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Democrat Gov candidates should let go of Obama's coattails

Like Pee Wee Herman, Rick Snyder has parlayed nerdishness into name recognition in his governor bid.
Like Pee Wee Herman, Rick Snyder has parlayed nerdishness into name recognition in his governor bid.
Photo courtesy photobucket.com.

Opinions are like . . . well, we all have one.

So the latest Michigan gubernatorial polling results shouldn’t shake any potential candidates to the core. But, still, Democrats have to be feeling a bit vulnerable.

The two leading Democrat candidates would lose in a general election to any of the three top Republican challengers if the election were held today (the election, however -- like the World Series -- isn’t until November), according to a poll conducted by EPIC/MRA of Lansing, released to the Detroit Free Press, WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) and three out state TV stations last week.

State House Speaker Andy Dillon leads Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero in the Democrat primary by a 22 percent to 15 percent margin. When voters were given brief descriptions of the candidates -- according to a Detroit Free Press story -- Bernero pulled ahead of Dillon, 29 percent to 24 percent.

That, in itself, is troubling, and not just for Dillon supporters.

What, exactly, were the criteria when respondents gave the nod to Dillon? And what changed when they were given “descriptions” of the candidates? Eye color?

Regardless, both Dem hopefuls are running behind three of the seven Republican entries in the field. Voters chose Attorney General Mike Cox, Rep. Pete Hoekstra or Gateway computer chief executive Rick Snyder by significant margins when any was matched against Dillon or Bernero.

Snyder's margins over the two Democrats were 12 and 16 points, respectively, compared to 7 and 13 points for Hoekstra and 9 and 14 points for Cox. Snyder, you may recall, began his campaign earlier this year with the name recognition equivalent of a 1970s Paul Reubens -- pre-Pee Wee Herman, in other words.

And, like Pee Wee Herman, Snyder benefited from a large dose of nerd mania. The Ann Arbor venture capitalist and self-made millionaire launched a February ad blitz during the Super Bowl that has propelled him to serious contention in the race for outgoing Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s post.

Snyder led Dillon, 42 percent to 30 percent, with 28 percent undecided. He led Bernero 42 percent to 26 percent, with 32 percent undecided. Hoekstra led Dillon, 40 percent to 33 percent, with 27 percent undecided. He also led Bernero by 42 percent to 29 percent, with 29 percent undecided. Cox had a 43 percent to 34 percent lead over Cox, with 23 percent undecided. He outpolled Bernero 44 percent to 30 percent, with 26 percent undecided.

Surprisingly, the poll also showed that more Michigan voters now identify themselves as Republican (39 percent) than as Democrat (37percent), and the number of self-described independents is growing. In 2008 -- before President Barack Obama’s election -- the number of self-described Democrats in Michigan was as high as eight percentage points above their Republican counterparts.

The recent passage of the national health care package did no favors for Michigan Democrats. Michigan voters are nearly evenly divided in support or dislike of the new national health care reform law, according to the poll. However, one-third consider the health care bill "very bad," while only 24 percent describe it as a "very good" thing.

The poll surveyed 400 Democrat and 400 Republican likely voters for the gubernatorial primary races, with a margin of error of 4.9 percent. EPIC/MRA polled 600 likely voters statewide for the health care question and regarding the match-ups between Democrat and Republican candidates for governor. The margin of error was 4 percent.

Among likely Republican primary voters, Hoekstra garnered 27 percent of the vote, followed by Cox at 21 percent and Snyder at 15 percent. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard tallied 13 percent, while State Sen. Tom George pulled three percent (the same number as “someone else,” and well behind “Undecided/Refused to say” at 18 percent).

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