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Examining Romney's '08 Michigan performance

 

As was pointed out in First Read this morning, Mitt Romney won the state where his father served as governor by only nine percentage points, coming up with 39% of the vote compared to John McCain's 30%. (That's 338,316 votes for Romney.) Mike Huckabee came in third place with 16% of the vote in the state.

And here's a little more on Romney's Michigan performance, according to the exit polls.

Let's start with a telling data point: Among the 42% of GOP primary voters who said said that "Romney's ties to Michigan" were "important," 58% backed him. But among those who said home state connection was "not important," only 23% said they voted for him.

Romney performed well among a wide range of demographics in 2008. He won a plurality of born-again evangelicals, beating out Baptist preacher Huckabee. He beat McCain fairly soundly with voters both with and without a college degree. And he won all income brackets, except for those earning less than $30,000 a year.

But one data point that might not make Boston smile was his performance among voters -- about a third of the electorate -- who said that their top criterion for picking a candidate was that he "says what he believes." McCain trounced Romney on that measure by 19 points.

He did soundly win GOP voters most concerned that their nominee "shares my values" (44%). And Romney cleaned up among voters most concerned with "electability," although only 5% of Michigan GOP primary voters in 2008 said electability was the top quality they were looking for.

Romney's best performance was in the Detroit area and surrounding suburbs, with his highest win percentage in Oakland County (47%), where all three auto manufacturers have a strong presence. He also broke the 40% support threshhold in the Traverse City area.

His worst performance was in the sparsely populated Upper Penninsula. In Iron -- his weakest county -- he won just 20% of the vote, versus McCain's 39%.

There's chatter today that some Democrats may vote in the state's "open" primary to make mischief. For what it's worth, 7% of those voting in the 2008 Michigan GOP primary identified themselves as Democrats, and McCain won 41% of those voters compared with Romney's 33%. (There was a contemporaneous Democratic primary going on in 2008, but neither Obama nor John Edwards was on the ballot due to wrangling over the primary date.)