Could 2010 governor’s race be a campaign of ideas?

Poll shows Republican candidates for Michigan governor with early edge over Democrats.

Our Say
Candidates should not put stock in numbers with seven months until Election Day, but focus on how they would address state’s problems.

There’s a natural temptation to focus on the horse race in politics. Watching which candidate is up and which candidate is down is easier than taking the time to listen to what they are saying.

Let’s hope that will not be the case in Michigan politics in 2010.

A poll by EPIC-MRA of Lansing released Tuesday offers a detailed look at the November election. It declares Democrat Andy Dillon and Republican Pete Hoekstra to be their parties’ early front-runners, while pointing out — as is always the case this early in the political season — that many voters are undecided.

This newspaper and other media will be reporting on polls from now until November, but we suspect the real story of this campaign will not show up in the horse race. This should be a year, more than most others, where the public is looking for solutions.

The decade-long economic slump and inaction by Lansing finally have put state government at a tipping point. The next governor will have to work with a state budget that either does less for the public or is retooled to find money for services we now come to expect.

We encourage the candidates to spend time with advocacy groups like Business Leaders for Michigan, which has drawn up thoughtful proposals to streamline state government.

Some candidates are offering well-thought out ideas, regardless of whether one agrees with them.

Dillon, as state House speaker, has pushed to consolidate all public health-insurance plans. The major Republican candidates call for eliminating the Michigan Business Tax to promote economic growth. Alma Wheeler Smith, a Democrat, would retool Michigan’s flat income tax and replace it with a progressive tax code.

We think the public wants to have a debate on these ideas, more so than most years.

So, while this poll sets the stage for a campaign, it might well be meaningless by the start of summer. This could be the year that candidates are rewarded most by the quality of their ideas, not by how many babies they kiss.