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Where politics and faith dance in the shadow of the windmill.

Can Palin Move Michigan?

The post-convention bounce is well underway and recent polls underscore how much the race has tightened up. The recent poll by Public Policy Polling gave Obama a rather one point lead (47/46) – a tie given the 2.9% margin of error.

This post-convention bounce has certainly troubled Democrats nationally, but should Dems be worried here in the Great Lakes State?

A look under the “hood” and at local races is in order. Fortunately the survey breaks down the results by gender, race and age.

Gender. In a breakout of the poll subsets, Palin’s likeability among women (“does McCain’s selection of Palin make you more or less likely to vote for him”) matches their preference for McCain. Gender does not seem to be in immediate play, however with one in five remaining neutral, women will be a continuing object of GOP outreach.

Turn to race and age, however, and we can see the impact of Palin.

Race. African Americans understandably are strongly for the Democratic ticket, with only 9 percent expressing a preference for McCain. Nonetheless, 13 percent find Palin attractive. The extra four percent of this segment (worth one point in overall results) may reflect a reversion to mean for the African American vote –the breakthrough status of Palin validating a return to the GOP fold for moderate black conservatives. If so, this would

Age. Younger voters (age 18-29) also may seem to be in play. While 41% are for McCain, 45% look favorably. Other age cohorts’ enthusiasm for Palin remains proportionate to their support of McCain. This of course suggests that something like the youth/celebrity of the Alaskan governor is helping her. This may be more pop culture than electoral planning. At least so far.

The danger is likely that if youth energy decreases, then this pop identity takes over, and Obama loses a crucial edge. This is the threat.

So the first brush suggests that she has earned people’s attention, even in the minority community. For local races the issue gets a little more serious: how will she affect local races?
Two races of local concern are those of the Bruce Hawley v. Tom Pearce (MI-73) and Robert Dean v. Dan Tietema (MI-75).

The rough outlines of her appeal seem to be clear: her faith-tinged populism appeals to and motivates the GOP social conservative base. Her celebrity dynamism which proves so attractive to young voters, suggests that she may also act as a positive draw for voters with social conservative leanings.

MI-73, North Kent County
The district has a strong social conservative bent as it is, with Dems as likely to share something of the flavor (e.g. stance on abortion) as their Republican neighbors. The risk rather comes with increased turnout.

Precincts at risk for Dems (Social Conservative -, Dem +, Turnout -):
City of Cedar Springs, Nelson #3, Plainfield Charter #10, Plainfield Charter #11, Plainfield Charter #3, Plainfield Charter #4, Plainfield Charter #5, Plainfield Charter #8, Plainfield Charter #9, Sparta #1, Spencer #2.

Precincts where Palin confirms GOP status (GOP+, Social Conservative +)
Algoma #1, Algoma #2, Algoma #3, Cannon #6, Courtland #2, Courtland #3, Nelson #2, Oakfield #3, Plainfield Charter #2, Plainfield Charter #7, Sparta #2, Sparta #3, Tyrone.

MI-75, east side of Grand Rapids
There is little of direct threat within the city. More troubling for the Democratic incumbent will be the strengthening of the GOP base in a sizeable number of the precincts. Many of these same precincts in the Third Ward also make up County Commission 19 – this is bad news for Bob Synk’s candidacy to unseat incumbent Nadine Klein. Brandon Dillon, incumbent in CC-17, may also encounter some headwind, though it remains to be seen what kind of pull Palin has with Catholic social conservatives like those in the Second Ward.

Precincts at risk for Dems (Social Conservative -, Dem +, Turnout -):
2-34, 3-45, 3-55

Precincts where Palin confirms GOP status (GOP+, Social Conservative +)
2-37, 2-38, 2-43, 2-44, 2-45, 2-46, 2-47. 3-7, 3-31,3-38,3-39, 3-42, 3-43, 3-53, 3-54, 3-56, 3-57.

The boring technical note:
The precincts were analyzed on the variance from the average according to three variables over the last two cycles: top of the ticket voting, average voting on recent constitutional proposals with strong social conservative themes, and average turnout.

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