Monday, August 07, 2006

# Posted 11:31 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE OTHER PRIMARY TOMORROW: The headlines are about Lieberman and Lamont, but lots of Republicans are talking about the race between Joe Schwarz and Tim Walberg in Michigan's 7th congressional district.

Schwarz vs. Walberg is the mirror image of Lieberman vs. Lamont. Schwarz is the incumbent congressman, challenged by a firebrand who says Schwarz has betrayed his party and his principles. I've been following their race through the eyes of Liz Mair and GOPprogress.com.

Liz reports that all five papers in the Michigan 7th have now endorsed Schwarz. One of them, the Jackson Citizen Patriot, writes that:
This is a showcase in the struggle for the soul of the Republican Party. It's moderates and "Main Street" Republicans vs. hard-line fiscal and religious conservatives...

Schwarz has the endorsement of a broad range of people, from President George W. Bush at the top, to Sen. John McCain and other high-ranking Republicans -- even former Michigan Gov. John Engler. Meanwhile, the bulk of Walberg's support comes from the Club for Growth and other national groups with a conservative ax to grind.
Liz points out that Jackson is the critical swing county in the Michigan 7th, so the Citizen Patriot's endorsement is a big win for Schwarz, especially considering that Walberg has claimed to be running strong in Jackson.

Of course, it's the voters and not the journalists who decide who wins. Let's hope they pick Joe Schwarz.
(11) opinions -- Add your opinion

I happen to live in the Michigan 7th district so I can give some local perspective. I am not a Republican so I have not been bombarded by direct mail from either campaign. However, I've been paying close attention to how this race is playing out. I think Schwarz is going to win easily. This district is a bit odd. Everybody calls it "the most conservative district in Michigan" and "staunchly Republican", forgetting that Bush only got 55% of the vote here in 2004. There are a LOT more Republican and conservative districts than this ones, including in Michigan (Hoekstra's is MUCH more GOP than the 7th). Like much of Michigan, the towns and cities are Democratic and the rural areas are Republican. Jackson city is 50-50 and Battle Creek is about a 55-45 Democratic advantage. Albion, the western suburbs of Lansing, and the western suburbs of Ann Arbor, are the most Democratic areas. The southern rural counties (Branch, Hillsdale and Lenawee) are the most Republican.

Anyway, I've seen about 200 Schwarz signs all around the district - on people's homes, businesses' yards, on highway medians, billboards, etc. He won every endorsement, as you point out. And Democrats and Independents, who can vote in the primary, heavily support Schwarz. Now I live in Albion, a very Democratic town, surrounding by fairly Republican countryside. And it's in Calhoun County, which is technically Schwarz's home. But he's from Battle Creek on the other side of the county, and I live closer to Jackson city, right on the Jackson County line. And even in Jackson, Schwarz's support is almost unanimous. I have counted 3 Walberg signs - total. One was in front of the Jackson County Right to Life office and two were on random other people's front lawns. If Walberg has been campaigning hard, it's difficult to see any visual evidence of it. None of his supporters seem to be too proud of it.

Now I haven't been down to Hillsdale County, which is home of the arch-right cultist Hillsdale College and a very conservative population. But Hillsdale County is tiny, as is Branch County, another possible Walberg stronghold. Walberg's own Lenawee County is probably split - the Adrian newspaper endorsed Schwarz too. I could see Walberg winning Lenawee, but not by much.

This is a case where Walberg's support is almost entirely from outside the district. Schwarz eaked out a primary win as the only moderate in a five-way primary in 2004 to succeed far-right Nick Smith. But Schwarz has been as common-sense as you can get. People generally like him here, a lot. Only hardcore ideologues oppose him because of abortion, etc. This is mostly libertarian-conservative country, not religious-conservative, so Walberg's Christianist schtick doesn't have a home here anyway. (It would up in Dutch West Michigan country, however).

There has been no polling of this race that I've seen, and I could end up being wrong: Walberg could pull out a subterranean victory. But I think the lesson here is that Schwarz has been a huge boon for the constituents of the district (he preserved a military base in Battle Creek, for example), helped get funds to pave US-12 (through Hillsdale County) and I-94. He is not "out of touch" with his voters, like Joe Lieberman has become. In fact, he is as in touch as you'll ever see. Letters to the editor, which often reflect local organization, all point out how hideous and untruthful Walberg's fliers have been.

Unfortunately, as a Democrat, we don't have any very good candidates. Sharon Renier is an organic farmer and got trounced in 2004. If Schwarz wins, she'll lose even worse. If Walberg wins, she could actually win the district.
To read more about this race between centrists Schwarz and conservative Walberg, see www.adrianinsider.blogspot.com
Of course, Schwarz's votes are hardly libertarian, either. Pro-sugar subsidies, pro-Davis-Bacon wage rates for Katrina rebuilding, anti-cutting any pork or spending, etc. People may call it "common sense," sure (though the sugar subsidies are terrible, terrible things, they are pretty common sense), but hardly libertarian.

The purely libertarian congressman remains very rare, outside perhaps the retired Dick Armey. Libertarian views on economics seem only to be packaged with fairly conservative social views, at least in Congress.
Schwarz is, admittedly, not a libertarian conservative either. In that sense, the district is more conservative than he is. But Walberg's main schtick is Schwarz's "liberal" social record, not his economic votes. Biggest issues are Schwarz's pro-choice position and his refusal to back the anti-gay marriage Amendment. Walberg hasn't highlighted the Katrina bill at all, actually.

It's really a rather disgusting race, to be honest. If Walberg pulls out the primary, I will work full-time for the Democratic opponent, whoever it may be. Take out Hillsdale County and this is a fairly mainstream center-right midwest area. It's more an extension of northern Indiana or northwest Ohio than it is like other parts of Michigan. Even the accent here is a little more like Indiana - vaguely Southernish - than either southwest or southeast Michigan. Still, it isn't total wingnut country. A genuine Christofascist on the GOP ticket might hand this district to the Democrats. And Walberg is about as odious a candidate I've ever seen. If Fred Strack wins the Dem nomination and Walber the GOP, I would rate this district a toss-up. Especially if Dems throw money at this district.
Looks like I was wrong about Schwarz and Walberg. Either this district is filled with Christofascists, or most people just didn't care to vote. I can gather that people on the Indiana and Ohio border are Christofascists, centered on that great madrassah Hillsdale College. But Schwarz seems to have lost Jackson County too. Thank God I am only living in this bizarro area for a year.
Another scenario I've seen in local commentary is that voters just wanted "change." Mind you, Schwarz has been in office for only 2 years, but anti-incumbency sentiment is getting very strong. In that sense, the righties that voted for Wahlberg are joining the same narrative as the lefties who voted for Lamont: throw the bums out. Not a good sign for the GOP this November.
It is pretty clear that Walberg's victory means that there is no room in the Republican Party for moderates. To quote Rove, "There is no middle!"
This race was not really comparable to the Lieberman/Lamont contest. Schwarz had only been in Congress two years and as mentioned he only won because he was the only moderate in a five-way primary.

Senator Lieberman has been in the Senate for 18 years and was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 2000.

There is a huge difference between a primary aimed at defeating a first term representative who won largely because the vote was split among his rivals and a primary aimed at defeating a man who came close to being the Vice President of the country.

However, your point that there are less moderates and mavericks surviving in both parties is well taken.
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