What if 2016 Isn’t a Wave Election?

By Susan J. Demas and Chad Selweski

The conventional wisdom is that Michigan –– and the country –– have been see-sawing between wave elections since 2006.

As IMP has pointed out, one possible exception is 2014 (Vol. XV, No. 4). Republicans had a darn good year –– they won the governorship, swept all state offices, held contested U.S. House seats and padded their majorities in the state House and state Senate. But Democrat Gary Peters took the all-important open U.S. Senate seat (by a much wider margin than Gov. Rick Snyder was re-elected). And the Dems won seven out of eight education boards at the bottom of the ballot (which many observers say sparked the failed Republican effort to scrap straight-ticket voting).

But let’s consider the idea that 2016 won’t be a Democratic blowout –– which, at this point, is the best-case scenario for Republicans.

Gone is the bluster about Donald Trump turning Michigan red. All recent polls show Hillary Clinton with a double-digit lead. FiveThirtyEight rates Clinton as having a 93% chance of winning the state.

The first debate, “Access Hollywood” tape and string of Trump sexual assault accusers has left GOP strategists agog. Now they’re anxiously looking down-ticket and it’s every candidate for him/herself.

The best-case scenario for Republicans is that 2016 proves to be a volatile and uneven year. Trump has done disproportionately well in Macomb Co. and northern Michigan in polling thus far.

Ironically, straight-ticket voting could save Republicans down-ballot there --- even Republican Steve Marino in the open HD-24. He’s the former lobbyist whose trash-talking of GOP leaders was caught on tape, again and again and again.

And there’s hope that there could be ticket-splitting in all the right areas. One theory is that the personal attacks between Trump and Clinton --- and a campaign nearly devoid of policy discussions --- still makes it the the year of “negative partisanship,” when the majority of voters cast a ballot against --- not for --- a presidential candidate.

So suburban Kalamazoo Co. female voters might cast a ballot for Clinton and then switch to some of their favored Republicans running in down-ballot offices.

There’s always a flip side --- and that could help Dems in other areas. Working-class white men in the upper Lower Peninsula might plunk down their vote for Trump, but then veer off to vote for pro-labor, anti-trade Democrats.

But that’s still preferable to a Democratic blowout up and down the ballot.

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