Finley: No shock if Tuesday surprises

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

I wouldn’t be surprised to be shocked on Election Day.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s nearly 6-point lead over his challenger, Democrat Mark Schauer, looks comfortable, but with five days to go, there are still ways the governor can lose, and still avenues Schauer can travel to victory.

Every election in Michigan since 2006 has been a wave election, meaning a surge of either Republican or Democratic voters gave their party a decisive win. But this time, Richard Czuba, pollster for The Detroit News and WDIV-TV, sees no burst for either party.

“This is a very normal election, and we don’t know how to react,” Czuba says. “The excitement level among all voters is extremely low.”

Snyder holds several advantages, including an unwavering 12-point lead among independent voters, an edge that has held solid all year. He’s also closing an earlier gap among women voters, and is doing better in Metro Detroit.

Schauer has things going his way, too. He’s tapped into a sizable grievance vote — seniors mad about pension taxes, union members mad about right to work, women mad about abortion restrictions. He’s also backed by a sophisticated Democratic get-out-the-vote machine that trounced GOP efforts in 2012. So far, Democrats have a solid lead in absentee voters who lean in their direction.

The disadvantages for Snyder include the absence of a rabid anti-Barack Obama movement in Michigan that is present in some other states, and the inferior Republican GOTV mechanism.

For Schauer, he’s maximized the “I hate Snyder” vote, but hasn’t yet given other voters a reason to support him.

In these final few days, Czuba advises the governor to boost his backing in Southeast Michigan by trumpeting his rescue of Detroit.

“That issue has huge approval in the suburbs, and even in Detroit, where 35 percent of voters think the governor has done a good job,” Czuba says. “I’m surprised he’s not highlighting that more.”

Schauer has waited awfully late to switch from attacking Snyder to building up himself. What’s missing is a plan he can pitch to voters to convince them he’s more than just the anti-Snyder candidate.

“In the closing days, he needs an ad that says ‘I’m going to do 1,2,3, and 4’ ” Czuba says. “Voters want to know what he’s going to do.”

Schauer also must rally Democrats along the I-75 corridor, which is why so many national heavyweights are showing up in urban strongholds, from Detroit to Saginaw.

If the 9 or 10 percent of the vote that is undecided breaks evenly between Schauer and Snyder, as Czuba expects it will, then the governor, who stands at 45 percent to Shauer’s 39 percent, squeaks out a victory.

But a narrow win doesn’t do much to help Republicans down the ticket, including Attorney General Bill Schuette, locked in a tight race with a little-known challenger, and state House candidates hoping to maintain the GOP majority. So even with a Snyder victory, this election could change the governing dynamics in Lansing.

We think we know what the story line will be on Wednesday morning. But if we’re surprised, we shouldn’t be shocked.


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