Friday, August 29, 2014

Race of the Day- Michigan U.S. Senate

67 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Democrat

Few states can claim to have both a Gubernatorial and Senate contest as close as the ones in Michigan. It should lead to an interesting stretch run for the political partisans in the state, but it appears that the most probably outcome would be a split decision in the two races, in favor of the incumbent parties.

While his older brother is seeking to continue his career in the U.S. House, 80 year old Democrat Carl Levin is content with retiring from the U.S. Senate after 36 years in office. Levin used to have tough elections in his state, but he gradually became more entrenched and won by increasing margins. Had he sought another term, few believe Republicans would have been able to mount much of a challenge. With his seat open though, the GOP looked at a possible opportunity to pick up a win, even though no member of the party has won a Senate seat since 1994.

Many candidates were talked about as potential entrants, but the initial fear was that young Congressman Justin Amash, an iconoclastic acolyte of Ron Paul, could capture the GOP nomination but doom any hopes for picking up the seat in the fall. Amash would stay put though and entreaties to veteran Congressman Dave Camp, currently the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee were unsuccessful. When he said no, most thought that Camp would be unwilling to leave a safe House seat and much Congressional influence for such a gamble, but he has since announced plans to leave Washington entirely after this year.

All things considered though, Republicans might have been able to get the strongest potential candidate in the state, who was not currently running for reelection, into the contest. Terri Lynn Land had twice won statewide office in Michigan, by solid margins last decade and served two terms as Secretary of State. She was serving as Michigan's designated female member of the Republican National Committee when she entered the race for the Senate and indicated that she and her husband, who happen to very well off, would be willing to donate large sums of money to her campaign. She did not face a primary opponent.

There was no primary on the Democrat side either, as is the case for both parties Gubernatorial nominations. Very quickly after Levin announced his retirement, Congressman Gary Peters emerged as the leading contender to succeed him on the ballot. Also, a very wealthy man, Peters was unable to do what Land did in 2002 in winning statewide office, as he lost a contest for Attorney General, after originally setting his sights on the Governorship. In 2008 though, he was elected to Congress over a GOP incumbent in a competitive area. His most recent reelection in 2012, came when he ran in a redistricted area that had many of Detroit's African-American voters. He was able to surpass a black incumbent freshman in the primary. Now, he is leaving the House to run for the Senate, and his district is poised to elect an African-American once again.

There has been and will continue to be much money spent in Michigan as Democrats try to hold on to a seat they absolutely must have if they have hope at all of retaining the Senate. Many polls from the early part of the year, showed Land leading Peters by a few points, perhaps because she was at least slightly better known statewide.  Despite those numbers, Democrats felt that Peters would ultimately have the edge in the state once ads were run introducing Peters and attacking Land. That seems to be what has happened, as polls now show the Democrat with at least a slight lead.

Peters will try to build on the success that Democrats have held in recent statewide federal elections in Michigan by painting himself as an ally of labor and the middle class and claiming that Land is an out of touch conservative. The Republican seems to be fighting back though by painting Peters as being part of the problem in Washington. She recently fired back at Democrat claims of a GOP "war on women" by saying she will not be lectured by a man like Peters who pays his female Congressional staffers less than male staffers. He is also dealing with a story that suggests he is financially profiting via investments in the crisis involving the water supply in Detroit.

As the saying goes, this race is far from over, and some polls show what amounts to a statistical dead heat, including figures that show a modest increase for the Republican. My hunch though is that a Democrat in Michigan probably starts off with a slight edge in a federal statewide race and that ticket splitters might give a victory to both Peters in the Senate race and the incumbent GOP Governor in his race. I hope to be wrong in November from this pre-Labor Day prediction. Much can still happen though and if the overall political landscape in November leads up to a major GOP wave, Land will probably be in a good position to win a seat from the Democrats, even if it does not require a Land-slide.

If she does manage win the race, Republicans are probably going to be going into 2015 as a Senate majority with a handful of seats to spare.

Land campaign site:

Senate races predicted thus far: 6 D (4 Safe, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup), 10 R (3 Safe, 1 Likely, 4 Leans, 2 Tossup)
Overall predicted thus far: 40 D, 40 R (net Republican gain of 4)


At 10:14 AM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Land better get it going fast if she wants to win the U.S. Senate race on November 4th.


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