Michigan voters leery of big changes in direction

Associated Press Modified: November 7, 2012 at 1:30 pm •  Published: November 7, 2012

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan showed little appetite for drastic change in Tuesday's election, whether at the White House or the statehouse.

For all the concern about the struggling economy and the widespread cynicism about politicians, voters gave most incumbents of both parties another chance. They endorsed President Barack Obama's re-election and awarded Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow a third term. Michigan's congressional delegation stayed largely intact, with Republican Kerry Bentivolio holding the seat abandoned by former GOP Rep. Thaddeus McCotter and freshman Republican Rep. Dan Benishek winning a close rematch with Democratic challenger Gary McDowell. The state House remained under GOP control, although by a smaller margin.

Voters also rejected proposed constitutional amendments dealing with collective bargaining rights, taxation, renewable energy and a proposed bridge to Canada — issues critics said should be settled through the give and take of legislating instead of by chiseling solutions into the state's bedrock document.

"Leave my constitution alone," Kimber Lawrence, 51, said after casting her ballot in Lansing, a sentiment voiced by many of the Michigan voters interviewed by Associated Press reporters.

In part, the results illustrate the unsurprising fact that it's tough to unseat an officeholder who isn't tainted by scandal. Incumbents have many advantages — name recognition, experience, a built-in base of support. Donations from political action committees often provide a sizeable fundraising advantage over any challenger. Former GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra never came close to matching Stabenow's campaign treasury, which enabled her to win the all-important television advertising sweepstakes.

Two years ago, a wave of anger about the lagging economy and soaring budget deficit gave rise to the tea party movement and propelled a Republican takeover of the U.S. House and the Michigan House. But with the state's economy slowly improving, those wanting to "throw the bums out" were in the minority this time.

An exit poll taken for the AP and a group of television networks showed that a majority of Michigan voters rejected Republican Mitt Romney's pitch for a new direction on economic policy, despite his success as a businessman and lingering concerns about where things are headed. Fifty-three percent of those interviewed said Obama was better suited to handle the economy and 45 percent said the situation is improving.