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MICHIGAN: BALLENGER ON THE RACE [Henry Payne 10/30 07:05 PM]
In addition to keeping you up to date on the presidential horse race, here's the first in a series of excerpts from my interview with Bill Ballenger, editor of "Inside Michigan Politics." Crowned by The Detroit News as "Michigan's undisputed Crown Prince of Punditry," the colorful Ballenger holds a masters from Harvard's Kennedy School, served in the Ford administration, and was a Republican state senator and rep before making a career as Michigan's top political analyst.
If all politics is local, then why in the world is Michigan - an auto state with a bias towards Midwest cultural conservatism - polling for a notoriously anti-automobile liberal senator from Boston?
"Forget Kerry", replies Ballenger, "How is that that Michigan goes for Al Gore by seven points in 2000?" (Among other things, Al Gore wrote in "Earth in the Balance" that the gas-powered automobile is a "mortal threat to the security of every nation that is more deadly than that of any military enemy we are ever again likely to confront.")
Ballenger attributes Michigan's fondness for Kerry to three things. First, most voters aren't fond of Kerry. They just hate George W. Bush. Says Ballenger: "The driving force is hatred of Bush. I haven't heard a single person say 'I love John Kerry.'"
Second, Michigan's two Democratic senators and powerful Democratic congressman John Dingell give Kerry a free pass in return for favors down the road. Ballenger: "Levin, Stabenow, and Dingell put their arms around him. They tell him to keep his mouth shut about regulating the auto industry. These guys are partisans who will do anything to get their man elected. And honestly, they know that if he gets in office, he won't do anything. They can call in their chits and keep him in line."
And lastly, the auto industry itself gives Kerry a free pass. Ballenger points out that top executives like Ford chairman Bill Ford Junior "talk the same green talk that Kerry does." Combine this with a lack of press coverage of Kerry's more controversial green ideas, and Michigan's elites simply let Kerry slide. "They let him get away with murder," concludes Ballenger.