Small Margins, Big Impact: Why GOTV Matters

17,595. 5,708. 5,200. 4,963. 3,800. 2,074. 1,154. 1,149. 720. 537. 450. 323. 312. 133. 128. 121. 91. 87. 28. 21. 15. 4. 2. 1.

Giant IP address? Nope. All of those numbers are margins of victory in some of the closest elections Michigan and America have seen in recent years. Many of those close races have had significant consequences:

  • 17,595: John Engler (R) over Jim Blanchard (D), Governor of Michigan, 1990. Do we need to go over the consequences of this one?
  • 5,708: Ruth Johnson (R) over Sheila Smith (D), Oakland County Clerk, 2008. And guess what Johnson is doing now? Running for office for the 12th consecutive even-year election. Would Republicans have nominated her for Secretary of State had she lost? And polls show her slightly ahead of Jocelyn Benson (by margins similar to Bill Schuette's lead in the AG race) - would Benson be leading the Republican nominee if it wasn't Johnson?
  • 5,200: Mike Cox (R) over Gary Peters (D), Michigan Attorney General, 2002. Cox's 8 years as AG have led to a severe downgrading of the role of Attorney General as protector of consumers and individual rights.
  • 4,963. Nancy Danhof (R) over Herbert Moyer (D), State Board of Education, 2004. Two candidates are elected each even-numbered year in State Board of Education races; winners serve 8-year terms. In 2004, Danhof came in 2nd, Moyer 3rd. This means that Democrats now have a 6-2 lead in the State Board instead of a 7-1 lead - and it also means we will not have an 8-0 sweep after the election. (If you think the SBE race isn't important, let me remind you of the Texas curriculum rewrite.)
  • 3,800: Woodrow Wilson (D) over Charles Evans Hughes (R), President (California - 13 electoral votes), 1916. Had Hughes won California, he would have scored a 267-264 victory in the Electoral College. Instead, in his second term, Wilson led America to victory in World War I and won the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • 2,074: John McCulloch (R) over Brett Nicholson (D), Oakland County Drain Commissioner, 2008. We came that close to electing a great young Democrat to countywide office in Oakland County.
  • 1,154: G. Mennen Williams (D) over Harry Kelly (R), Governor of Michigan, 1950. After beating ex-Governor Kelly by such a small margin, Williams won his third term by beating Frederick Alger in 1952 by 8,618 votes. He was one of the more popular Governors Michigan has had.
  • 1,149: Grover Cleveland (D) over James G. Blaine (R), President (New York - 36 electoral votes), 1884. New York helped Cleveland to an electoral-vote voctory of 219-182 over Blaine; had Blaine won New York, Blaine would have been elected with a 218-183 margin.
  • 720: John Pappageorge (R) over Andrew Levin, Michigan State Senator, 2006.
  • 537: George W. Bush (R) over Al Gore (D), President (Florida - 25 electoral votes), 2000. Again, let's not rehash the consequences. (Incidentally, this is the number of votes by which Bush was declared the winner. As to who really won... I have my suspicions.
  • 450: Roger Kahn (R) over Carl Williams (D), Michigan State Senator, 2006. Had both Williams and Levin won, the Democrats would have controlled the state Senate with Lt. Gov. John Cherry's tiebreaking vote. Republican control of the Senate (while Dems haev controled the Governorship and House of Representatives) resulted in two state government shutdowns in the following three years.
  • 323: Bob McDonnell (R) over Creigh Deeds (D), Virginia Attorney General, 2005. McDonnell defeated Deeds by a larger margin in the 2009 race for Governor, likely due in part to his increased name recognition that resulted from his time as AG.
  • 312: Al Franken (D) over Norm Coleman (R), US Senator from Minnesota. The period from when Franken was seated in July 2009 to the election of Cosmo Brown the following January (I refuse to let him sully such a good name as Scott) was remarkable in that that's when the healthcare reform package cleared the 60-vote hurdle. It later passed by reconciliation in March, two months after Brown was elected.
  • 133: Christine Gregoire (D) over Dino Rossi (R), Governor of Washington, 2004. Gregoire is still Governor, while Rossi is now running for Senate against Patty Murray. Murray is the slight favorite at the moment; would she still be ahead if Rossi had won that race six years ago?)
  • 128: Shelley Goodman Taub (R) over Karen Spector (D), Oakland County Commissioner, 2008. Because of this, Republicans hold a 13-12 majority on the Oakland County Commission.
  • 121: Mike Rogers (R) over Dianne Byrum (D), US Representative from Michigan, 2000.
  • 91: Karl Rolvaag (D) over Elmer Anderson (R), Governor of Minnesota, 1962. This election was finally settled the following March.
  • 87: Lyndon Johnson over Coke Stevenson, US Senate Democratic Primary in Texas, 1948. Johnson became an accomplished legislative leader before serving as Vice President and President.
  • 28: Barbara McIlvaine Smith (D) over Shannon Royer (R), Pennsylvania state representative, 2006. This gave Democrats a 102-101 majority in the State House. Yes, it was that close.
  • 21: Sam Gejdensen over Edward Munster (R), US Representative from Connecticut, 1994.
  • 15: Dan Benishek over Jason Allen, Republican US House primary, 2010. The general-election matchup between Benishek and Gary McDowell (D) is seen as a tossup in a district currently represented by retiring Rep. Bart Stupak (D).
  • 4: Frank McCloskey (D) over Rick McIntyre (R), US Representative from Indiana, 1984. McCloskey was seated in May 1985.
  • 2: Louis Wyman (D) over John Durkin (R), US Senator from New Hampshire, 1974. The Senate ordered a revote, which Durkin won.
  • 1: Mike Kelly (R) over Karl Kassel (D), Alaska State Representative, 2008. Not as consequential as the one in Pennsylvania - at least in terms of who has the majority - but Republicans have only a 22-18 majority in the Alaska House, which would be 21-19 had Kassel won. (No, Kassel's not related to the NPR personality. :-) )

Whether or not you help with GOTV these next few days will likely have a much bigger impact on the direction of our state and country than you may realize. Just a little more effort would have put Democrats in charge of the State Senate in 2006. Consequently, the people of Pennsylvania were spared a Republican state House thanks to the dedication of Democratic GOTV volunteers in the 156th state House district in 2006. A few hundred more votes may have meant that Al Franken would have been seated long before July 7, 2009. (Incidentally, Coleman led by 5 points in a SurveyUSA poll released the Saturday before the 2008 election.)

2010 will almost certainly have its share of close races in Michigan and throughout the country. With a couple polls now showing Democrats tied with or slightly leading Republicans among likely voters in the generic ballot for Congress, it's clear that control of the US House may depend on a few votes in a few districts.

But if absolutely nothing else convinces you to help GOTV for our fine Democratic candidates, I give you this:

On 18 January 1961, in Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania), the Afro-Shirazi Party won the general elections by a single seat, after the seat of Chake-Chake on Pemba Island was won by a single vote.

If Democrats lose the state House because of a tiny margin in one district... and it was because you did not help... are you ready to deal with the regret?

So please, head on over to your local campaign office or make some GOTV calls from home.

(PS: Information found by browsing the US Election Atlas, Michigan Department of State, Oakland County, and Wikipedia websites.)


A birthday wish

So here's the deal:

  • Today's my 23rd birthday.
  • Jocelyn Benson's birthday is tomorrow. Pat Miles's birthday was this past Tuesday.
  • I'm not expecting much in the way of birthday presents - my family is not doing well, financially speaking.
  • I'm still very much underemployed (I bartend once or twice a month).
  • One third of our state's population lives in a competitive or quasi-competitive Congressional district (1, 3, 7, 9, 15).
  • About a quarter of the state's population lives in a competitive State Senate district.
  • About a third of the state's population lives in a competitive State House district.
  • Whatever you think about the races for Governor and Attorney General, the Secretary of State's race is very competitive. And if Jocelyn doesn't win this time... well, I don't know what to say.
  • The Republicans are going for revenge for their 2008 Supreme Court loss, targeting Justice Davis and airing slick "Young and Kelly, Kelly and Young" ads.
  • Many people, good and otherwise, have been elected by a small number of votes, including John Engler, Mike Rogers, Roger Kahn, John Pappageorge, Al Franken, LBJ (to the US Senate), and I could go on.
I would really, really, really like it if you could give me - and Pat and Jocelyn - a birthday present. One that will help our entire state. And, for that matter, our entire country.

I ask each of you to give 23 hours of your time over the next couple of weeks to help get out the vote.

23 hours over 12 days. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, consider that there are many campaign staffers across the state who work 12- to 16-hour days during campaign season, seven days a week, all for very little pay. And they'll be doing that for twelve more days!

If they can do it, so can you. And each of those staffers would hate, hate, hate for their candidate to lose after all the effort they invested in this election. Especially if it's very close - like recount-close.

So stop by your local campaign office and sign up for a few shifts of GOTV work. And don't forget what else you can do: Let the Justice Caucus know you'd like to help with their Supreme Challenge campaign. Maybe even give a few bucks. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. (As Election Day approaches, many papers have LTTE cutoff dates; any LTTEs submitted after that date will not be considered for publication - so get your letters in ASAP!)

You will help Democrats win races up and down the ballot. You will make new friends in the campaign office. You will help boost your chances of getting a leadership role in your local Democratic Party after the election (if you're into that kind of thing).

And you will help stun the pundits.

23 hours. That's not much of your time, when you think about it. And it's well worth the investment.

No regrets.

Let's leave it all on the field!


Bits of Tid: October 18, 2010

  • First, let us bid a sad farewell to Robert B. Jones. The State Representative and nominee for Senate District 20 died Sunday morning at 66.

    Many people are conditioned to think that ALL politicians are the problem, or that they are ALL out of touch. I think this comes from the bad-news-first/if-it-bleeds-it­-leads culture evident in so much of the media (though not conveyed in this piece by Rick, thankfully!), as well as by people's own closed-mindedness.

    The reality is, most people in public office are decent people who are passionate, yet civil. Among them was Robert Jones.

    Thank you, sir. You have helped open opportunity for many people; may you be welcomed in Heaven with open arms!

  • Robert Creamer lists Nine Reasons Why Democrats Will Keep Control of the House.

  • Not to brag, but I've signed up for FOUR Get-Out-the-Vote Shifts in the days leading up to the election.

  • Okay, does Senate nominee Joe Miller (R-AK) not think the First Amendment applies to journalists? Or does he just want to punish those who want to use their First Amendment rights against him? Either way, it's hard to argue that he supports freedom.

  • This is the 12th general election (i.e. Presidential or gubernatorial election) in which Ruth Johnson has appeared on the ballot. This is the fifth office she has sought in that time, having been elected to the County Commission for ten years, State House for six years, and Oakland County Clerk since 2005, while losing as Dick DeVos's running mate in 2006 in the middle of her first four-year term as Clerk (she's now in the middle of her second). Career politician? Nah, of course not!

  • Then there's Bill Schuette, who served six years in Congress, a couple years in the Engler administration, eight years as a state senator, and six years as a judge. Career politician? Nah, of course not!


EXCLUSIVE: Is Justin Amash violating the law? He's at least wasting taxpayer money

I got this in the mail today:

Notice that it's from Justin Amash. It lists his name and that he's currently State Representative.

Nothing wrong with that, you might think. State and federal lawmakers send these kinds of things to their constituents all the time. There probably would be nothing wrong with it had he not been running for anything this fall, or if he had lost the primary earlier on. If my state senator, Bill Hardiman, had sent it, I would not be making an issue out of it since he will not appear on this fall's ballot.

Except that there is something wrong with what Amash sent. He is the Republican nominee for Congress, we have just three weeks until the election, and people are voting absentee now. It's very difficult to believe that this mailer was not intended to benefit his campaign - to get people to believe that he wants them to be informed. Never mind that the ballot language is exactly the same as what voters will see on the ballot this fall. There's nothing that clarifies anything, or provides background, or does anything else besides repeating what the ballot will say anyway.

According to Michigan Compiled Law 169.247, emphasis mine:

(1) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection and subject to subsections (3) and (4), a billboard, placard, poster, pamphlet, or other printed matter having reference to an election, a candidate, or a ballot question, shall bear upon it the name and address of the person paying for the matter.

Well, it definitely has reference to an election! What it doesn't have is the required disclaimer.

A big issue here is how it was paid for. Was it paid for by the campaign? If so, it does not have the required disclaimer. Was it paid for by his State House office? If so, an argument could be made that he's using taxpayer dollars for campaign purposes - a BIG no-no. (Also, if it was from his State House office, one could make the political argument to the voters that he does not care about fiscal responsibility. But that's another matter altogether!)

I should note that we also received a perfectly legal campaign mailer from Amash today. Now, the fact that I received both items on the same day does not mean that they were sent at the same time or that they were meant to be delivered on the same day. But that could raise a few questions too.

UPDATE: I have heard from several sources that this perfectly legal. Fair enough. But still, it raises the question: Why is Amash wasting OUR tax dollars printing and mailing something that contains little more than the ballot questions as they will be worded on the ballot anyway?


Late-night jokes

From about.com:

"Christine O'Donnell was caught lying about her educational background. She may not believe in pleasuring herself, but she thought her resume needed massaging." —Craig Ferguson, on O'Donnell claiming she attended Oxford University

"Today we found out that a third college Christine O'Donnell said she attended has no record of ever knowing her. I'm starting to wonder if she ever really went to Hogwarts." —Bill Maher

"Sarah Palin was considering running for president, until she heard it was a four-year deal." —David Letterman

"Rahm Emanuel is leaving the Obama administration. He wants to become mayor of Chicago. If you're mayor of Chicago, that means you report directly to Oprah." —David Letterman

''Of course, a lot of right wingers are very upset about this because they believe this health care bill will cost a lot of money. You know what I think? Just pretend it's another unnecessary war. You'll feel better about it already.'' —Jay Leno

''Everyone is talking about Steven Slater, the flight attendant who cursed at a passenger, grabbed two beers, and slid down the escape slide, in what may be the best resignation ever. In fact he's so good at quitting, they're thinking about making him the next governor of Alaska.'' —Jimmy Kimmel

''Sarah Palin made her debut as a Fox News contributor tonight on 'The O'Reilly Factor.' I tried to record it, but my DVR quit halfway through.'' —Jimmy Fallon

''They say there are about 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. But if you ask a Native American, that number is more like 300 million.'' —David Letterman