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.)

1 comment:

Winning said...

Thanks for this great information. I linked to it in the GOTV post that I just put up.

As a former Michigander, I am holding out hope that things go well for Virg on Tuesday.