Michigan Primary Predictions

John McCain and Mitt Romney Battle for MichiganThey’re voting today in Michigan in the first primary in which, on the Republican side at least, a significant number of convention delegates are at stake. Despite that, the event is getting far, far less media attention than the traditional lead-off team of Iowa and New Hampshire.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is running unopposed. I predict she’ll win the zero delegates at stake.

On the Republican side, unless something incredibly screwy happens, either John McCain or Mitt Romney will win a relatively narrow victory over the other and Mike Huckabee will finish a distant third.

The most recent polling is all over the map:

Real Clear Politics Republican Michigan Primary Polls

My prediction is that McCain will win with 32 percent to Romney’s 31, with Huckabee getting 18, Thompson 6, Paul 6, and Giuliani 3. This would mean late deciders are moving to McCain slightly more than to Romney; there’s not much point in anyone not firmly committed to one of the other candidates showing up, after all.

If Romney does in fact come in third yet again, it would seem to doom his candidacy. My guess, though, is that he remains in the race through February 5th.

Similarly, if I’m wrong and McCain comes in second, it slows down his New Hampshire momentum a bit but, given Romney’s favorite son status, he’s got a built in excuse and keeps rolling on to South Carolina.

UPDATE (Alex Knapp): James has asked all of your favorite OTB authors to add their half-assed guesses informed predictions of the outcome of the Michigan primaries, so here are mine:

On the Democratic Party side, I predict that “Uncommitted” will beat Hillary Clinton. Given that Michigan’s delegates will not be allowed to select the nominee at the Democratic National Convention, there is no reason for Clinton supporters to waste their time in the primary. That said, Obama and Edwards supporters do have a reason to show up–voting “Uncommitted” and having “Uncommitted” win would be an unusual enough story for the media to pick up and start a narrative on the weakness of Clinton’s candidacy. Some Party activists opposed to Clinton are in fact urging this very thing.

On the Republican side, I do think that Romney will narrowly defeat McCain. Romney isn’t just the native son, but lots of Democratic activists, especially Daily Kos, are urging Democrats to switch party affiliates and vote for Romney, who they see as the “least worst Republican.” Romney already has a slight lead in the pulls, so even a few hundred votes from Democrats would probably keep him on top. After that, the order is most likely Huckabee, Thompson, Giuliani, then Paul (Paul’s momentum being lost to the recent revelations about the “Ron Paul Letters”.).

UPDATE (Chris Lawrence): I see this one shaking out about the same as Alex does on the Republican side; the crystal ball I picked up in the French Quarter over the weekend (not to be confused with Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball™) suggests Romney has a slight (but meaningless) win in the GOP side. On the other hand, I really can’t see that many people being motivated to come out and vote for nobody, even in the current circumstance where it can be spun as an “anybody but Clinton” vote (even though the uncommitted votes would, under normal circumstances, almost certainly end up being voted for the eventual nominee anyway–even if it is Clinton), so I have to give the edge to Clinton among the Democrats in an even more meaningless contest.

UPDATE (Dave Schuler): Pretty much the same as the above. Hillary Clinton will win the most votes of any Democratic candidate on the ballot. Since she’s the only Democratic candidate on the ballot, that’s a pretty safe bet. Are Detroit Democratic voters anything like Chicago Democratic voters? If they are they’ll turn out whether there’s anybody on the ballot or not and vote for whatever regular candidate is running. Since that’s Clinton she may well beat Uncommitted. If Detroit Democrats aren’t like Chicago Democrats, I have no idea whether she’ll beat Uncommitted.

On the Republican side I think that Romney is a pretty good pick for a very narrow win. Another indecisive victory with the finishing order Romney, McCain, Huckabee, Thompson, Giuliani, Paul. Paul supporters will claim it as a victory.

OTHER PREDICTIONS: Scott Elliot makes his predictions and rounds up several others.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Walter says:

    Paul’s momentum being lost to the recent revelations about the “Ron Paul Letters”


  2. Michael says:

    lots of Democratic activists, especially Daily Kos, are urging Democrats to switch party affiliates and vote for Romney, who they see as the “least worst Republican.”

    The reason given by Kos is not that Romney is the “least worst Republican”, but that he is A) A weaker general-election challenger than McCain, and B) That keeping a three-way fight in the GOP primary will further divide and alienate the various GOP factions from each other, again improving the general election chances for whomever the Democracts nominate.

  3. Michael says:

    Paul supporters will claim it as a victory.

    I think any election outcome that doesn’t end in Ron Paul’s physical death will be considered a victory by his supporters, and even in that case I’m not sure.

  4. Brittanicus says:

    Will the state of Nevada have an issue with the population of illegal aliens voting? According to a official report, all an individual has to do to caste a vote is to sign an affidavit of being a citizen. When you break the sovereign laws of the United States, what makes us think their will not violate our voting laws. Tell me who is going to authenticate this travesty of our Constitutional right, if foreign nationals wish to transgress our voting laws? Certainly it will not be the Casino’s or Catering organisation, who thrive on the cheap labor that has tresspassed in our country. With Nevada having a huge showing of illegal foreign nationals, it will be interesting to see the political impact. This 2008 election will have a massive adverse effect on the rights and privileges of true Americans. According to an estimate of the Pew Hispanic Center, in 2005 there were an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 illegal aliens living in Nevada This estimate ranks 15th among illegal alien populations in the United States for the PEW estimate. FAIR estimates in 2004 that the taxpayers of Nevada spent $321.1 million per year on illegal aliens and their children in public schools.