Keeping Up With The Candidates, Primary Edition

Just five days to go until Tuesday’s primary, and things have not settled.

Not that anything happened, like one of the perceived leaders of the GOP race being accused of being present and participating in the “legend”ary Manoogian mansion party by someone willing to put his name on it. Mike Cox still denies there ever was a party, and has attacked the affiant, a biker who said he was working security for the affair, by saying he has a rap sheet. (A biker with a rap sheet?! What’s this world coming to!!*) Then he questioned the timing of it. Then he compared himself to Shaquille O’Neal. Each time, the defense gets bolder. The tin hats may have switched sides.

* Sons of Anarchy on FX! Best show on TV not involving the 1960s advertising industry!

As for the campaigns, for weeks now, polling has been so scattershot that many weeks, I’ve opted to not even link to it. The one thing that had been consistent, for the most part, was Andy Dillon’s lead in the Democratic race. Note I said “was.”

This week, the Detroit Free Press and four TV stations commissioned a poll that showed that Lansing mayor Virg Bernero has not only pulled ahead, but may be pulling away. Things seem somewhat bleak for Dillon’s campaign, as Michigan political guru Bill Ballanger of Inside Michigan Politics told Frank Beckman on WJR-AM Bernero will win unless Dillon makes a dramatic push. Considering Bernaro’s campaign appears to be low on cash, it’s not an impossible scenario.

The latest poll shows Bernero with an eight point lead over Dillon, 40-28, with 32 percent undecided. Of course, two weeks ago, polling showed Dillon with a 20 point lead, so perhaps we should just wait and see what happens on Tuesday.

MLive asked both candidates for ideas on fixing Michigan’s economy/tax system. Bernero said he wants to create a state bank of Michigan that will loan money to small businesses. Dillon wants to create a coalition of business, labor, teachers and health care industry leaders to create a better tax policy.

On the GOP side, all of the candidates are making their final appeals to potential voters, who appear to not really care that much. Secretary of State and Mike Bouchard running mate Terri Lynn Land expects that only about 1.7 people will actually go to the polls on Tuesday, or, about 23 percent of registered voters. Cox expects only about 700,000 people to vote in the GOP primary.

As the final ads roll out, Pete Hoekstra is fed up with what he calls “factually incorrect attack ads”:

“Attorney General Mike Cox and his special-interest allies will stop at nothing to mislead voters and falsely attack Pete Hoekstra’s record,” said spokesman John Truscott. “Mike Cox should immediately call on these shadowy third-party groups to end these false attack ads and start being honest with the voters of Michigan.”

In May, he successfully convinced three west Michigan stations to drop ads run by “Americans With Job Security” after he showed the ads made false claims. The most recent ad, run by Michigan Business United, said Hoekstra is “absent on right to life” among other things. Not surprisingly, Cox spokesman Nick DeLeeuw denied the campaign’s involvement.

New endorsements this week go to Rick Snyder, who won the public support of Ford board chairman Bill Ford Jr., Hoekstra and Andy Dillon. The latter two were endorsed by The Grand Rapids Press.

Finally, both Detroit papers are pumping out informational stories designed to help We, The Voters, decide based on the issues. (Ha! Like any election is ever won on the issues!) If something doesn’t appear for one candidate but does for the other, it’s either because the Freep hasn’t run the Democratic analyses yet, or I couldn’t find Pete Hoekstra’s Detroit News Q&A through the paper’s awful search function which doesn’t rank articles in chronological order.

Andy Dillon: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)

Virg Bernero: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)

Rick Snyder: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)/Analysis (Freep)

Mike Cox: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)/ Analysis (Freep)

Pete Hoekstra: Positions (Freep)/ Analysis (Freep)

Mike Bouchard: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)/ Analysis (Freep)

Dr. Tom George: Positions (Freep)/ Q&A (News)/ Analysis (Freep)

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Keeping Up With The Candidates, July 16

As the primary is only three weeks away, the candidates are fighting for an advantage against the other men seeking their respective party’s nomination. Peter Luke of MLive suggests that the thing they are fighting more than their opponents is voter frustration and apathy.

We start off this week with the Democrats. Andy Dillon picked up the endorsement of former Detroit mayor and Dickinson Wright chairman emeritus Dennis Archer. [The Detroit News].

In the meanwhile, Virg Bernero, appearing at a visit to Siena Heights University in Adrian, said that he’s a bulletproof candidate: [The Daily Telegram/Adrian].

“The two main candidates are largely unknown, Speaker of the House Andy Dillon and myself,” Bernero said, but he added that a new poll conducted for his campaign sampling 600 likely primary voters showed Dillon to be the more vulnerable candidate.
“The two Achilles’ heels that my opponent had — and I have no Achilles’ heels, really, we tried to test some — but he has two that are deadly,” Bernero said. “One is that he’s anti-choice (on abortion) and anti-stem cell research, and that is deadly in a Democratic primary, come to find out. And, two, his corporate raider, corporate boardroom experience of running people off and shipping jobs overseas. They’re almost equally negative and very toxic.”

I want to think that was a joke. Yeah, it had to be a joke, right?

About those Achilles’ heels, Laura Berman of The Detroit News agrees with Bernero that Dillon’s pro-life/anti-embryonic stem cell research stances will matter.

But when they will matter may be another issue. A poll released Tuesday has Dillon ahead of Bernero 35 percent to 15 percent, with 50 percent undecided. Of course, wait a day or two and those numbers will likely be closer. [Detroit Free Press].

The news was heavier on the GOP side this week. (That’s been the case more often lately. More candidates, closer race). The party is certainly confident that whomever wins its primary will be the next governor. Said State Republican Party chairman Ron Weiser:

“People are going to want a change. We saw that in 2008, and Obama took advantage of it,” Weiser told reporters in a conference call. “And certainly as Republicans we’re going to take advantage of the same thing.”

He added “I know there’s always the possibility that something strange can happen, but we certainly are overwhelming favorites now to take the governorship.”

The same poll mentioned earlier shows Pete Hoekstra, Rick Snyder and Mike Cox in a dead heat, all with 18 percent, while Mike Bouchard is a distant 9 percent and Dr. Tom George at one percent.

It should be said that polling numbers have been all over the place in this election, so, for both races, take them for what they are worth. It’s the score at the end of the third quarter. Might be the result, might not.

Bouchard’s people say the numbers are way off. His Minister of Information campaign manager Ted Prill said the campaigns internal polling shows Bouchard tied for the lead with 19 percent, with Cox and Snyder polling at 16 and 12 percent, respectively.

Bouchard has been more active in advocating the GOP dogma, coming out in support of both a Michigan equivalent to the controversial Arizona immigration law (again) and making Michigan a right-to-work state.

He will speak to a Tea Party forum next week about the Arizona immigration law. He wrote a newspaper op-ed and released a commercial about the right-to-work issue. Jeff Cranson of The Grand Rapids Press asks whether this is Bouchard’s Hail Mary pass.

Speaking of the Tea Party, the Livingston Daily says they have the GOP’s attention.

Michigan’s “tea party” groups could affect dozens of local races, as well as those for the state Legislature. Making an impact in Michigan’s gubernatorial race will be harder, but the enthusiasm of newly minted political activists could help pick a Republican nominee, and the field knows it.

Attorney General Mike Cox, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Holland and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard all have courted the “tea party” vote. Although Ann Arbor businessman Rick Snyder is seen by some as the most moderate of the group, his business success and his status as the only nonpolitician helps him, Ballenger said.

Pete Hoekstra was in Holland with President Barack Obama and Gov. Jennifer Granholm for the groundbreaking of a new battery plant.  He used the opportunity to criticize Obama and the stimulus bill, which at least in part will fund the the new LG Chem plant.

“If you take a look around, you will see companies that were built by individuals and families,” Hoekstra said in a YouTube video he posted on his campaign website. “They have never received a government stimulus package.”

Of course, the companies he’s speaking of weren’t offered one and who knows what they would have done if the money was on the table. (I’d like to see the company that says “We’d like to build a new plant in your state/district/city, but please, do not offer us any tax breaks or other economic incentives! Give that money back to the people!”)

Of course, Hoekstra has been attacked in ads from unnamed entities for supporting the stimulus bill, which he did not vote for. When he was criticized in the Democratic debate for not supporting the bill, he responded via Twitter:

Democrats blasting me for voting against stimulus package last year. At least THEY got the facts right that I voted no!

Except for his appearance in the GOP debate earlier this week, Mike Cox stayed out of the news, but for his official duties, in which he again slammed the Obama Administration for filing suit to block the aforementioned Arizona immigration bill. His office will file an amicus brief in support of the bill.

At a campaign appearance in Owosso, Rick Snyder said simply fixing Michigan isn’t enough. To compete, Michigan needs to reinvent itself. He also talked about the troubling trend of college graduates leaving the state to find work.

Finally, yes, four of the five GOP candidates debated yet again this week, with Snyder opting to hold a town meeting in Grand Rapids instead. [WOOD-TV Video].

The candidates that were there didn’t inspire confidence, said the Detroit Free Press:

Tuesday night, in the last debate before the August primary, voters got a better look at the distinctions among the candidates than they had before. But it’s also clear that some of the candidates still cling to unrealistic schemes for navigating Michigan’s way to long-term solvency.

Only state Sen. Tom George, for example, seems to understand that the tax cuts proposed by Attorney General Mike Cox and Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard will bankrupt the state. That won’t attract jobs any better than the current onerous business tax environment.

Cox also continues to indulge overly pollyannaish solutions to the gridlock in Lansing.

Cox — and nearly everyone else — fails to explain how [bipartisanship] could now be accomplished with term-limited, politically entrenched legislators who so far haven’t budged toward compromise.

In Supreme Court election news … there isn’t any. Today is the deadline for non-party affiliated (i.e. independent) candidates to submit their paperwork to be put on the ballot. As of 2pm, no one has, according to the Board of Elections. The remaining candidates will be nominated by parties at their political conventions in late August.

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Keeping Up With The Candidates, July 9

Less than a month before the primary, all of the candidates are ratcheting up the war machine, which means, of course, you are about to be bombarded with commercials. (It would be a good idea to invest in a digital video recorder if you don’t already have one.) At least they waited this long to ramp up the ads. According to Dawson Bell of the Detroit Free Press, the combined candidate spending on ads doesn’t approach anywhere near what Dick Devos spent by this point in 2006.

Not surprisingly, Mike Cox and Rick Snyder have spent the most on this campaign with varying levels of success. Cox entered the race as the leader and Snyder a relative unknown. Depending on what day of the week it is and who is doing the poll, Cox, Snyder and Pete Hoekstra are all relatively close in the GOP race, with Hoekstra usually leading but barely.

Hoekstra’s campaign has been famously hamstrung by taking public funds, thus limiting his ability to buy ads statewide. (Not that he needs to run them on the west side of the state.) But he has run an ad in selected markets titled “Get Out Of The Way” that is noteworthy for its lack of mudslinging. What it is not noteworthy for is any type of specific idea that he has that sets him apart from any of the other Republican candidates. It’s similar to the “One Tough Nerd” ad Snyder used to introduce himself, except that was in January.

Mike Bouchard, who distantly trails the other three in the polls, announced a plan for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office to share info with Immigrations & Customs Enforcement to try to identify illegal immigrants in Michigan jails or facing charges. Not exactly the Arizona immigration law but some parties have argued it’s promoting racial/ethnic profiling, to which Bouchard responded on WJR [Audio link on the bottom of page.]:

What you’re talking about is someone who is an alien in this country and is arrested for something completely unrelated to status — rather they’re illegal or legal. And people don’t even want us to do that?  That tells you how stunning the disconnect between today’s realities are and the people that oppose that.

Now, I would never accuse a politician of trying to capitalize on an issue that is hot elsewhere but not so much here, except that I think I just did.

Kym Worthy called for parents who fail to appear for parent-teacher conferences to be jailed. The Michigan Messenger contacted all of the candidates for comment. As of Wednesday, only Hoekstra and Andy Dillon responded (TMM has no update on the post). Both expressed support for the idea that parents need to take an active role in their children’s education. However, Dillon questioned both the enforcement and effectiveness of such a policy.

The Speaker supports increased parental involvement in schools throughout the state, but does have some concerns about the implementation and enforcement of the authority requested by the Wayne County Prosecutor. In some cases, a parent who cannot attend a P/T conference does not always mean they aren’t engaged. The real question for parental involvement ultimately becomes more than just a single meeting – emphasis must be placed on maintaining parental involvement throughout the year on a more consistent basis.

After the debates of the last couple week, there wasn’t much news from the Democrats this week. The Livingston Daily did a fact check on claims of both Dillon and Virg Bernero and found, of course, both the truth and exaggerations have been told on both sides.

Bernero did get the endorsement of Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Michigan National Organization for Women.

Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press wrote a piece on the difficulty that U.S. Rep Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick is having running in the shadow of the scandals engulfing her husband and son. (Do I really need to link them?) In addition to representing sections of Detroit, she also represents several Downriver communities like Wyandotte, where she marched in an Independence Day parade.

The piece discusses the difficulty she’s having with her family’s public problems and discusses the five people running to unseat her in the primary.  The fact that she has five opponents could be her saving grace:

But this year could be different, said Detroit political consultant Eric Foster.

“She’s got a very, very narrow margin for success,” he said. “She has a base of about 38% of support in the district. As long as one of the candidates can show themselves as a credible alternative to her, she could have a problem.”

He thinks voters in Detroit may be suffering from election fatigue after four mayoral elections in the last year, and that could help a non-Detroiter.

“A hard 70% outside of the city will break overwhelmingly to whoever is the credible alternative to Kilpatrick,” Foster said. “Right now, Hansen is the person to do that, but if Broad can get up on TV and radio, then it could break toward him.”

“Hansen” is state Senator Hansen Clarke and “Broad” is Grosse Pointe businessman John Broad, whom, the piece says, might have the largest war chest. (Wyandotte and Grosse Pointe? How large is this district?)

The others are pastor Glenn Plummer (not that Glenn Plummer), who has GOP ties (gave money to Bush’s campaign in 2003), former GOP Detroit mayorial and city council candidate Stephen Hume, and Vincent Brown of Garden City, who the piece says “worked in the auto industry for eight years and for the group Clean Water Action for two years.” (Grosse Pointe, Wyandotte and Garden City?!)

Keeping Up With The Candidates

As the August primary election nears, the candidates for Michigan’s statewide offices are ratcheting up the mudslinging and accusations.

But first, in positive news, Mike Cox made news simply by releasing an ad that was, uh, not negative. [The Detroit News]

Attorney General Mike Cox plays up his service in the U.S. Marines in the third major TV ad of his campaign, which was launched today, and it’s the first spot that doesn’t attack one of his GOP opponents.

The ad shows the Republican gubernatorial candidate in his dress blues, and the voiceover says: "At 18 he enlisted in the Marines. He’s never backed down from a fight."

Cox served in the Marines in the United States and Korea from 1980-83. He was honorably discharged at the rank of corporal.

His background as a Wayne County assistant prosecutor is also highlighted with a scene showing Cox ducking under crime scene tape.

I notice this ad wasn’t paid for by “Eagle Strategies.”

That pretty much covers the positive news. The rest is mostly right-on-right crime. This week, ads his campaign had prepared for the inevitable Manoogian mansion party accusations were leaked on the internet. [MyFoxDetroit.com]

The Michigan gubernatorial campaign of Republican Attorney General Mike Cox says four of its unaired TV ads were stolen and posted on YouTube.

Campaign officials said Tuesday they were talking with attorneys to determine how to proceed and to identify who posted the commercials under the tag AnyOneButCox.

The ads feature people including former police officers defending Cox and his role in putting former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick behind bars.

Cox’s campaign was quick to blame his opponents for stealing the ads but without any proof. Kind of like the Manoogian mansion accusations of which he complains.

"None of us in law enforcement or the media found once person who could say they were there, or that a crime happened," Cox said. "What does it matter to running for governor?

"I’m not running (for governor) to talk about rumors from seven years ago."

In other GOP primary news, Pete Hoekstra picked up the endorsement of retiring Rep. Vern Ehlers. [MLive] He also criticized President Obama for not closing the Chicago locks to protect Lake Michigan from the onslaught of Asian carp after a carp was found six miles past the electronic barrier.

Earlier this year, Hoekstra sponsored a bill that would have given the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to close the locks, apply fish poisons and install new barriers.

"Closing the locks is not enough, and the Army Corps has acknowledged that they have no intention to do so," Hoekstra said.

I don’t know what good it would do to give the ACE the authority to close locks when the organization has fought the push to do so. It’s like giving me the authority to watch the Twilight movies. Thanks, but I’ll pass.

It seems Rick Snyder wasn’t really a nerd in high school. (In other words, there wasn’t much news from the Snyder camp this week.) He did pick up a co-endorsement (along with Mike Bouchard) from the Detroit Regional Chamber. The Chamber also endorsed Andy Dillon on the Democrat side. [MLive]

Despite trailing Cox, Snyder and Hoekstra in pretty much all statewide polls, Bouchard is the leader in metro Detroit. [MLive] Then again, these polls are fluctuating so much from day-to-day that I’m trying to avoid references to them. This is interesting because metro Detroit is obviously has a large effect in Michigan elections

The GOP candidates will all be in Grand Rapids tonight for a debate on WOOD-TV. As with the Democratic debate earlier this week, eastsiders should be able to follow the debate online here.

With only two candidates, the Democrats are so much easier to follow, and not at all less exciting.

Dillon and Virg Bernero hurled verbal bombs at each other during a debate on June 21.

Dillon called Bernero a career politician seeking his "sixth office" in 20 years and who was exaggerating his record as mayor. But it contained little of the bite and specificity Bernero aimed at a large swath of a Democratic primary electorate that hasn’t yet made up its mind.

Bernero criticized Dillon for an FY 2010 budget crafted with Senate Republicans that relies on all cuts and no revenues. Casualties have been cities that have lost revenue sharing and college students who lost their $4,000 Michigan Promise scholarship.

Post-budget attempts by Dillon to raise revenue to soften the cuts went nowhere.

"People were looking to the speaker for leadership, looking for him to stand up for those scholarship funds," Bernero said. After Dillon said he’d work to restore the university aid, Bernero said Dillon "now wants to be elected governor to fix so many of the mistakes he made."

Dillon responded that Bernero offered no solutions of his own and that during his tenure in the Legislature, helped create the current structural budget deficit. "The mayor constantly bashes me (for budget cuts) but I don’t hear him calling for a tax increase to fund these programs."

Bernero was profiled at length by the Detroit Free Press. It’s the beginning of a series of profiles. Dillon’s will appear on Friday.

Bernero is also getting a push by the AFL-CIO.

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Wheeler Smith leaves race

The herd is thinning:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Democratic state Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith said Monday she is withdrawing from the race to become Michigan’s next governor.

Her departure leaves Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and House Speaker Andy Dillon as the only Democrats on track for the Democratic primary ballot in August. Five candidates are expected on the Republican primary ballot.

Smith, a longtime state lawmaker from Salem Township in Washtenaw County, was perhaps the most liberal candidate in the race to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. She had been lagging behind Dillon, the most moderate of the Democratic candidates, and Bernero in polls.

"I love Michigan and believe that I can help this state in its time of crisis," Smith said in a statement. "But this race is about more than me. Democrats need to unify behind a candidate and I have come to believe that my continued candidacy would only serve to divide us further. … Like many people, I share the concern of splitting the progressive vote and ending up with a candidate that does not represent core Democratic values."

Smith, 68, was one of the first entrants in the governor’s race, launching her campaign last June.

Smith’s campaign said it had been "well on a path" to gathering the 15,000 signatures needed to make the governor’s ballot. The deadline for filing is Tuesday.

Smith can’t run for a seat in the Michigan House again because of the state’s term limits law.

Was the Michigan GOP’s attorney behind anti-Hoekstra ads?

Remember Eagle Strategies, the double secret group that purchased negative campaign ads against Michigan GOP gubernatorial hopeful Pete Hoekstra, saying he’s not conservative enough?

At long last, we may have an answer as to who was behind the group: GOP attorney Eric Doster. [Associated Press]

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A policy committee for the Michigan Republican Party has asked the party’s legal counsel to step down until a complaint over a radio ad targeting GOP gubernatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra is resolved.

At issue is whether attorney Eric Doster had any ties to the group that ran the ads, Eagle Strategies, and whether he should have disclosed any possible ties to party Chairman Ron Weiser.

A message left at Doster’s law office in Lansing seeking comment was not returned Wednesday.

"It is unfortunate that the resolution passed by the policy committee contains factual errors that unfairly characterize Mr. Doster," Weiser said in a statement Wednesday. "Eric Doster is a widely respected Republican Party activist."

The matter will be discussed by the full Michigan Republican State Committee on Saturday, Weiser said.

After the anti-Hoekstra ad aired in February in southeast Michigan, the congressman’s campaign sent a letter asking Attorney General Mike Cox, also a GOP gubernatorial candidate, to investigate the legality of a group called Eagle Strategies.

Hoekstra campaign lawyer Charles Spies complained that no public information was available on Eagle Strategies or who was behind it. The attorney for GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder then asked the secretary of state’s office to determine if Eagle Strategies broke campaign finance laws.

The organization appeared tied to a group called Peace and Prosperity, which had filed an assumed name certificate for the name "Eagle Strategies" a week after the anti-Hoekstra ad aired, Snyder attorney Daniel Carlson wrote in his complaint letter.

Doster was listed as the resident agent for Peace and Prosperity.

Neither the secretary of state nor the attorney general has issued any findings regarding the complaints.

The Republican gubernatorial contest has already seen several spates of negative ads this year. Along with the anti-Hoekstra ads, there have been automated calls, a billboard, radio ads and negative websites launched against Snyder and another GOP candidate, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard. An independent group called the Michigan Civic Educational Fund was behind those efforts.

The infighting apparently is starting to be noted by party leaders.

In asking Doster to temporarily recuse himself, the GOP policy committee said it was Doster’s responsibility as legal counsel "to keep the party chairman informed of potential conflicts of interest in representing multiple clients."

Its resolution urged Doster to step down "until the Michigan Secretary of State’s Election Division has concluded their investigation into his involvement as resident agent for Eagle Strategies Project."

Snyder’s campaign spokesman, Jake Suski, said the policy committee took the right step.

"The party should do everything within its power to protect its impartiality, which includes asking the legal counsel to step aside when he’s the registered agent for an organization that’s under investigation for an attack against a Republican gubernatorial candidate," Suski said.

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Early polls show GOP candidates lead Dems

Ask

I can’t imagine what the numbers look like vs. Cox, Snyder or Hoekstra.

… and ye shall receive.

The two leading Democratic candidates would lose to any of the three top Republican challengers if the election were held today, according to the poll by EPIC/MRA of Lansing released exclusively to the Free Press, WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) and three outstate TV stations.

Between the two Democratic candidates, Dillon leads … unless people actually know the differences between the candidates.

House Speaker Andy Dillon leads Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero for the Democratic primary — 22% to 15% — although Bernero shows signs of closing the gap. When voters were given brief descriptions of the candidates, Bernero jumped ahead of Dillon, 29% to 24%.

Interesting. People tend to say they support candidates that they think are going to win, even if they don’t know any differences on issues. Dillon is better known, so when two names are put out there, people say the one they’ve heard of.

Pete Hoekstra leads among GOP candidates …

Among Republicans, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Holland has a lead of six percentage points over Attorney General Mike Cox.

Support for Cox and businessman Rick Snyder has leveled off since February.

"People are not jumping on the Rick Snyder bandwagon, even though he’s gained 12 points in name recognition" after a series of TV ads, Porn said.

… and presumably against everyone else.

Voters preferred Republicans Cox, Hoekstra or Snyder by significant margins when each was matched against either Dillon or Bernero.