Last weekend, I was up at the Michigan Republican Leadership Conference up in Mackinac Island. North Michigan is God's Country, and I highly recommend it as a place to visit.
We had four keynote speakers(and three of them are possible presidential candidates), and I was able to make three of those events. I missed one of the speakers. Former Governor and HHS secretary Tommy Thompson. He wasn't on my presidential candidate radar, but I wouldn't rule him out for his work on welfare reform in Wisconsin.
The first keynote speaker was Senator Sam Brownback. He's a dark horse to watch who has a strong core support among religious conservatives. He emphazised both economic issues and social issues, as well as his farming roots in Kansas. Conservative judicial candidates are the biggest issue to him, and he wants us to elect a new senator. He's a good speaker, and didn't have the usual senatorial arrogance I see on CSPAN.
The second keynote speaker was Gov Mitt Romney. Gov. Romney is a Michigan native who has been working this state harder than most candidates. His dad was a moderate governor here, but Mitt called himself a conservative. He mentioned the economy most prominently, and contrasted his Massachusetts jobs record to Granholm's record here. "She's gone down the liberal road, and I've gone down the conservative road." He sounded like a presidential candidate since he not only critizised Granholm, but also mentioned what he did with a democrat legislature. Mitt also had an eye on his right flank, saying he was pro-life, and that he opposed gay-marriage.
Another candidate who spoke was Dick DeVos. I think he can surprise some people. He's improved his speaking ability in each speech given(I've heard him three times, and he used no notes in the first two). He's running on jobs and education, using his business experience. He will not pursue vouchers as that ballot initative lost, but will still focus on it. Unlike Romney, DeVos does not stand out from the crowd, but he tries to talk to every person in the crowd individualy after his speeches. He did not attack Grandholm as much as others, but emphasized solutions.
Both US Senate candidates Keith Butler and Jerry Zandstra were there. Zandstra surprised me, and think he surprised a lot of people who aren't Grand Rapids natives at Mackinac. I first thought he had maybe 20 people on his campaign outside of family since I haven't seen anything so far. Zandstra was very organized at Mackinac, and had a lot of support there. I now expect a spirited race. I knew Zandstra was very intelligent since I'm aware of the Acton Institute, but he's a good speaker as well who can think on his feet.
I've commented on Butler's strong organization before here, and it was no different at Mackinac. He had much support there, as he as shown elsewhere.
The most popular t-shirt there came from Mike Cox's campaign. It is the "Granholm and Stabenow" farewell tour. On the back is shows a rock band picture with AG Mike Cox, Dick DeVos, Sec. of State Terri Lynn Land, Keith Butler, and our state party chairman Saul Anuzis.
My favorite part of the convention though didn't have any glitz and hype. It was the two panels there with pollsters and stragetists. I knew I was in my element there, and even shaped part of the discussion on the panels with my question. The panels featured Matthew Dowd(Bush 04 campaign), Bill Ballinger (One of the most respected pollsters and insiders), Steve Mitchell (One of the most accurate pollsters statewide), Dave Doyle (MRG pollster, former GOP chair), Dan Pero (John Engler's campaign manager) and Betsy DeVos (Former Chair). The topics were the Changing dynamics of Michigan and Pundits and pollsters.
Steve Mitchell had the best comment on Oakland County. The biggest difference between today and 1988(or was it 1992) was Southfield. The first Bush lost the city of Southfield by 5000 votes. GWB lost it by almost 27000 votes. Without Southfield, Bush wins Oakland.
One of the main topics were the 'exurbs' and the good news for republicans here. The biggest recent increases in Michigan for Republicans have been in Livingston, Lapeer, and Southern Genesee counties. You can add parts of West/North Oakland and Northern Macomb counties as well.
Granholm is also in trouble. ALL of the pollsters there agreed on that, and the two biggest problems she has is a less than 50% re-elect number, and a poor state right-track/wrong-track number. Her likeability numbers are still good, but that doesn't always mean Michiganders will vote for that person. There was a clear example given, but I forgot who was given as the example. I think we have a good shot here.
One last thing.
Jenny Grandstand made a few comments as well about us all
"Now they are spending time on Mackinac Island sipping Chablis on the porch of the Grand Hotel talking about an election that is 14 months away," Granholm said. "Jobs cannot wait."
C'mon Jenny, get it right. I wasn't sipping Chablis. It was Guinness or Labatt's(or Coke when I wasn't drinking). You're right, jobs cannot wait, which is why we need Gov. DeVos elected.