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Note – The numbers for 2012 from the Michigan Secretary of State’s website are unofficial, though they are more complete than the AP’s results and will likely see few changes in the near future.

In 2010, there was no better indicator that the national red tide was going to hit Michigan hard than the monster Republican turnout in their party's gubernatorial primary. Nearly 519,562 more people voted in the Republican primary that year, and the total vote cast was nearly twice that on the Democratic side. Though some of this could be attributed to the fact that the Democratic nomination was seen by many as a suicide mission, nonetheless it was a harbinger of how lopsided turnout would be in November that year.

So were Republicans able to match this this year for their Senate primary? Though Republican turnout was greater than the Democrats’ (not surprising since incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow was unopposed), the margin was cut by more than half, falling to 210,435.

Despite Stabenow not facing any opposition as mentioned above, 554,951 people still opted to vote in the Democratic primary, 26,129 more than who voted in the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial primary and more than any individual candidate on the Republican side received. Indeed, in 18 counties more people voted in the uncontested Democratic primary than the competitive Republican one:

2012 Senatorial Primary - Republican and Democrats Total

While much of this can be explained by the fact that many other races were taking place that were not on the ballot in 2010, such as county and township offices, it is nonetheless a huge swing from that year, when only four counties saw a Democratic majority in the primaries:

2010 Gubernatorial Primary - Republican and Democrats Total

And at the same time Democratic turnout increased, 282,998 less people voted in the Republican primary and total turnout was down overall by 256,869. This change is especially notable when seen by county:

2012 Senatorial Primary - Changes in Total Turnout from 2010 Gubernatorial Primary

The increase in Democratic turnout was most impressive in the Western Upper Peninsula, the Metro Detroit area, the Central-Northwest area around Manistee and Traverse City and in the working class farming areas around Bay City:

2012 Senatorial Primary - Changes in Total Turnout from 2010 Gubernatorial Primary, Democratic

Indeed, the Democratic surge in turnout in these areas is especially impressive if seen in conjunction with the Republican primary (first map is the Republican primary alone, second is the Republican candidates along with Stabenow):

2012 Senatorial Primary - Republican Primary

2012 Senatorial Primary - Republican and Democrats


Though these primary elections are an imperfect barometer of what will happen in November, there are two conclusions one can draw from yesterday’s elections:

Democratic losses in the Upper Peninsula from 2010 are not irreversible. One of the most crushing blows of 2010 was not necessarily Republicans picking up the 1st Congressional District (i.e. Bart Stupak’s seat), which has historically been very swingy, but Republicans picking up all but one of the region’s state house seats and all of the region’s state senate seats. But whether Democratic turnout in this year’s primaries was driven by local races, where most offices are still held by Democrats, or by Republican reversals since 2010 is not important. It’s clear that voters in the Western U.P., regardless of how they vote overall in the November election, have not given up on their traditional political affiliations yet.

Republicans in Metro Detroit could’ve care less about their Senate candidates. While Pete Hoekstra, who flopped in Eastern Michigan in 2010, did win Oakland and Macomb counties, he did so with an unimpressive 53 and 51 percent, and Republican turnout overall declined:

2012 Senatorial Primary - Changes in Total Turnout from 2010 Gubernatorial Primary, Republican

Furthermore, his worst county also happened to be the state’s most populous, Wayne, where he received only 32% of the vote and, if the unofficial results hold up, he lost to a guy who dropped out of the race several weeks ago.

And while there’s no chance that a Durant, Glenn or Hekman voter is going to vote for Stabenow, the fact is that Metro Detroit has been Hoekstra’s worst area both times he has run statewide and that there’s a difference between an Eastern Michigan Republican being willing to vote for a Western Michigan Republican and being excited to do so. The fact that this is a presidential election year and that he has closed weak in both his statewide primaries should give any Republicans who see this race as a first-class pickup opportunity pause.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm particularly excited about... (7+ / 0-)

    ...what appears to be the Western UP coming back around.  Many people worried it may have been a region we lost for a long time in 2010.  The turnout also seems to validate the poll this year showing McDowell having a very good chance at retaking this seat for the Dems.

    I'm about as in the dark as anyone is about what's going to happen downstate, but I'm getting aside about the potential in the UP.

    •  Me too. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, bumiputera, ArkDem14

      I wouldn't be surprised to see Obama do a bit better in the Western U.P./a little worse in the Central and Eastern U.P. than in 2008. Especially since Romney bombed there in the primaries and Snyder's education cuts really hurt rural school districts in the area.

      Is neither cool nor named Ben. MI-06 (Home), MI-02 (College), Male.

      by koolbens on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 07:44:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think it does mean Dems will roar back in the UP (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Hail to the king, baby.

    by KingofSpades on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 07:48:33 PM PDT

  •  Great research (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I wonder if some of the overly-Democratic turnout in the Metro Detroit area was due to the ballot proposal for the Detroit Institute of Arts millage? Although I do know many Republicans in Oakland County who were also voting yes on the proposal, including my dad who very rarely votes for a new millage.

    •  I'm not sure. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm from the Western side of the state, so I've heard of the Art millage but don't really know the dynamics/politics of it.

      Is neither cool nor named Ben. MI-06 (Home), MI-02 (College), Male.

      by koolbens on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 09:27:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The millage was to help support (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koolbens, Woody, JanL

        the DIA. The thinly-veiled racism, especially that coming out of Macomb county was something. The opponents kept saying that if the millage was passed, the money would go to the city of Detroit instead.

        Some of the dimmer bulbs actually said that if they needed money, they should just sell off some of the art. The sane among us recoiled in horror.

    •  As was witnessed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      frey60, ArkDem14 the turnout by county, it's pretty clear a lot of Oakland County Republicans came out for the millage, too.  Dosn't surprise me; the DIA is truly one of the best in the country, if you ask me.  Didn't surprise me, either, that the Reagan "Democrats" and New Money in Macomb County barely passed it.

    •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, Unit Zero

      I heard phone messages against the DIA that hated on multiple demographics. One was against the highfalutin artsy elite who are taking millions of dollars from taxpayers to stuff their own pockets with gold plated caviar, and the other was against the dirty effing hippies that just take from society to play with fingerpaints.

      Okay, not exactly, but they were definitely aiming in those directions.

      Thank goodness most people hang up on the robocalls.

      Weathering Michigan's recessions since the '70s.

      by jennifree2bme on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 10:38:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Tru Dat (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I got a number of them Monday night when you were out.

        That, and the ones saying that Jon Switalski is a Socialist and that "outside interests" were campaigning for him - You know those Pesky Nurses...

        If you play Microsoft CD's backwards, you hear satanic things, but that's nothing, because if you play them forwards, they install Windows.

        by Unit Zero on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 08:28:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Western UP (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KingofSpades, JanL, Woody, koolbens, ArkDem14

    That data looks good for taking back the state house of representatives. Much of that corresponds to HD-110 and HD-108. Both are top targets for Democratic pickup. Democrats are hoping to pickup one of those seats, but it looks like we could pick up both.

    M, 22, School: MI-12(new) (Old MI-15), Home: NY-18 (new) (Old NY-19)

    by slacks on Wed Aug 08, 2012 at 11:51:02 PM PDT

    •  Candidates (0+ / 0-)

      Out of curiosity, who's running, up there?  I haven't been paying attention to these races, at all.

      •  We have decent candidates (0+ / 0-)

        In the HD-108, CPA Sharon Gray edged out Ex-State Rep Judy Nerat in the democratic primary. Democratic leaders actually preferred Gray. She now take on Rep. Ed McBroom.

        In HD-110, 2010 candidate Scott Dianda will face off with Rep. Matt Huuki again.

        M, 22, School: MI-12(new) (Old MI-15), Home: NY-18 (new) (Old NY-19)

        by slacks on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 06:21:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If we could... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Take back HD-108, that'd be a really great sign - it's always been a good bellwether of where regional politics are going. And the fact that we lost HD-110, even in a wave year like 2010, is a crime.

          Is neither cool nor named Ben. MI-06 (Home), MI-02 (College), Male.

          by koolbens on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 06:43:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  As a UP resident, I can offer some perspective (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koolbens, slacks, KingofSpades, ArkDem14

          I think the 110th is lean Dem at this point - as was said before, we never should have lost it in the first place, and folks in the Western UP have not been satisfied with the legislature, especially when it comes to Unions/labor issues. Besides some Wayne County suburbs and maybe the Bay City Area, Marquette and the Western UP is the strongest pro-Union area in the State. Just look at the Primary turnout in the 110th: Incumbent R Huuki got 3,675 votes, while both Dems combined got 7,537. It will be nearly impossible for Huuki to overcome that institutional Democratic strength, especially in a Presidential year.

          The 108th, on the other hand, I'd call a tossup. I don't know much about Sharon Gray, but she seems like a solid candidate, whereas McBroom still comes across as a young neophyte. Working in his favor, however, is the fact that this area isn't nearly as pro-union as the 110th and 109th districts. There are strong pockets of economic conservatism in Delta and Menominee Counties, especially, and while Dickinson County tends to be populist at times, it's rabidly socially Conservative and tends to vote Republican most of the time. There is still an institutional Democratic lean, however, and I expect President Obama and statewide Dems to perform well in Delta and Menominee Counties, which will hopefully push Gray over the top.

          The 109th (my district), will be safely Democratic again. Even in 2010, Republicans couldn't come close to winning here. Marquette mayor Jon Kivela isn't as progressive as outgoing Rep. Steve Lindberg, however, which is why I voted for Tony Retaskie in the primary. Kivela shouldn't be too bad, however, just a little more pro-business than the district as a whole.

          •  Thanks for the local perspective. (0+ / 0-)

            I went up through Marquette on my way to the Keweenaw Peninsula last summer - a truly beautiful area full of wonderful people. One thing I would add to what you said is that the Republican's cuts to education probably haven't helped their image either, seeing as how poorer rural school districts have been hit the hardest by those.

            Is neither cool nor named Ben. MI-06 (Home), MI-02 (College), Male.

            by koolbens on Thu Aug 09, 2012 at 02:48:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

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