Lansing GOP chief warns of unions' stirring up crossover vote in primary

LANSING, Mich. — Many Republican leaders as well as pollsters and political analysts throughout Michigan have been dismissive of the scenario of a large number of traditional Democrats crossing over into the GOP presidential primary Feb. 28 to back whom they consider the weaker potential opponent to Barack Obama. But one key Republican leader insisted to us that labor unions in his county were telling their members to do just that.

Ingham County Republican Chairman Norm Shinkle, whose county includes Michigan’s capital city of Lansing, told HUMAN EVENTS Monday that “several friends of mine in unions” have said that there are e-mails and other signs that union leaders want their their members to vote in the GOP primary Tuesday.

“And Local 602, which includes [auto workers] who work at General Motors, has been especially active in this effort,” said Shinkle, citing reports from friends of e-mails and handbills encouraging votes in the Republican primary with the goal being to “support Obama.”  As to precisely who the union leaders want the cross-over voters to support, Shinkle said there were earlier reports that it was to vote for Ron Paul and more recently Rick Santorum.

Shinkle recalled the last time there was significant crossing over of labor-friendly voters to the Republican primary in 2000, when John McCain upset favored candidate George W. Bush. 

Then-GOP Gov. John Engler had said “Michigan will be a firewall for Bush,” said Shinkle, “and the unions decided to take him on.”  However, he also pointed out that union leaders were “very open” about their plan to embarass Engler by defeating his man Bush in Michigan and the current cross-over encouragement is not out in the open.

Much like State GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak in his interview with us on the same day, Shinkle predicted that the contest Tuesday would be “very close.  Mitt Romney is strong in Southeastern Michigan [Detroit and Oakland County) and Santorum is strong in Western Michigan.” 

But, like Schostak, Shinkle was not making any predictions.