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Michigan primaries, fascinating and bizarre

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry describes the history of Michigan’s primary as both fascinating and bizarre.

According to Lessenberry, Michigan held its first presidential primary in the early part of the 20th century. At that time people voted for Henry Ford in two separate primaries. To be exact, those primaries took place in 1916 and then in 1924, according to the Michigan Department of State Bureau of Elections.

“He [Henry Ford] had given people a lot of work. He won one primary as a Republican and one as a Democrat despite the minor inconvenient fact that he wasn’t running for president,” says Lessenberry.

In the depression era the primaries were abandoned in Michigan. Lessenberry says that’s because they were too expensive to run.

From 1929 to 1971 there were no presidential primaries. The next one was in 1972, and Lessenberry explains, “It was the biggest turnout in the history of Michigan primaries and George Wallace won it by a landslide defeating Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern, which greatly embarrassed the UAW and the Democratic Party and lots of other people.”

What should people watch for in tomorrow’s primary?

Lessenberry says theauto bailout issue has made the race in Michigan tight between presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.  He says that Republican primary voters are more conservative than the country at large. And he says those conservative voters are dead set against the bailout. In Michigan however the bailout seems to have been very popular.

“Romney is in a very difficult position in Michigan because of his position on the auto bailout. He was against it at the time. He had an op-ed piece in the Detroit News attempting to justify his stand on this and there is a lot of resentment against him. It’s very hard to say the bailout didn’t work. The auto companies were saved, they’re all making lots money, and they’re hiring people again. So, Romney has a very difficult line to walk.”

Michigan’s Presidential primary is tomorrow.

Both Republican and Democratic voters will have the opportunity to vote for 1 of 11 candidates on the Republican primary ballot, or for President Obama who is uncontested on the Democratic ballot.

Mercedes Mejia is a producer and director of Stateside.
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