This primary, awards for ambition, turnarounds, repetition

If they handed out awards for the primary election soon to be in the history books, there would be some real winners or losers depending on your political bent and by looking at those winners and losers, the citizens gain a valuable insight into how they conducted themselves in the race.

The envelope please.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley wins (loses) in the category: Political Ambition Run Amuck.

Up until the time that he wrapped his arms around the part-time legislature petition drive, Mr. Calley had compiled a fairly impressive resume in this town. He had demonstrated a willingness to work with the other guys, he rolled up his sleeves and did a lot of heavy lifting for his boss, the governor, the complete outsider and non-career politician who did not know how the levers of power were used and if you asked the average “player” in this game from reporters to lobbyists to staffers, he got good marks and then …

And then that fateful day on Mackinac Island when he called in the media not to announce he was running for governor, but that he was embracing the PTL petition drive. He set into motion a scheme that would, to a great extent, systematically erase all that goodwill he had amassed over his seven-plus years as lieutenant governor and his time in the house before that.

Looking at the blatant politics of the move, it did make sense. There was an ugly, anti-government mood in the electorate, fanned by the Donald Trump movement. Over the years, PTL had always scored well in public opinion polls, and, inside the Calley camp, the calculus was pretty obvious: Hitch your wagon for governor to a populist effort, ride the anger that is out there, and you’ll be governor.

“He should have known better than to do this,” came the almost immediate observation from the students of government who watch this stuff. If you couple Michigan’s most severe term limit law in the land with a legislature that meets 90 days a year and pays a reduced salary to those who run, a different calculus emerges: Bad idea. Bad government. And a bad example of political expedience over doing the right thing.

Then, to make matters worse, his petition drive had to reboot after his “brain trust” concluded the original language was flawed and was susceptible to an almost certain legal challenge that could make the drive null and voided. That blunder made him look somewhat inept, but he labored on until he didn’t labor any more.

“I’m leaving the PTL campaign and turning it over to others,” Mr. Calley announced. He took another hit from the insiders who quietly extinguished the last bit of credibility (poof) he had leftover from all those good years in the trenches.

Ultimately, the strategy failed as the drive went in the tank, leaving Mr. Calley and a host of others to wonder, was that the right thing to do?

The envelope please.

Shri Thanedar to the podium please to accept the award: The Best Lemon into Lemonade Effort of the Campaign.

It was one thing for Rick Snyder to run as “one tough nerd,” but quite another for a formerly poor kid from India to become governor with one tough name that nobody could pronounce. The millionaire newcomer ended up producing the best TV commercials of the campaign that captured the imagination of the electorate, many of whom were shown on camera struggling to get his name right, and $11 million of his own money later, he ended the campaign having achieved at least one objective: Lots of folks knew who he was and how to say his name, but it was pretty clear he would not add the title governor to that name.

The envelope please.

Bill Schuette wins the Stay-On-Message award and the ancillary award of waltzing around other issues without giving a straight-out answer to lots of stuff. From his months on the campaign trail, we know four things for sure: Mr. Schuette has Donald Trump’s endorsement and the candidate wants to boost third-grade reading scores, “put a stake” in the Granholm tax increase, and lower no-fault car insurance rates.

His critics contend his policy chops are three miles long but about half an inch deep. His team would say that’s unfair, but for the insiders in this town who have watched him climb the political latter, they pretty much view it as the gospel truth.

The envelope please.

The “Fix the Damn Roads “ award goes to Abdul El Sayed.

Oops. Wrong envelope.

She’s taken some heat for repeating this mantra ad infinitum, but Gretchen Whitmer is not backing down. Yes, some are offended by the profanity, but she contends she gets lots of high-fives from motorists who have broken windshields, blown tires and rims, and costly auto repairs all from the “damn” roads.

The envelope please.

The “I’m Sorry I Said That” apology award goes to Mr. El Sayed. After a protracted scrum in the media via press releases with GOP candidate Patrick Colbeck, Mr. El Sayed finally had a chance to confront his accuser in public. Mr. Colbeck had used in the same sentence Mr. El Sayed’s name with the Muslim Brotherhood. As the two got into it in front of a bunch of newspaper editors, Mr. Colbeck opined that he loved Muslins and Mr. El Sayed shot back, “you may love Muslins, but they don’t love you.”

And with that, an audible gasp seeped through the crowd, followed by an apology from Mr. El Sayed the next day.

The final envelope.

Dr. Jim Hines wins the: I Ran a 5-K Everyday and Spent a Wad of My Own Money and Have a Worn-out Pair of Running Shoes and An Empty Bank Account to Show for It” Award.

For this award, there was no contest.