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Speer: Interesting look at primary numbers

March 9, 2012
Bill Speer - Editor/Publisher , The Alpena News

What can one read from the statistics of last week's Michigan primary?

News' columnist Tim Skubick shared his thoughts yesterday. Among other things, Skubick said "another ugly aspect of the election is we learned, as if we needed any more proof, that Michigan is culturally divided. It runs east and west and north and south."

He's right. Looking at a map of how the counties fared with their election results, the divide is easily recognizable. I did that with both Michigan and Ohio's election results, and it reminded me of the presidential results four years ago. When you map out the results from that, President Barack Obama fared very well in high population urban areas of our country, but not nearly as well in less populated ones. In fact, add all the square miles of precincts he won, versus John McCain, and McCain wins by a landslide.

Looking at Ohio and Michigan, I see a very similar pattern of Mitt Romney doing well in highly populated areas of both states, with Rick Santorum taking more votes in the rural, less populated but geographically larger districts.

Romney did well in Southeast Michigan, the Saginaw Bay counties and northern lower Michigan. The glaring exception to that was Alpena County, which was won by Santorum. Just like two years ago when Alpena County gave Dr. Dan Benishek his narrow victory over Jason Allen in the GOP primary, Alpena County voters are looking more and more conservative in their thinking and actions at the voting booths.

Breaking down local numbers, we discover these truths:

Depending on your perspective, I guess there is comfort in the Romney camp knowing they increased their primary support here by 259 voters.

Other candidates on the ballot in Alpena County accounted for 596 votes.

Four years ago both Michigan parties moved their primary earlier in the year to have more of an influential role in the presidential selection. Both national parties penalized the state for that action and in the end, the influence was questionable at best.

This year Michigan seemed to play an even more prominent role in the presidential sweepstakes, with incredible national attention focused on the state in the weeks leading up to the primary.

Finally, it really is hard to say just how much influence independents and Democrats had in the primary, which because it was an open primary, allowed everyone the opportunity to cast a ballot.

The Christian Science Monitor, in a Feb. 29 story, reported 9 percent of voters "self-identified as Democrats," voted in the primary. Of those, Santorum received 52 percent of the vote, Romney 18 percent.

ABC pollster Gary Langer wrote of the Democrat influence in the primary: "Without them (Democrats), Romney would have had a comfortable 9-point win. With them it was closer."

Still, given the voter turnout, I suspect most Democrats had better things to do that day than play havoc with the results.



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