2016-10-06 / Columns

Focus on President, Congress Races

Michigan Politics
By George Weeks

In latest polls for both Detroit dailies and two television stations, Democrat Hillary Clinton leads over Republican Donald Trump in Michigan. But the hottest ad battle on the state’s broadcast stations Up North is the 1st District congressional race between Lon Johnson and Jack Bergman.

The Detroit News on Friday said Clinton leads Trump by seven points in a poll for it, and WDIV-TV by Glengariff Group after their first debate, widely assessed to have been won by her.

In the Glengariff poll, 52% of likely voters said she won. I agree.

Just before the debate, another poll by EPIC-MRA for the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV, Clinton had a three-point lead, down from an 11- point lead in August.

Polls are fleeting things so early, and not to be relied upon as predictions of outcomes.

Last week, Trump paid his fifth visit to Michigan since winning nomination at the mid-July Republican National Convention. He accelerated his attacks on Clinton, and the media. Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, campaigned in Traverse City.

What’s most significant in the hotly contested race to replace retiring U.S. Representative Dan Benishek, (R-Crystal Falls) in the sprawling 1st District is the huge dose of ads. In them, Watersmeet businessman Bergman, a retired pilot and Marine three-star general, and Lon Johnson of Kalkaska County, former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, accuse each other of being a carpetbagger.

Sprawling? All 15 counties of the Upper Peninsula and 16 and a half in the Lower Peninsula. It’s nearly half of all of Michigan—the second largest congressional district east of the Mississippi (after Maine’s 2nd).

Strong Running Mates

As the presidential race narrows down, it is apparent that those atop the tickets have made solid, well-credentialed choices for running mates. Former governors are looking good as potential executives on the national scene.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, has been articulate on the trail. He’s a former six-term congressman who ended up chairing the House Republican Conference.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, 2006-2010 governor, also has been effective on the Clinton ticket. His congressional service includes a wide range of dealing with international and security issues. The Kaine-Pence debate was scheduled for Tuesday this week.

It strikes me that on the Libertarian ticket, running mate William Weld, former governor of Massachusetts, is superior to ex-New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who is atop the ticket. Johnson had two recent national media stumbles on foreign issues, most recently being unable to name a history foreign leader he admires.

Paper’s Endorsement Breaks 143-Year History

It was an astounding thing last week when The Detroit News (where I long worked) and some other papers in Arizona and elsewhere in the nation for the first time in their history endorsed someone other than a Republican candidate for president. The Detroit News said Thursday:

“We abandon that long and estimable tradition for one reason: Donald J. Trump.

“The 2016 nominee offered by the Republican Party rubs hard against the editorial board’s values as conservative and Americans. Donald Trump is unprincipled, unstable, and quite possibly dangerous. He cannot be president.”

As for Clinton, the paper said she had “impressive credentials,” but it was troubled by ethics and other issues, and ended up endorsing Libertarian Johnson as “a competent and capable president and an honorable one.”

The Chicago Tribune, which historically endorses Republicans for president (although in 2008, for the first time in its 181-year history, it endorsed local Democrat Barack Obama), last week endorsed Johnson and criticized both Trump and Clinton.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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