With Granholm Leaving, Michigan GOP Eyes Return To Governorship

After eight years of Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) — eight years in which her favorability ratings started strong (remember the dream of changing the Constitution so the Canadian-born Granholm could be eligible to run for president?) but are ending weak (thanks to a budget crisis, a rise in taxes, a poor economy and a rising unemployment rate) — Michigan Republicans are anticipating a comeback.

But first they need to get past today's primary, in which three candidates — state Attorney General Mike Cox, Rep. Pete Hoekstra and businessman Rick Snyder — all have a legitimate shot at victory.  Another candidate, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, is "within striking distance," according to Mark Hornbeck of the Detroit News.

Snyder is thought to be the most moderate of the four, and is focusing more on the economy than on social issues such as abortion; he is a former president of Gateway computers and has been spending freely in his campaign.

Cox, endorsed by Michigan Right to Life, is among the state attorneys general who have joined in the lawsuit against the new federal health care law.

Hoekstra has the backing of once-and-likely-future presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who was born in Detroit and whose father served as governor in the 1960s.

On the Democratic side, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is thought to have opened up a small lead over state House Speaker Andy Dillon.  Bernero has the support of the United Auto Workers and other unions, as well as abortion-rights groups, and has been spending heavily on TV.  Dillon says his "upbringing and religious beliefs" are why he opposes abortion.

Lt. Gov. John Cherry, who had been long thought of by Dems as the successor to the term-limited Granholm, dropped out of the race in January — perhaps because he was saddled with her growing unpopularity.

There will also be some changes in the congressional delegation.  Rep. Bart Stupak (D), an anti-abortion Democrat who played a pivotal role in the passage of the health care bill, is retiring, as are Rep. Vern Ehlers (R) and Hoekstra.  Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D) is dealing with the fallout from the political scandals of her son, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.  She is facing a tough primary challenge from state Sen. Hansen Clarke.  Former Rep. Tim Walberg (R), defeated by Mark Schauer (D) in 2008, is seeking to reverse that result but first has to survive his primary.

Most polls in the state close at 7 p.m. Central time, but some in the western part of the state stay open an hour longer.

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