A Tale of Two Michigan Campaigns

It is looking less and less likely that the GOP will capture the open Senate seat in Michigan.  The polls are favoring the Democrat, [mc_name name=’Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’P000595′ ], in this bluish purple state.  Despite the recent voting history for President and Senate, it does not have to be this way.  While the campaign of Terri Land is circling the drain, the GOP candidate for Governor, Rick Snyder, has a slight lead.  He still might loose, but it will be a lot closer than the Senate race.  What is happening that voters are splitting between the two races?

I was curious so I checked out one of the latest polls, Mitchell Research released Oct. 20 , where detailed information was available.  One of the issues debated in the Senate race is the War on Women meme that Peters has been pushing so it is interesting to look at the gender breakdown.  To my surprise there is almost no gender gap in the Senate race as shown by the first graph.

New Picture

Land stinks equally among men and women.  While Peters has slightly higher support among women, Land is equally bad regardless of gender.  Does this show up in the Governor’s race, too?  There is a gender gap there, but not in the way you might think as shown by the next graph.

New Picture (2)

The Democratic candidate, Mark Schauer, has a slight advantage among women, but there is a much stronger gap among men in favor of Snyder.  The War on Women does not seem to be obviously helping either Democratic candidate in Michigan.

Gaps in support do show up in other demographics, the most interesting being age.  Here is the age breakdown in the Senate race:

New Picture (1)

Land trails in every age bracket except the thirty-year-olds.  The same general pattern holds in the governor’s race.

New Picture (3)

Synder strongest support is also with thirty-year-olds, but he also wins the forty-year age bracket and is close for the twenties and fifties.  He trials very similarly for the sixties and seventy plus.  I compared the difference in support between the two GOP candidates by subtracting Land’s percentages from Snyder’s as shown in this next graph.

New Picture (5)

The trend is obvious.  The younger the voters, the greater the gap between Snyder and Land.  (Keep in mind that these are both Republicans just running for different statewide elections.)  Why is there a difference?

What I think is happening in the older age brackets is party loyalty.  These people are retired blue-collar union members (and friends and family).  They are not swayed as much by the commercials.  For the most part, they have always voted Democrat, and for the most part they always will.  It does not matter what the issues are or who is running, if the person has an R by their name they will vote against them.

The youngest bracket is not hard to explain, either.  They are the young liberals who will decide their vote on feelings, emotions, and whims.  While the Democrats have an advantage in this age group, Snyder has impressively almost pulled even.  He does come from a technology background that may have more appeal to young voters.  Another factor is that Snyder is known to be more socially moderate.  He has not pushed social issues.  Finally, as an incumbent for the last four years, the younger voters are not as familiar with other governors.  The only other governor they know is the previous Democrat who left the state in a mess

I don’t know any explanation for the thirty-year-old group.  I am curious if this general trend shows up in other states.

As for the general difference between the results of the two GOP candidates, I can only speculate on my experiences with the campaign ads I have seen.  I will not distinguish between ads directly controlled by the candidates and those produced by independent groups.

The pro Land ads came out early and strong, attacking the problems created by Obamacare.  The Democrats countered in two ways.  They attacked the Koch brothers who helped fund the independent group responsible for the initial ads.  They also directly attack Land using the War on Women meme by emphasizing obscure provisions in Obamacare that favored women.  They accused Land of wanted to degrade women’s healthcare without mentioning that the accusations are based on her position ofrepealing Obamacare.  Obamacare or its formal name is never mentioned in the Peters’ ads.  Peters has continued with these same general attacks, strongly pushing the idea that Land is a puppet of big business and especially the Koch brothers.

Land waited too long to counter attack.  She ran mostly positive fluff ads and defensive ads.  The attack ads against Peters were too few and too late.  Obamacare has not been an obvious issue.  She has not hit Peters on fiscal issues like taxes or deficit spending.

In contrast, ads from Snyder attacked the Democrat Schauer from the beginning and have not let up.  The ads went after Schauer because he was a legislative ally of the previous Democratic governor.  Ads have also attacked Schauer for his support of Cap and Trade (and anti-energy agenda) while he was in the US House.  While there have been no direct ads linking Schauer to Obamacare, he has been attacked for siphoning off $700 million in Medicare to help pay for Obamacare.

Snyder’s vulnerabilities are mainly school funding and a pension tax.  The school funding issue is complicated.  Schauer claims that Snyder cut funding by $1 billion.  Snyder counters that he has raised funding by $1 billion.  Strange as it may seem, both have come claim to truth.  On the pension tax, Snyder’s main counter is that he has gotten Michigan’s finances in order and the economy is improving under his watch.

In the end, the difference between the Snyder and Land campaigns is that Synder has been more aggressive.  He has attacked his opponent earlier and more.  In the Senate race, Peters has been more aggressive than Land.  Negative campaigning may explain the age trend difference between Snyder and Land.  The younger the voter, the less experience they have with politics.  They have less party loyalty.  They may be more easily swayed by negative ads.