July 21 2010 12:00 AM

"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 MIRSnews.com. Melinn@citypulse.com.)