Cover politics like a tennis match.
That depressing advice came from a former political reporter I met just before taking my current job. Maybe he meant – me being a former sports reporter – to cover the volleys between the two competing sides. Or, could it have been that reporters should play the role of line judge? I never liked the suggestion enough to ask.
Either way, thinking about elected government in binary code has always seemed too simplistic. Politics might be a game played by two teams when a certain Tuesday in November finally rolls around, but the other two years between presidential and midterms elections are a concrete mixer of messy policy debates and churning factions right up until the time comes when the whole thing solidifies.
Pro-life, pro-choice, gay marriage, immigration, national health care, tax increases, school funding and gun rights – they all get lip service each election cycle. As if thinking about states as red or blue accurately defines the vast grassroots landscapes between Tea Party and Blue Dogs.
If politics was a tennis match, however, there wouldn’t be much in the way of tournament coverage on the schedule for the 2014 primaries.
Both the Republican and Democratic state parties seem to already be looking to avoid messy bloodletting during a 2014 summer primary. If it plays out that way, it will be unfortunate for voters in both parties, who have yet to hear a single platform idea.
Backing a single candidate probably makes sense for politicos looking to draw big fundraising and avoid scrutiny of a single candidate.
The most recent example of a primary gone wrong in Michigan was the 2012 U.S. Senate Republican campaign battle between Pete Hoekstra, the former congressman from Holland, and Cornerstone School co-founder Clark Durant.
Hoekstra led most of the summer primary season in the polls, but heated rhetoric about his “Debbie Spend-It-Now” Super Bowl ad from Durant plagued the veteran Republican into the general election. Incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow went on to out-fundraise Hoekstra $14 million to $5 million and won by double digits.
So, the state parties are obviously aware candidates need to get out early to bring in the mountains of cash coming flooding into elections in the post-Citizens United era.
The tickets seem to almost be set for the midterm election for the main races.
Congressman Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills, is slated to spearhead the Democratic efforts for the seat held by retiring veteran Sen. Carl Levin.
While Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Howell., who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, has been the buzzed-about frontrunner to challenge Peters. Though, former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and Congressman Justin Amish, R-Cascade, have also been mentioned as potential candidates.
In the Michigan gubernatorial race Gov. Rick Snyder has gone from one tough nerd to one tough incumbent and is firmly entrenched with the GOP to get another four years.
Former Democratic Congressman Mark Schauer of Battle Creek might not officially be a candidate, but he seems to be the favorite to get a lone bid for the Dem nomination a year from August.
We might even have a guess at the outcome.
An EPIC-MRA poll released Tuesday puts Snyder and Schauer in a virtual tie, with each candidate getting 39 percent of the likely voters. Twenty-two percent of voters were undecided.
In the Senate race, Peters led Rogers (37 to 30 percent) in the poll with 33 percent of voters currently undecided.
The poll was conducted May 5-11, on 600 callers with a 4 percent plus-minus margin of error.
So, for those looking at the elections like a sporting event, there are your stats for the day.
What we don’t have is an inkling about how the candidates plan to use their terms in office, or if they will have any priorities at all outside of the broader party stances or whether they have a road map for the future. Without strong primaries there will be less media interest, not to mention a voter vetting process. Candidates won’t have to make themselves as available to the press, grassroots groups or feel pressured to debate.
In the new big-money politics, where primaries are less desirable, we just might be left with only television ad buys, and fewer debates and lower voter turnouts to guide us. Government will seem a little more distant from our daily lives.
It will be a little like watching Wimbledon, I guess.