A night of interesting primaries

Biggies like Joe Lieberman's defeat in Connecticut have been well reported, so let me focus elsewhere.

In Michigan Michael Bouchard defeated Keith Butler for the US Senate candidacy. He goes on to face Debbie Stabenow, an incumbent who never quite breaks 50% approval ratings. It will be an uphill fight for Republicans to gain seats from Democrats this year, but Michigan might well be an exception. Polls do not currently suggest the race will be close, but with the primary out of the way that may change.

My question is, where now for Butler? He is, to say the least, an atypical Republican with atypical patterns of support. The minister in a Detroit mega-church he has been a councilman in a city where about 5% of the electors are registered Republicans. An African-American he has recognised two fairly obvious (but in political conventional wisdom, apparently elusive) truths. A great many black people have conservative views and that the way to reach them is through churches not through sports stars or entrepreneurs.

For all her powerful symbolism as a role model, Dr Condoleeza Rice comes up short in one important respect: most people, black and white, know perfectly well they lack the capacity to become Stanford's youngest ever Provost.

I hope that Keith Butler does not go home and sulk. He will do himself, his party, and the causes he espouses, a great deal of good if he throws himself with energy into the campaign. He can perhaps deliver for Michael Bouchard and for Dick DeVos (gubernatorial candidate, leading the Democrat incumbent against national trends) voters they might not reach themselves.

He does not have to limit himself to campaigning in Michigan. There are major urban areas where the Democrats need to pull out 90% of the black vote in other industrial states. He could possibly achieve most campaigning with other African-American candidates in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland - all of which look to be very close this year. Democrat campaign tactics depend on painting Republicans as racists, and this charge is harder to make against black candidates. But there are other Republicans in tight races who need to dent the Democrat advantage among black voters. Arnold Schwarzeneggar springs to mind.

Butler should show himself to be an enthusiastic campaigner for Republican candidates across the country. After November there is a strong chance that Ken Mehlman, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, will be wishing to return to a governmental position. Butler would be an eminently suitable replacement.

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