So they showed up and voted for Snyder. Those white independent voters did too. Most of them voted for Democrat Jocelyn Benson for secretary of state, and many of them voted for her fellow Democrat, David Leyton, for attorney general.
However, there weren‘t nearly enough of these independents to elect either of those candidates. And that’s because Democrats stayed home. This became clear on election night.
Terri Lynn Land, Michigan’s soon-to-be former secretary of state, has usually been right on the money with her predictions of voter turnout. This time, she estimated there would be 3.8 million voters statewide, about the same as four years ago.
But half a million fewer turned out. Looking at the county-by-county vote, it was clear that some Dems sat out this election. And something else was starkly clear as well. Rick Snyder attempted to reach out to black voters. In recent years, some Republican candidates have virtually ignored the city.
Snyder opened a headquarters in Detroit. He campaigned there. He sought the support or at least the understanding of influential black clergy. He had his election night party, not in Ann Arbor where he lives, but in a downtown Detroit hotel.
Yet in return, he received almost no black votes. Some of his strategists thought they might get as much as a fifth of Detroit’s vote.
He modeled his campaign after that of former Republican Gov. William Milliken, who was popular in the city.
But it didn’t work at all. Four years ago, when he lost by a landslide, Dick DeVos got four percent of Detroit’s vote.
Rick Snyder got five percent. In Highland Park, which has essentially no white voters at all, Snyder got four percent.
The people who switched were white independents. DeVos got only 24 percent in the affluent liberal community of Huntington Woods. Snyder almost doubled that, to forty-six percent.
Statewide, Rick Snyder got almost three hundred thousand more votes than DeVos had. But the real difference was that Virg Bernero got nearly a million fewer than Jennifer Granholm.
What’s all this mean? Michigan voters have clearly lost confidence in the Democrats. But many are still reserving judgment on Snyder. And as far as African-Americans are concerned, he hasn’t even begun to make the sale.