"So, who’s our next governor gonna be, Kyle?"

    It’s the question on everyone’s mind because, really, nobody knows.

    It’s not like four years ago when Dick DeVos and Jennifer Granholm had the stage to themselves. In fact, we have turn the clock back to 1982 for the last competitive gubernatorial primary on the Democratic and Republican side.

    The truth is Michigan could wake up Aug. 4 to one of eight different general election match-ups, and I wouldn’t be surprised by any one of them.

    The Republican gubernatorial primary is a four-way free-for-all among U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, Attorney General Mike Cox, businessman Rick Snyder and Oakland County Sherriff Mike Bouchard. All four have real strengths. All four have real problems, and the polling is bearing that out.

    Nobody is running away with this thing.

    On the Democratic side, "Undecided" is winning with around 40 percent of the vote, meaning there’s a huge block of uninspired Democratic faithful who don’t know what they’re going to do Aug. 3.

    House Speaker Andy Dillon? Unknown Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero? Who knows? They may not vote, and if they do, it’s possible they could play in the Republican primary.

    The deciding factor in both of these races may not come for another week. Maybe it will be a power television ad, like the "Sleeping Judge" anti-Cliff Taylor ad or the Jennifer Granholm coffee cup ad. Maybe someone will suffer a colossal Howard Deanesque meltdown or find himself on the wrong side of a negative news story. But absent the spectacular, there is a path to victory for each of the candidates. I’ll lay it out in no particular order:

    Mike Cox

    Without question the best-run campaign of the six to this point, Cox has dominated on the fund-raising front and managed to stay competitive despite his inaction on the alleged Manoogian Mansion party in ’03 and his perceived one-time coziness with disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

    Cox is staying ahead of
    the Kwame stuff with to-the-point television ads from former cops
    gushing over Cox’s integrity. Also, the Republican base is eating Cox’s
    $2 billion tax cut plan with a spoon, ambivalent to how this would
    ignite an atomic bomb on the already hemorrhaging state budget. Cities,
    universities and health care programs for the poor would see state
    funding all but obliterated under this piece of completely impractical
    political meat.

    Pete Hoekstra

    The lack of money the
    one-time favorite has raised is jaw-dropping. An $18,000 buy four weeks
    out from a general election? When your opponents are dropping $100K?
    Meanwhile, the congressman is burning money on overhead and spending
    too many empty hours on his bike.

    Hoekstra is finding a
    way to lose this election when the cards were completely stacked in his
    favor. The guy has no real negatives, and with two open congressional
    elections in West Michigan, voter turnout should be huge in his neck of
    the woods. It’s amazing how real the chances are that Hoekstra can blow

    Rick Snyder

    You either liked his
    Super Bowl ad or you hated it. Either way, people have strong opinions
    on Rick Snyder, and that’s good. With anti-incumbent, anti-politician
    sentiments strong, Snyder may be the right man at the right time. For
    every brilliant maneuver this campaign has made, though, there’s been
    equal and corresponding headscratcher.

    Does skipping out
    on the Republican debates really help? Why did he seem to disappear
    from the television screen in the April and May? Compared to his oppo
    nents’, Snyder’s policy papers are most wellthought-out and put
    together. They’re pragmatic and surprisingly moderate in their
    approach, which could attract independents and some Democrats. If
    Republican turnout is high, watch out for "The Nerd."

    Mike Bouchard

    He’s quietly staying in
    the hunt by cashing in on his strong support in Oakland County and
    southeast Michigan. Polls of GOP voters in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne
    counties have Bouchard up. All the while, Bouchard’s burn-rate on his
    surprisingly decent bank account is low. Bouchard is expanding his
    reach and that’s good for him. Of all six candidates, he’s the best on
    the stump and typically outshines his opponents in joint gatherings.

    Bouchard is trying
    to catch lightning in a bottle on the anti-illegal immigration issue,
    which helps with the hard right. He could eek this thing out if Cox’s
    negativessink him in Southeast Michigan and running mate Terri Lynn Land can help him connect to enough West Michigan folks.

    Virg Bernero

    Once Lansing’s
    mayor informs Democratic voters that he’s their pro-labor, pro-choice
    and pro-environment candidate, he wins. But there’s the problem.
    Bernero got started so late he has no money and the big rollers in the
    Democratic Party either have no money or think their limited bank
    account is better spent elsewhere.

    Bernero doesn’t
    necessarily need to excite the Democratic base, yet. He just needs to
    let people know he exists without shooting himself in the foot with
    some glib comment that’s picked up by the media. Virg has a good shtick
    with the "Speaker of the Mess," but, honestly, there’s no reason
    Bernero can’t win on the issues in this primary. The difference between
    him and Dillon couldn’t be more obvious.

    Andy Dillon

    The House
    speaker’s best chance is keep up the positive, glowing commercials and
    hope to ride a sense of inevitability into the general election. All of
    the polling shows Dillon leading. If that and Dillon’s more ample bank
    account discourages typical liberal voters from voting, he can prove
    the Lansing political insiders right by winning.

    Dillon is playing
    well with the moderate intellectual because he is one, if you discount
    his conservative views on such social issues as abortion, stem-cell
    research and gay issues — a big discount in a Democratic primary. Maybe
    that leaves him enough support to make this happen.

    long-winded analysis doesn’t really answer the original question,
    though, does it? Let’s do the short version: "So, who’s our next
    governor gonna be, Kyle?" "I don’t know."

    (Kyle Melinn is the news editor at

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