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Hoekstra leads, but the 'Nerd' is gaining

TODD SPANGLER, FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
February 27, 2010

Pete Hoekstra, Rick Snyder, Mike Cox

Poll: Snyder gets boost; Dillon top Dem for gov

Some Michigan Republicans apparently like GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder's "One Tough Nerd" ads that began during the Super Bowl.

Snyder, former chief of Gateway computers, has moved from afterthought to contender in the battle for the Republican nomination for governor and pulled enough support from Attorney General Mike Cox to thrust U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra into the lead, a new poll shows.

An EPIC-MRA poll conducted this week and released to the Free Press and WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) on Friday shows Snyder in third place in the GOP race – moving ahead of Oakland Sheriff Michael Bouchard.

Snyder does better – moving ahead of Cox – when voters are given another chance to say who they would choose after being read biographical details about each candidate.

The poll also showed:

• State House Speaker Andy Dillon leads among possible Democratic candidates with former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee second.

• Cox and Hoekstra win against either Dillon or Kildee.

• The economy and job creation is the top concern among likely voters at 55%.

Name recognition big obstacle for Dems, poll finds

The poll, released exclusively in metro Detroit to the Free Press and WXYZ-TV (Channel 7), showed Hoekstra of Holland with the support of 27% of the 400 likely Republican primary voters surveyed from Monday through Thursday.

That's compared with 21% for Cox and 12% for Snyder.

Some 26% of the respondents remained undecided.

In late January, Cox led with 26%, compared with 22% for Hoekstra and just 3% for Snyder, who began touting himself as "One Tough Nerd" in ads that began during the Super Bowl.

"He has increased his name recognition," said Bernie Porn, EPIC-MRA's president. "He comes in a respectable third in the primary matchup."

In fact, Snyder jumps past Cox once respondents are read the candidates' biographies. The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points for results on questions put to likely primary voters; 4 percentage points for others put to a larger overall sample of 600 likely voters.

The poll showed Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard getting support from 10% of likely GOP primary voters, down from 13% a month ago.

Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, held a strong edge over the competition in western Michigan.

He also did best among the field with GOP voters who consider jobs and the economy their top priority – more than 10% better than Cox.

Meanwhile, among Democratic primary voters, 45% remain undecided. Among those who made a choice, state House Speaker Andy Dillon took 17%, compared with 12% for former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee and 8% for Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

When given biographical details about each candidate, Dillon's lead increases while state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith and Bernero move into a virtual dead heat with Kildee for second.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for Democrats is that most Michigan voters don't know who they are: 66% of the 600-person sample didn't recognize Dillon of Redford Township; Kildee was unknown to 72% of the respondents; Bernero was unknown to 82%.

Republicans kept their edge over Democrats in head-to-head matchups – with Cox beating Kildee or Dillon by at least 7 percentage points, and Hoekstra beating either by the margin of error – 4 percentage points.