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Published: Saturday, 12/23/2006

For richer, for richer

DICK DeVos doesn't disagree with the wry headline writer for his hometown newspaper who suggested he is "richer for the experience" of having been buried in Michigan's gubernatorial election last month.

The irony, of course, is that Mr. DeVos, Republican heir to the immense Amway fortune, spent $35.4 million of his own money in a $41 million campaign, only to be swamped by incumbent Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm by 530,000 votes.

The 1,608,086 votes Mr. DeVos received in his 56-42 percent drubbing translates to a personal cost of about $22 each.

Combined, the candidates spent $56.2 million, the most expensive race for governor in the history of the state of Michigan, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Despite the outcome, Mr. DeVos insists that he regrets neither running for governor nor investing so much of his personal wealth in the effort, and he says he might some day run again. "There was nothing about the experience that would suggest to me that I should never do it again," he told the Grand Rapids Press.

That's a remarkably positive attitude but an easy one for him to adopt since there's a lot more money where the $35.4 million came from. So it goes when money really is no object.

Indeed, Mr. DeVos's wealth, coupled with slavish support for tax cuts for those in his income bracket, was too big an obstacle, even for an otherwise conservative Michigan electorate. Voters understood that the wealthiest taxpayers have multiplied their fortunes under Republican rule while ordinary Michiganians have lost ground economically.

By his own admission a rookie politician with limited communications skills, Mr. DeVos battled the perception that he was something other than "a regular guy." It was a perception he now says he realized he could not change, even with a $27 million blizzard of television ads.

As we have said before, Dick DeVos was a Not Ready for Prime Time Player in the carefully nuanced world of politics, and his loss was cold confirmation that elections aren't necessarily for sale, even when the highest bidder is a billionaire businessman with virtually unlimited resources.

To his credit, Mr. Devos isn't acting as if he lost something he was entitled to. Perhaps it was an enriching experience after all.

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