Tidbits from Michigan, while we wait for tonight

The only thing to observe on an election day is turnout, and reports for now (like this one from the Grand Rapids Press) is that turnout will be very low. Clerks are reworking their estimate from 20% to 15% -- though this accounts for both parties which might be misleading given that the Democratic primary is not contested. The Detroit Free Press has a good compilation of interviews with voters, and confirms that voting is very light.

The CW, of course, is that this will help Romney who needs only the most committed of registered Republicans to turn out to vote, while McCain is relying on registered Democrats and indies to come out and swamp the GOP primary -- which is unlikely to be happening if turnout is that low. And the snow could also discourage the least motivated of voters from going to the polls. However, let's be careful to not draw quick conclusions. The Free Press points out to empty polling places in the Detroit metro area, which is Romney's stronghold. If that is not confirmed at equal proportions across the state, it could hurt Romney's chances.

Just as it did in Iowa and in New Hampshire, the Romney campaign swamped its competitors in Michigan. The expenditures are now being compiled, and Romney has spent about $2 million in the state versus about $750,000 for McCain and almost $500,000 for Huckabee. It is important to note, however, that Romney started his ad campaign here a month ago while his rivals ran their first ads much later. It appears that McCain matched Romney's spending since New Hampshire. But if Romney loses tonight, expect another round of stories about Romney failing to win despite spending obsene amounts of money.

One key difference between the first two contests and today's is that the candidates largely stayed away from negative ads in Michigan. You might remember that Huckabee had faced a deluge of attacks in Iowa and Romney had done the same in New Hampshire -- only to face McCain's response ads (which were much more negative and ad hominem). That strategy failed twice, and Romney apparently chose to stay away in Michigan. Also, Romney's campaign here emphasizes economic issues through a sunny optimism -- a sunniness that could be ruined if Romney goes on the attack.

Romney has not hesitated to go on the attack in mailers, however -- check this one on immigration, via the Politico. The South Carolina primary is coming up, and the Romney-McCain wars are picking up there as well (which is not surprising given South Carolina's history of nasty elections). TPM has a good summary of the mailers that are being sent in that state between the two candidates -- and we will hear much more about this in the coming days.