Thursday, July 31, 2014

A race to decide the future of Michigan's Republicans

The following was from Tuesday's edition of The Morning Sun.

A week from now Michiganders, or rather those not away at their cottage enjoying summer, will head to the polls.

At stake are party nominations for the usual assortment of offices — ranging from the high and mighty (think the governorship and the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Democratic incumbent Carl Levin) to lowest of low (delegate to the county Democratic and Republican conventions).

And it’s the race for precinct delegate on the GOP side that is arguably the most important line on this year’s ballot, at least in the handful of counties where there is real competition for what has traditionally been a mostly overlooked spot at the end of the ballot.

It’s unclear exactly how many precinct delegate hopefuls are actually campaigning, but outside groups are pouring money into the races because the very future of Brian Calley, who as lieutenant governor is Governor Rick Snyder’s chief political helpmate, will be decided by those who end up winning their race for precinct delegate.

The winners will then assemble in county conventions across Michigan for the sole purpose of electing delegates to the Republican State Convention to be held on Aug. 23 in Novi, where the main order of business is the re-nomination of Calley. (GOP candidates for the state’s Supreme Court as well as the various education boards will also be picked.)

In most years, this would be a formality, but not this year.

A small gang of malcontents, aligned with the likes of Dave Agema, the unabashed bigot and disgraced member of the GOP’s national committee, has set their sights on Calley, the affable former legislator from Ionia County who is the very epitome of a main street conservative.

While Calley should prevail over a self-proclaimed tea party leader named Wes Nakagiri — not least because of heavy outside organizing by traditional Republicans — one never knows what could happen during a late-summer convention with an incredibly small electorate of approximately 1,800 or so voting delegates.

Everything changes if the malcontents manage to best precinct delegate hopefuls supportive of Calley in enough counties or the primary election is plagued with low turnout, as is often the case. Heck, even the absence of a few delegates from far-flung corners of the state’s Upper Peninsula could end up making the difference, if they determine the drive all the way to the Detroit suburbs isn’t worth it.

Further complicating matters is the fact that those elected to be precinct delegates will be key Republican powerbrokers through the 2016 presidential election.

They will be critical heading into the campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, which should begin with the first candidates declaring their intentions in the early new year, when they’ll also decide who serves as state Republican chairman for another two years.

The incoming class of precinct delegates will also decide whether Agema gets another four years and who makes up the electoral college, should the Republican presidential nominee win Michigan.

The latter is especially important if a pending bill changing the way the electoral college votes are awarded passes out of the Legislature during the lame-duck session later this year.

 — Dennis Lennox

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The sad reality in Mitchell-Moolenaar race

The following is from today's edition of The Morning Sun.

By now you have surely heard the broadsides fired from the campaigns of Paul Mitchell and John Moolenaar in the race for the Republican nomination to replace retiring Dave Camp in Congress.

Mitchell, a Saginaw County businessman, and Moolenaar, who serves in the state Senate from Midland, are in one of the most competitive campaigns in the primary election on August 5.

What started as an advertising blitz by Mitchell to gain name recognition against the more established Moolenaar has turned into a GOP civil war.

On one side is Moolenaar. He has the endorsement of Camp, who has served in the House of Representatives since 1991 and is presently chairman of the very powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Also lending his backing to Moolenaar is Attorney General Bill Schuette, who held the congressional seat before Camp.

Normally, support from the biggest names in the party would be enough for Moolenaar to put down a challenge. However, this time is different.

Mitchell may be running as a political outsider in much the same way as then-unknown Rick Snyder defeated a field of Republican grandees to win the party’s 2010 gubernatorial nomination, but he is hardly a political newcomer.

Before declaring his congressional candidacy, Mitchell served as finance chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. This plum position, which in the past has been used as a platform for a run at state GOP chairman, came after Mitchell not only established but funded Pure PAC, a so-called super political action committee in the fall of 2013 that ran TV advertisements against Democratic senatorial candidate Gary Peters.

Mitchell’s experience, however, doesn’t just end there. He briefly ran for a Saginaw County-based state Senate seat before dropping out. He was also elected to city council in the greater Detroit area, though he resigned from office.

While both campaigns attack each other — Mitchell questioning Moolenaar's conservatism and Moolenaar criticizing Mitchell who, like many businessmen, made political contributions to both parties — the reality is both Mitchell and Moolenaar are eminently qualified to serve in Congress.

With a background in business, Mitchell can credibly speak on issues related to jobs, the economy and even education (he ran a career training company). This is important because too many seem more concerned about partisan gridlock than solving America’s deep challenges.

On the other hand, Moolenaar’s political experience would make it easy for him to get working on his first day in Washington. Congress may be the nation’s legislature but the dynamics are similar to Lansing, where Moolenaar has proven himself.

All this makes for a difficult decision in the primary election, when the winner becomes the next congressman as the Republican base in the constituency makes it a forlorn hope for Democrats in November.

Despite each candidate attacking the other’s alleged heresy the reality is little differences on the major issues exist between the two of them. Both Mitchell and Moolenaar would be consistent votes for the Republican whip.

And that’s what makes this race unfortunate.

Mitchell and Moolenaar would both improve the debate in Congress, but regretfully only one will have the chance.

— Dennis Lennox

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hillary Clinton's Obama problem

The following is from today's edition of The Morning Sun.

Hillary Clinton is without a doubt the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

This is largely because of her significant gender advantage — something that can only be minimized if Republicans run New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, who is arguably one of the few Republicans who can beat Clinton.

Otherwise, many middle-of-the-road and even non-ideological conservative-leaning women in suburbs and middle America will vote to break the proverbial glass ceiling by electing the country’s first female president. This same dynamic propelled black voter turnout two years ago, when incompetent Republican strategists and pollsters thought they would stay at home for President Barack Obama’s re-election.

Anyone who thinks turnout amongst women, already a majority of voters, wouldn’t reach record levels with Clinton as the only woman on the ballot is just plain stupid.

That is why Democrats who oppose Clinton are turning to Elizabeth Warren, the freshman senator from Massachusetts and left-wing ideological purist.

Warren is already in high demand as one of her party’s national surrogates, which gives her the chance to scrimmage ahead of presidential nomination contest that will begin in earnest early next year. (Michigan is on her schedule for Friday, when she will campaign alongside Democratic Senate candidate Gary Peters — a bit ironic considering Peters was a Wall Street investment banker.)

Recognizing the challenges of a man beating the erstwhile secretary of state, senator and former first lady and wanting to avoid a repeat of the contentious nomination process of 2008, which was marred with accusations of sexism, the anti-Clinton elements in the Democratic Party have settled on Warren because she would neutralize Clinton’s gender advantage.

For Obama’s true believers on the left, Clinton is a heretic who will do and say anything to hold power. That means she will likely run toward the middle in the general election and distance herself from Obama, whose presidency is tired and entering the lame duck stage as Republicans are poised to keep the House of Representatives and re-take majority in the Senate this November.

Despite having served in Obama’s cabinet she is already working feverishly to cast the narrative that the two of them were never particularly close and that she was sidelined from shaping policy with her endless travels abroad as America’s diplomat.

This is where Clinton is most vulnerable, as it will be incredibly difficult for her to be perceived as a loyal Democrat if she is distancing herself too much from Obama.

The GOP would be wise to avoid the temptation to bring up scandals from Bill’s presidency two decades ago and instead focus on Clinton’s Obama problem.

This will be difficult for the right, as more Republicans despise the Clintons than Obama.

Clinton is hoping the right makes it about her husband, as she would love to play the victim card thereby appealing to women across the country who can sympathize with her for having a wayward husband.

Republicans could also make things worse by repeating the past two nomination processes, which were three-ring circuses complete with the clowns.

— Dennis Lennox

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Bill Ayers wouldn't be a stranger at Michigan colleges

The following is from today's edition of The Morning Sun.

Anyone who watched the recent much-hyped interview between Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and domestic terrorist-turned-college professor Bill Ayers couldn't help but wonder what exactly is being taught in the classroom these days.

Not least because Ayers, the unabashed communist who co-founded Weather Underground, went from bombing police stations at the height of the Vietnam War to formulating curriculum and educational standards used across the country.

One can only imagine the sort of anti-American propagating that went on in Ayers’ classroom at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Actually, one doesn’t have to imagine because the same viewpoint can be found locally at Central Michigan University and at other colleges across the state.

Granted, CMU, at least to this columnist’s knowledge, doesn’t employ any domestic terrorists in its faculty. Still, the views of many professors are identical to Ayers, who many have read and studied for their own work. And while Ayers hasn't come to Mt. Pleasant that hasn't stopped CMU from expending precious taxpayer money on Angela Davis and Tom Hayden, both of whom are peers of his.

As for an alternative perspective — you know, something remotely approaching mainstream — there has been none.

Back in 2007, CMU even refused to spend a few bucks on cheese and crackers for a reception with the then-Lithuanian ambassador, who was on campus to speak about the dictatorship in Belarus and, more generally, life under the former Soviet Union.

Speaking of the Soviet Union, it’s incredibly ironic for Ayers, Hayden, Davis, Michael Moore and other lefties to hate America but still live here when they surely would feel more at home in say Cuba, North Korea or China. So much for not being able to have your cake and eat it too.

Cotter opposed for speakership

A couple months after declaring his candidacy for speaker of the state House, presuming the GOP keeps majority after November’s general election, Mt. Pleasant’s Kevin Cotter, whose House constituency spans all of Isabella County and part of Midland County, could face a challenge from one of the state’s top Republican women.

Lisa Posthumus Lyons, daughter of former Lieutenant Governor and 2002 Republican gubernatorial nominee Dick Posthumus, who now works in the administration of Governor Rick Snyder, has been a little quieter in her leadership ambitions.

Posthumus Lyons, who represents parts of Kent and Ionia counties, would be a strong speaker for a party that seems stuck in permanent defense against tired Democratic claims that the GOP is waging a war against women.

Cotter has been a fairly sensible voice in Lansing, but Republicans would be wise to wake up and smell the coffee.

The party needs fresh faces and new voices, including more women in prominent positions.

While the GOP has no shortage of women within party committee posts, a disconnect exists with many opting against a run for public office.

Not only would Posthumus Lyons be best positioned to recruit women, who should make up 50 percent of the party’s candidates, but who better than to refute Democratic war on women talking points than someone who isn't a bald, fat, old white guy?

 — Dennis Lennox

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Land, Peters, Moolenaar and Mitchell, oh my

The following is from today's edition of The Morning Sun.

The race to fill the seat of Carl Levin, the Democrat who has been in the U.S. Senate longer than many Michiganders have been alive, is turning out to be quite the campaign.

It may still be June, but the electoral tussle between Republican former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and Democrat Gary Peters, best known locally for his sinecure professorship at Central Michigan University while running for Congress six years ago down in Oakland County, might just end up determining majority in the upper house of Congress.

At least that seems to be the case judging from the score of advertisements running almost non-stop on both broadcast and cable TV channels.

It’s also telling when almost all the TV ads from Peters and Democrat-aligned groups focus on attacking Land. One of the most despicable ads has a ridiculously absurd inference that Land was somehow responsible for a plant closure in Gaylord simply because she has been the indirect beneficiary of the much-maligned Koch brothers, who are for Republicans what George Soros and Tom Steyer are to Democrats. This desperation on the part of Democrats shows they are nervous about the candidacy of the one-time professor who has made a career living off the teat of government.

Much is dependent on the outcome of gubernatorial race between GOP Governor Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer.

With Snyder set to win re-election — Schauer is beyond weak and, more notably, no sitting Michigan governor has lost re-election to a second term since 1962 — it’s becoming a question of what percentage he gets at the ballot box.

It will be tough for him to replicate his margin of victory from 2010, when he bested Democratic nominee Virg Bernero with 58.11 percent of the vote.

Still, the more Snyder’s vote total gets over the 50 percent threshold the more likely he could carry Land over the finish line, especially if neither senatorial candidate can get outside the margin of error in public polling.

Locally, another race consuming the airwaves is the one to replace Midland’s Dave Camp, who is stepping down after 24 years representing much of central Michigan in the House of Representatives.

Camp, who as chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee has been in the national spotlight over the IRS scandal involving Lois Lerner, endorsed state Senator John Moolenaar, also of Midland, last week.

Normally this would be enough, but Moolenaar finds himself in a high-profile campaign for the Republican nomination with Paul Mitchell, a Saginaw area businessman who has burst onto the political scene since funding a series of statewide TV ads — the first in the Senate race — against Peters last year.

Mitchell is spending whatever it takes to win. Moolenaar doesn’t have that kind of money, but he has Camp and other backers, who could pour a lot of resources into outside spending.

All this should make for a fun summer between now and Aug. 5.

— Dennis Lennox