The political world didn’t think the Republican primary season would last this long. But after Rick Santorum’s victories last night in Mississippi and Alabama, eyes are now turning to Illinois, which holds its primary next Tuesday. 

A big question about Illinois is whether it will be the last stand for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — or whether it keep him in the race longer.

He finished second behind Santorum in both southern primaries, and he is heading straight for Illinois for two days of campaigning. Gingrich told a Chicago radio station that he’s staying in the race until the August convention.

Said Gingrich: “When I was on a roll and Rick wasn’t, I was for Rick getting out of the race, too. And he correctly said no. And I’ve learned from him so I liked his answer.”

As he did in Michigan and Ohio, Mitt Romney and the Super PAC that’s backing him are expected to saturate the airwaves.

The Chicago Tribune reports the pair are pouring another $1.35 million in purchasing advertising time, even though the candidate isn’t expected in the state until Monday. That’s on top of $2.26 million already spent there.

Santorum doesn’t have that kind of budget, but conservative counties in southern Illinois seem ready made for his followers. He’s scheduled to hold a “Rally for Rick” in suburban Arlington Heights, Ill., on Friday.

 

 

Detroit is running out of money, and now it’s time for drastic action.

Officially, leaders expect they’ll be out of cash by the end of June. For the past few months, a review team has been looking at the city’s finances to determine whether the state should appoint an emergency manager in Detroit.

Today, Michigan’s governor hinted strongly that there’s enough of a problem for him to appoint an emergency manager. 

But, in an effort to preserve some local control, and avoid a political showdown in the state’s largest city, Snyder has instead offered  a “consent agreement” to Detroit leaders.

They’ll stay in power, in return for a state role in the oversight of financial matters.

The agreement was presented to Detroit’s city council this morning, and the city has until March 28 to respond. If it’s approved, the document could change Detroit for years to come.

Partner station Michigan Radio has been digging into the agreement, and the response it’s generated.

The agreement calls for a nine-member panel to oversee Detroit’s budget for no more than three years. The panel would have the authority to slash budgets, close city departments and oversee the sale of city assets.

It also gives the mayor and the city’s chief operating officer the authority to negotiate, or terminate, labor contracts. That’s a power that goes to an emergency manager, and it’s one of the most controversial aspects of state law.

The Detroit News reports that the proposed agreement has already angered some in Detroit. The consent agreement caused a heated debate at the city council meeting today.

Snyder said this morning that he hopes to have the agreement signed in two weeks. If that doesn’t happen, or if the agreement is signed and later challenged by the city, the governor may still resort to appointing an emergency manager.

 

Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, says a Right to Work law is not a priority for his administration, and a number of Midwest governors agree. But the Michigan legislature has taken aim at a tenet of collective bargaining for the state’s teachers. 

On Wednesday, the Republican controlled legislature sent Snyder a bill that that prohibits public schools from automatically collecting dues from teachers and other school employees’ paychecks. The step affects teachers and employees from kindergarten through high school.

Supporters say the legislation will free up schools from doing the bookkeeping for unions, and require union members to write separate checks, or arrange for the money to be withdrawn from their accounts.

The ability to pay union dues via deduction has long been a method used by organized labor to encourage people to sign up. Labor leaders often have worried that if it’s difficult to pay dues, many people won’t bother.

“It could not have been a worse day,” David Hecker, the president of the Michigan branch of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a email to his members. (Read and listen to Changing Gears’ coverage of the issues facing teachers.)

Hecker said he believed the step was in retaliation for a petition drive that labor groups have launched to keep the state from enacting a Right to Work law.

These laws, like the one that recently took effect in Indiana, prohibit unions from automatically collecting dues from employees, even when the union represents their workplace.

Michigan unions want voters to consider a proposal this fall that would keep the state’s current closed shop status intact. In Michigan and many other Great Lakes states, employees must pay union dues when their work place is organized, whether or not they join the union.

Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., says he expects to see Republican-controlled legislatures try the same tactic as Michigan lawmakers, in the battle over union rights.

Such specific campaigns are easier than trying to strip public employees of all their collective bargaining rights, which worked for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker last year, but which backfired in Ohio. Voters there repealed a law signed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich that took collective bargaining rights away from public employees.

The broad efforts “aren’t worth the bother,” Chaison said.

 

 

 

 

Of course, Michigan and Ohio will always be rivals — some might even say enemies on the football field, at least. But when it comes to politics, these two Great Lakes states are sisters under the skin. 

Last night’s Super Tuesday primary showed just how alike the two states are.

As he did last week in Michigan, Mitt Romney again squeaked out a victory in Ohio’s Super Tuesday primary. As he did last week, Rick Santorum showed that his strength lies with the most conservative Republicans, many in rural areas and in smaller towns.

And both men face the prospect that no matter what they did in the Michigan and Ohio primaries, President Barack Obama could beat either one come November.

Some tidbits from last night’s returns:

  • As in Michigan, Santorum led Romney in polls conducted in the weeks before the Ohio vote, only to see Romney close the gap and take a narrow victory. That might suggest polls are wrong, but it also shows that the Romney campaign believes in the “swoop and run” theory. It waits until the end to marshall its resources, and then pelts voters with ads and candidate appearances. So far, it’s worked in Michigan and Ohio.
  • Endorsements make a difference, for both candidates. In Michigan, Romney secured the endorsement of Gov. Rick Snyder about 10 days before the election. That helped with conservatives and moderates. In Ohio, Santorum was endorsed by the state’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, who switched his support from Romney. Even though Santorum ended up losing, the margin was much closer than it might have been without a high profile endorsement.
  • Shifts in population meant candidates had to get out of their comfort zones. It was easy in the past for Republicans to focus on suburban Oakland County, Mich., and Kent County, which encompasses Grand Rapids. But there are now Republicans flung all over the state, including the Upper Peninsula. Santorum campaigned there and nearly got every county. While Ohio’s biggest county remains Cuyahoga, candidates can’t only campaign there and expect to win. Franklin County, around Columbus, and Hamilton County in southern Ohio are must wins, too.

With two big Midwest states finished, the spotlight in our region will now turn to the illinois primary on March 20. The Chicago Sun-Times points out that Santorum went to high school in Mundelein, making him the only candidate with ties there. Will that give him any edge?

There’s no question that Toledo Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur is a champion of the auto industry, as befits a veteran Democrat with a big Jeep plant in her backyard — the one that President Obama visited last year.

President Obama speaks at an assembly plant in Toledo in June, one of seven trips to Ohio during his presidency.

And people far outside Ohio know Dennis Kucinich for the presidential campaign that made him a character on Saturday Night Live, as well as his tenure as the “boy mayor” of Cleveland.

Tomorrow, one of them won’t be running for another term in Congress. Kaptur and Kucinich are among 11 sets of Congressional representatives who are facing off against each other in primary races this year. Seven involve Democrats; four involve Republicans, according to Roll Call.

The reason is redistricting. Ohio lost two congressional seats because its population dropped in the last U.S. Census, one of them Kucinich’s 10th district, which was primarily Cleveland.

Kaptur’s 9th district, which encompassed mainly Toledo, was re-drawn to include an eastern slice of Kucinich’s old district.

The 9th district is now a strip along Lake Erie that runs from Lucas County on the western end to Lorain County to the east.

If he hoped to stay in office, Kucinich had to head west to campaign in what is primarily Kaptur’s district.

Despite his national fame, the 9th district is unfamiliar territory for Kucinich, while Kaptur has thrived there in her nearly 30 years in the House.  A number of pundits are predicting he will lose in today’s contest.

The situation creates unease among Democratic party loyalists, who have to choose between two members of Congress who are well-known in Ohio.

To be sure, their personalities are different. ““Dennis is John Belushi in ‘Animal House,’ ” Dennis Eckart, a former Democratic congressman from Cleveland, told The New York Times. “Marcy is the librarian who tells folks to be quiet and get their homework done.”

The pair have stretched in their debates to describe the differences between them. According to Roll Call, Kucinich accused Kaptur’s campaign of stealing his yard signs. Kaptur accused Kucinich of belittling Toledo, because of a radio advertisement that proclaimed “maybe in Toledo politics, facts don’t matter.”

 

 

Ohio voters are going to the polls today as part of Super Tuesday. We’d love to hear why you voted the way you did. Are you voting on issues, or personalities?

Cast your vote first, and then take our survey.

And check out some responses from Michigan voters in last week’s primary.

Super Tuesday is here, and political pundits say that if Mitt Romney wins Ohio, the Republican primary race will be over. 

That’s a big “if” and of course, the former Massachusetts governor has not yet locked up the delegates he will need.

But a Romney victory over Rick Santorum would give him a moral boost, assuming it is by a large enough margin. There is no guarantee of that, however.

At the end of the day Monday, the race for Ohio’s 66 delegates still seemed to be a statistical tie. Romney and Santorum made six collective stops in Ohio yesterday. Santorum battled perceptions that Romney is more electable than he is; Romney aimed at President Obama’s policies. 

Our partner station ideastream and our friends at PBS Newshour will have plenty of political coverage. Washington Week host Gwen Ifill posted a list of five things to look out for in tonight’s results.

And, some people are already looking past Super Tuesday to the Illinois primary later this month. Check out what our partner WBEZ in Chicago has to say.

We’ll have results and analysis on Wednesday.

 

With Super Tuesday primaries looming next week, the political world’s eyes are on Ohio, one of the richest prizes on the big day. 

(Okay, there are a lot of eyes on the Arnold Sports Festival, but he’s a Republican too, after all.)

On Friday, the latest poll from Quinnipiac University declared the Ohio primary too close to call between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Pennsylvania’s former Sen. Rick Santorum.

It showed Santorum with 35 percent of likely Republican voters, and Romney at 31 percent. On Monday, Santorum had a 36 percent to 29 percent lead, a day before the Michigan primary. About 34 percent of Ohioans surveyed said they could still change their minds

“At this point, the Buckeye State is too close to call and is clearly a two-man race between Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mitt Romney,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“A third of the electorate say they still might change their mind. With five days until Super Tuesday, they certainly will be exposed to enough negative television ads to provide fodder for those who might want to switch – or switch off.” 

There’s also support for the two less-visible candidates. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had 17 percent, with 12 percent for Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

ABC News reported on a never-seen video that showed Romney in 2002, boasting about federal funds he had attracted for Massachusetts. Our friends at PBS NewsHour say the video has reignited debate over which candidate is the biggest Washington insider.

Candidates can’t focus all their efforts in Ohio as they could in Michigan, which received a 10-day dose of attention. That resulted in $7.6 million in advertising spending ahead of the state’s primary this week.

According to our partner Michigan Radio, Romney’s campaign spent $1.5 million, while a pro-Romney Super Pac spent nearly $2 million. Santorum spend just under $1 million, and a Super Pac spent over $1 million on his behalf.

Breaking down the numbers, Romney and his Super Pac spent about $8.45 for each vote the former Massachusetts governor received in the primary. Santorum and his Super Pac spent about $5.81 per primary vote in Michigan. Third place finisher Ron Paul spent a relatively frugal 48 cents per vote.

We’ll leave you for the weekend with this little tune that’s familiar to all Ohioans.

(It’s) Round on the end and “Hi” in the middle.
Tell me if you know.
Don’t you think that’s a cute little riddle
Round on the end and “Hi” in the middle
You can find it on the map if you look high and low.
The O’s are round, it’s high in the middle. O-H-I-O That’s the riddle!
Round on the end and “Hi” in the middle.
O-HI-O!


Future voter, by flickr user robertDouglass

The Michigan primary already seems like old news. The vote happened two days ago, and the national media moved on immediately afterward, though the victor in Michigan’s race is still somewhat contestable.

On Tuesday, we asked you to tell us why you voted the way you did in the Michigan primary. We got quite a few responses, including some strong support for Ron Paul, who came in third in the primary.

Here is a sampling of what you told us: 

Greg Shea:

I want the general election debate to be conducted as close to the center as possible… away from the fringes. Romney is the only GOP candidate that gives that possibility. If he is the GOP candidate, it will force President Obama to move to the center, too.

Nathan Phenicie

I voted for Ron Paul in the 2008 primary as well. Watching the corporate shill news anchors on Cable news literally *beg* people to vote for Santorum made me realize that the Penn. Senator was actually just another Washington-insider corporate crook. Voting for Ron Paul is a vote to legalize freedom.

Naomi Zikmund-Fisher:

I am a life-long Democrat. I listened to all the conniving about voting for this or that Republican to mess them up, but I felt this was both disrespectful and dangerous – I didn’t want to be partially responsible, for example, for a President Santorum out of a mistaken belief that he couldn’t beat Obama. I decided that I would use my vote as a way to express why I’m not a Republican by voting for the only candidate on the ballot I would ever consider, John Huntsman.

Liz Roque:

I realized that by voting for Santorum I was helping to keep the race in limbo. If Romney took a decisive victory things might settle easier and I want to be sure that no one wins easily. I am a strong supporter of Obama. I believe that the GOP has played many not-too above-water games, and as far as I am concerned, turn about (is) fair play.

 

A scene from southern California this afternoon, as police tried to remove Occupy protesters from the street outside a Wal-Mart distribution center.

Today, the Occupy Wall Street movement started a fresh wave of protest activity across the country. Its the first major action from the group in weeks. Organizers are hoping it won’t be the last. Today’s protests are relatively small, compared to what we saw over the summer. But other events are in the works.

Salon reports today that Occupy organizers are looking into a possible “general strike” on May 1st. If the group pulls it off, Salon says it would be the first general strike in this country in 65 years.

And the 99% Spring movement we told you about earlier this month is also gearing up. The group is planning demonstrations nationwide from April 9-15. They’re hoping to get 100,000 people to participate. Today, the call went out for people to help train the protesters. Last week, the conservative web site The Daily Caller reported that the UAW was behind the training plan. The official 99% Spring website lists a number of union participants, along with liberal groups such as MoveOn.org.