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Experts have their picks for this election, but voters have the final say

Jack Lessenberry

Both political parties held their state conventions last weekend. They filled out their slates of nominees, from state Supreme Court down to school board and university trustee slots.

With that the fall campaigns can fully begin in earnest.

Years ago, in a kinder and gentler era, they used to say that the public really didn’t tune in to campaigns until after the World Series.

Well, that was when the series ended the first week in October. These days it sometimes goes into November, and in Michigan the campaign for governor has been going on for more than a year.

My guess, however, is that most normal people start tuning into campaigns about Labor Day.

Here’s a tip: The media loves conflict and drama, and we tend to play up supposed splits within political parties. Sometimes these are very real, but most of the time those involved forget about their differences before the election because they hate the other party more.

For example, we heard a lot about the Tea Party efforts to knock off Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, and indeed, Wes Nakagiri did challenge him for the nomination. But after Calley won easily, Nakagiri asked for the nomination to be made unanimous.

The election is not a meaningless sport. This is about our future, and the people really do have the final say.

On a similar note, there was supposed to be a revolt among the Democrats because state Supreme Court nominee William Murphy is personally anti-abortion. But that fizzled after Murphy sent delegates a letter indicating he regarded Roe v Wade as the law of the land, and didn’t think any judges should rule based on ideology.

These days our parties are pretty polarized.

Their supporters very seldom jump to the other side, though if sufficiently turned off, they may stay home, which is what happened to Democrats here four years ago. Lon Johnson, the new Democratic state chair, thinks this election is all about who can get their voters to the polls.

Here, by the way, is the so-called conventional wisdom about the election this year. That is, what most of the so-called experts think is likely to happen. They think Governor Snyder is likely to win reelection, but by far less than his landslide four years ago.

Democrat Gary Peters, however, is favored over Republican Terri Lynn Land for the U.S. Senate seat. Few expect any of the congressional seats to change hands; while we’ll have a lot of new faces, there will still be nine Republicans and five Democrats.

Republicans are also favored to hold on to both houses of the Legislature, though Democrats think they can win the House.

Democrats should pick up from one to three seats in the state Senate, though they aren’t likely to come close to winning control. Meanwhile, the two incumbent state Supreme Court judges, Brian Zahra and David Viviano, are good bets to win reelection.

Richard Bernstein, the Democratic nominee for the open court seat, is favored over GOP nominee James Redford.

At any rate, if these were horse races, that’s what the tip sheet would say. However, this is not a meaningless sport. This is about our future, and the people really do have the final say.

It will be interesting to see if they prove the experts wrong.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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