Monday, April 26, 2010

MI-01 - Dan Benishek for Congress

Right now I'm at the closest point I've ever come to throwing a straight ticket. I've never done that, and I won't do so. I check every name that's running before voting. However, after the well deserved ass kickings given in 2006 and 2008 to the GOP for their drift from fiscal conservatism and acting like democrats, the voters decided on the real thing instead of dem-lite.

The results are a disaster, including the health care takeover by the democrats and their buddies in the insurance companies like Blue Cross (FYI - The likely opponent for Mike Rogers, Kande what's his name, is a Blue Cross Guy, and  Dem State Senator Gretchen Whitmer is a Blue Cross heir). A month ago,  I posted a long-term blueprint for getting rid of Obamacare. It starts with getting people like Pelosi out of the speaker's chair. That means we need to win the majority. It starts with getting the right candidate to be the nomination here in the 1st district.

I hate using the term "electable candidate".The reason is that usually whoever the pundits say is the electable candidate isn't. See McCain in 2008. See John Kerry in 2004. (Dean might have won)  See Gore in 2000 (Bradley would have won) who lost multiple times with the re-re-re-re-re counts. The pundits and I have disagreements about who is the electable candidate. I think all of the candidates in the 1st are electable depending on their matchups. That's what it comes down to, just like football, mixed martial arts, and everything else.

The first district is open. It's a difficult swing seat for all parties involved and is one of the most unique districts in the country. It takes the right candidate to win here. I was hoping former State Rep Tom Casperson would run. He said he was sticking with the state senate candidacy instead. With Casperson out, I'm making my endorsement. Dan Benishek. He has the best chance to win with the possible matchups in this district.

Outside of my strong bias against carpetbagging to another district, I don't have anything against Jason Allen. In Allen's defense, about half of his senate seat was in the 1st. Many on the right-roots have their issues, but I'm concentrating on another issue here. Geography. The 1st district is about small town politics. There are no cities over 20,000 people. Allen's county of Grand Traverse is larger than any county in the district outside of  Bay County, and much of Bay County is in the 5th District. Traverse City is larger than 14 counties in this district. He's moved to Alanson, in Emmet County, which is in his state senate district.

Three of the candidates on the republican side are the longest of the longshots.  Don Hooper runs in every election and Stupak did what he does to everybody that runs against him. His campaign didn't take off this year in an open district. Linda Goldthorpe ran in 08, losing to Casperson in the primary. Tom Stillings is another longshot. It will be highly unlikely that either of those candidates win the primary. The two candidates which have a good shot at winning the primary are Dan Benishek and Jason Allen.


Quick overview of the areas:

Marquette area - Solid democrat, yellow dog.

Western UP - Conservative Democrat leaning in most of the area outside of Houghton. Locally, still very democrat. This is Joe Mack country still and is also the traditional mining areas. The GOP almost took this state rep seat in 2000 however, so it can be competitive.

Eastern UP - Slightly Republican leaning at the top of the ticket, but competitive locally.

Sunrise Lower Peninsula - Populist, votes democrat locally, swings on the national level. The state rep/senate seats here can be competitive when open. Alpena and the Standish/Pinconning areas are the major base for the democrats. They prefer social conservative democrats.

Central northern lower - Solidly conservative and leans Republican, although still populist in parts. The energy industry is big, especially in Otsego County. Grayling has the large national guard base. Otsego County is a base county.

Northwest lower - Leans Republican with a couple of rich liberal pockets, although not many compared to Traverse City itself. The townships near the towns in Antrim and Emmet Counties are the most Republican part of the district.

Analyzing the matchups:

Jason Allen v the field:
Geography is Allen's biggest weakness. It was a weakness in the 1990's under the older district borders when Stupak was running up 58% wins against trolls and flatlanders (those who live below the bridge.)  Stupak took the UP big and took the northeastern lower Penninsula as well, and even occasionally picking off Grand Traverse, Antrim, Otsego, and Emmet counties. It's a long tradition that this is the "UP's seat." Traverse City is also considered a "big city" in much of the UP. It's known as a high income area, and that won't play well in much of the UP or on the more labor influenced sunrise side of troll land.

Allen ran in 2002 and 2006 for state senate, winning both times. In an open seat race in 2002, he faced Michael Estes, now Mayor of Traverse City. He won every county except the swing county of Presque Isle (on the sunrise side), and he narrowly won Mackinac and Chippewa counties in the UP. In 2006, he faced Sharon Unger of Antrim County, winning all areas easily. I consider his UP wins against Estes good wins. There's also a difference between facing Estes and McDowell on his home turf.

Allen should clobber Saltonstall. Saltonstall won't beat Allen in his backyard, nor would she get the yooper vote. She may take Alpena, Marquette, Gogebic, Alger, Schoolcraft, and Iron counties based on strict partisanship, but this is a pro-life district.

Joel Sheltrown would be tougher. Sheltrown is a troll, but his views will resonate with a lot of yoopers as well. Sheltrown long has had very good relationships with 2nd amendment and outdoor groups. He's also pro-life (although pro-lifers are very skeptical of all democrats right now with Stupak's decision). Sheltrown is from one of the two most democrat areas in Northern Lower Michigan. His district covers Ogemaw, Roscommon, Iosco, and Missaukee counties. Sheltrown won Missaukee County, which is the 2nd most republican county in the state. It's about 4-5% more Republican than Livingston County by percentage. It's not in the 1st district and neither is Roscommon County. With media overlap, Sheltrown probably has a lot of support in Arenac County (Standish, prisons), the critical Grayling area, and maybe even up to Alpena. With Allen likely not being able to pick up the "Tim Moore" votes, he'd have to go to the UP and pick off the votes there in the critical swing areas. Houghton, Menominee, L'anse, Escanaba.  Possible, but I think someone better can do that.

Gary McDowell is the matchup that scares me with Allen. After the GOP held the competitive state rep position with Scott Shackleton for six years, they ran state senator Walt North who was the deciding vote on mourning dove hunting. North voted it down, the NRA endorsed McDowell (right decision), gave North an F (wrong decision, deserved a C, not an F - he's not in Schwarz category), and McDowell won, and much easier than expected. He won easily twice more, and took a normally GOP base county in Emmet County. Would he take Emmet County against Allen? Probably not, but it would be closer than acceptable. McDowell's a yooper, and will take the key Mackinac and Chippewa county areas, and likely the rest of the UP. Allen would have to run up big numbers in the sunrise areas to counter McDowell. Possible, but difficult.

Dan Benishek v the field.

Benishek should also clobber Saltonstall for the same reasons Allen would.

McDowell would still be a difficult matchup, but this would be yooper v yooper. He's going to have to make up those votes because of the Mackinac/Chippewa home base of McDowell. Houghton, Escanaba, Menominee, and Iron Mountain are key here. Benishek is closer to those areas than McDowell. He should be able to counter McDowell in Anrim, Otsego, and the leaning but not solid Grayling area with good base numbers.That will put the deciding areas over on the sunrise side.

Sheltrown would test the conventional wisdom of the "Yooper" seat. Benishek should take the UP, but not by a big margin with the partisans in the Marquette and Ironwood areas. Sheltrown will take the sunrise vote big ,and cut into the inland margins for the GOP. Benishek would need to win Emmet, Antrim, and Otsego big, and try to pick off Grayling, Mio, and that area.

It's a long election season, and this race is very important. Geography is probably the biggest issue in this populist district. I think it takes a strong yooper to give the GOP the best chances to win. That person is Dan Benishek.

Benishek isn't the establishment. In an area that doesn't like establishment politicians, that's a good thing. As a surgeon, he knows what this health care takeover does to regular Americans. He's a yooper in the "yooper district." He's fighting the establishment. It will probably take a grassroots darkhorse to win this race against a McDowell or Sheltrown democrat. I think Benishek has the best chance to win because of those reasons.

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