No doubt about it: The favorites won big Tuesday in Michigan’s gubernatorial primary.
But a close look at vote tallies shows opportunities and vulnerabilities for both in the general election.
But Whitmer arguably had a bigger night, receiving more than 77,000 more votes than Schuette and providing hopes for Democratic victories in November.
“What I see is a giant pink wave,” said Richard Czuba, founder of the Glengariff Group, Inc., referring to Whitmer’s win and those of Democratic congressional candidates statewide.
“I see women doing extraordinarily well on the Democratic side of the ballot.”
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Record primary turnout of 1.9 million voters (topping the 2002 total of 1.7 million) also bodes well for Democrats.
In a state largely considered split along party lines, about 100,000 more Democrats voted on Tuesday. In 2002 and 2010, the last two gubernatorial primaries without an incumbent, the party with the most votes in the primary won the general election.
Whitmer broke 50 percent in at least 73 counties; Schuette broke 50 percent in at least 55 counties.
Add in a general election, where legalizing marijuana and reforming redistricting practices are on the ballot and could increase turnout for Democrats, and everything’s coming up roses for Whitmer, right?
In Detroit, where Democrats traditionally need strong turnout to win statewide elections, Whitmer split the vote with millionaire entrepreneur Shri Thanedar and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, despite the backing of Mayor Mike Duggan.
A break down of the victories:
Former state legislator Gretchen Whitmer won big victories in Metro Detroit and West Michigan to handily win the Democratic nomination for governor. She blunted the showing of self-proclaimed progressives Abdul El-Sayed and millionaire businessman Shri Thanedar.
Despite fears an energized progressive wing of the Democratic Party would hurt Whitmer, she bested the combined vote tallies of El-Sayed and Thanedar in all but nine counties.
El-Sayed kept it close in only two counties: Kent in Western Michigan and liberal Washtenaw in Southeast Michigan, despite glowing national press and big rallies with progressive favorite Bernie Sanders. In Genesee County, home to Flint, he finished third, days after standing-room-only rallies.
Thanedar couldn’t even play the role of spoiler after investing $10.6 million of his fortune. His one bright spot: Thanedar won Detroit, besting Whitmer 38 to 35 percent.
Whitmer finished strong in southeast Michigan, winning 42 percent of the vote with incomplete totals in Wayne County, 57 percent in Macomb County and 54 percent in Oakland County.
In bellwether Oakland County, Whitmer received 90,000 votes to Schuette’s nearly 67,000. Overall, Democrats received 180,000 votes in Oakland to 131,000 for GOP candidates.
Pollster Bernie Porn of EPIC-MRA said the results confirm polls showing that Democrats are more energized that Republicans, in large part because of anger over President Donald Trump.
But Whitmer still has work to do.
The Democratic Party ticket has been criticized for being all white. And even Whitmer’s own Detroit supporters, like Tawanda Walker, 42, had questions about the nominee.
“I'm looking at my neighborhood deteriorate around me. What's she going to do for the inner city besides fix the roads?"
Whitmer is expected to name an African-American male from southeast Michigan as her running mate, which GOP pollster Steve Mitchell said will help blunt that criticism.
Attorney General Bill Schuette won a 25-point victory over Lt. Gov. Brian Calley Tuesday by losing only a handful of counties and picking up strong support in areas that did well for President Trump in 2016
Schuette also had an easy night, trouncing Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Saginaw Dr. Jim Hines.
No surprise there: Schuette led big in every poll and was endorsed by Trump.
“What this shows is the power of the Trump endorsement,” Mitchell said.
Schuette mentioned the endorsement early and often during the campaign. But experts say he may have to soften the connection in the general election.
“It’s always good to win your primary by a big amount,” Mitchell said. “Now he has to unite the party and get everyone working for him.”
Schuette also has work to do to reach out to independents, whom Czuba said comprise 30 percent of voters in a general election. They mostly sat out the primary, he said.
“And they don’t like the president,” Czuba said.
In Genesee County, Schuette picked up 54 percent. That’s perhaps unsurprising, Calley’s boss, Gov. Rick Snyder, was blamed for the city's water crisis and exposure to toxic lead and Schuette is prosecuting several state and local officials for their roles in the crisis.
Schuette also rolled in areas that turned for Trump in 2016: Macomb, Monroe, St. Clair and Lapeer counties, getting from 56 to 57 percent of the vote.