Arizona and Michigan Primaries, February 23, 2000


John McCain - 179,610 (60.0%)

George W. Bush - 106,626 (35.6%)

Alan Keyes - 10,626 ( 3.5%)

Steve Forbes - 1,146 ( 0.3%)

Orrin Hatch - 572 ( 0.2%)

John R. McGrath - 213 ( 0.1%)

Gary Bauer - 166 ( 0.1%)

James T. Zanon - 53 ( 0.0%)

Chuck See - 27 ( 0.0%)

Total Vote 298,715 ( 14.6%) [32.8% of the 909,063 Republicans]


John McCain - 626,244 (50.1%)

George W. Bush - 535,840 (42.9%)

Alan Keyes - 65,028 ( 5.2%)

Uncommitted - 8,821 ( 0.7%)

Gary Bauer - 5,927 ( 0.4%)

Steve Forbes - 4,671 ( 0.3%)

Orrin Hatch - 1,371 ( 0.1%)

Total Vote 1,247,902 (18.9%)

Voters Throw McCain a Life Preserver

The Republican Primary voters in Arizona and Michigan did not so much give John McCain victory, rather they prevented him from being eliminated from the race. They gave the Senator from Arizona two more weeks in which to make his case to the Republican faithful.

Had McCain lost Michigan, he would have been out of the race. Voters turned out in far from record numbers to keep McCain's boat afloat. George W. Bush received 535,840 votes;11,679 more than the 524,161 total cast in the Michigan Republican Presidential Primary four years ago. So, the fact that McCain's 626,244 votes bested Bush by another 90,000 shows that hundreds of thousands of voters who haven't voted in the Republican Presidential primary for decades, decided to go to the polls this year. Even so, less than 19% of the registered voters cast ballots.

Just for the sake of comparison: Bob Dole won the 1996 Michigan primary with 265,425 votes. George Bush, George W.'s father, won the 1992 Michigan Republican primary with 301,948 votes, slightly less than the 341,998 by which he won in 1980. So, a Bush family member has been a candidate in the Michigan Republican Presidential primary in 3 of the 6 elections since 1980. If practice made perfect in politics, Bush would have won and Steve Forbes would still be in the race.

In years past, candidates won Michigan with numbers that make the 2000 race look puny. George Wallace carried Michigan in the Democratic Primary in 1972 with 809,239 votes to McGovern's 425,694 when the number of registered voters was 2.5 million smaller. Meanwhile, Nixon was receiving 321,652 as the unopposed incumbent President on the Republican side.

President Gerald Ford, Michigan's native son candidate in 1976, won with 690,180 votes, while Ronald Reagan was receiving 364,052. The 1976 Michigan Republican Presidential primary had a turnout of almost 24%, compared to under 19% this year.

So, did Democrats and independents come out to save McCain? I don't think so. The Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in Michigan in 1998 received 1,438,238 votes. That's 190,336 more votes than were cast in the Michigan Republican Primary. The vast majority of the people who voted Republican in the last general election were the Republican primary voters in the 2000 Presidential Primary.

This theory is confirmed by the relatively low turnout in Arizona, McCain's home state. Only registered Republicans were allowed to vote in Arizona. In Michigan, all voters were allowed to cast ballots. Yet, the turnout in Michigan was only 30% higher than in Arizona. And while the Michigan turnout was 86.7% of the 1,438,238 votes cast for Republican House candidates in 1998, the turnout in Arizona was only 52% of the 573,651 votes cast for Republican House candidates in 1998.

In other words, many otherwise Bush supporters stayed home in Arizona, as a courtesy to give favorite son John McCain a big victory in his home state. In Michigan, people who vote Republican in November bothered to vote in the Michigan Presidential Primary for the first time in decades.

Still, the odds are that George W. Bush will be the Republican nominee. In states where only registered Republicans can vote, his advantage in money, organization and name recognition ought to carry the day.

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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf