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Romney And Michigan


Daniel Gross has an article in Slate today arguing that Mitt Romney is not actually a very good fit for Michigan Republicans. I think he's probably right. He also makes a point that I was planning to make:

Romney is a native son that the natives don't remember. Sure, George Romney was an iconic figure in Michigan—but that was nearly a half-century ago. Recent immigrants, or people who were born in the last 40 years, have no familiarity with the things that George Romney stood for—American Motors and the state's legacy of moderate Republicanism. If you were old enough to vote for George Romney in his last successful gubernatorial campaign, 1966, you'd be at least 62 today.

I happened to be speaking with my dad, who lived in  Michigan his whole life until a year ago, about this a few days ago. I asked him if he voted for George Romney -- Mitt's moderate, pro-civil rights father -- and when he thought about it, he realized he was too young. (The voting age was 21 at the time.) My dad is 61.

How many George Romney voters are still around, and living in Michigan today? For that matter, how many of them are still Republicans? My dad, who was then a libera Republican, is a liberal Democrat today. Romney's successor as Michigan governor, William Milliken, who was also a liberal Republican, became disgruntled with the GOP's rightward shift and endorsed John Kerry in 2004. I really don't see a lot of George Romney Republicans turning out for Mitt this time around.

For what it's worth, the introduction to my book talks a bit about my dad and the transformation of the Republican Party.

--Jonathan Chait