Monday, August 27, 2018

Michigan U.S. Senate- Race of the Day

71 Days Until Election Day

Michigan U.S. Senate

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

Democrat Debbie Stabenow has held elective office, nearly continuously, for the past 43 years. After serving in local and state government, she sought the Governorship of Michigan in 1994. After losing the primary, she was selected for Lt. Governor, but saw her ticket lose in a landslide to the incumbent. She quickly rebounded though by defeating an incumbent for a seat in Congress in 1996 and then another incumbent Republican, in her 2000 U.S. Senate victory. Since then, she has twice been seriously targeted by the GOP but managed to hold serve by margins wider than initially expected. Very few think that despite the fact that Michigan was colored red for the first time in a long time in the last Presidential election, that she is seriously endangered in her bid for a third term.

There were some interesting names talked about on the Republican side in regards to potential contenders to take on the Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Longtime Congressman Fred Upton caused some speculation that he was maybe looking to leave the House and make a try for the Senate. He decided to stay where he is though. After all, his niece Kate Upton and her husband Justin Verlander have moved on from Michigan.

Then there were some rock options. Ted Nugent, the "Motor City Madman" has been talked about as a potential political candidate before, but as he increasingly generated controversial headlines due to his fiery rhetoric, the hunting enthusiast stayed fit. Far more talk emerged around Kid Rock. The well-known performer, whose real name is Bob Ritchie, all but stated he intended to run. (Interestingly, he would have perhaps been the only GOP Senate candidate who had also been the single father of an African-American child.) Kid Rock had done some campaign events for Mitt Romney in the past, but fell firmly in line with Donald Trump's ascendance in the Republican Party. Some polling was done and people wondered that if Jesse Ventura could get elected Governor, and Donald Trump as President, why not Kid Rock as a U.S. Senator? As many expected though, this was basically a p.r. stunt to push a new album or something like that. Kid Rock eventually said something along the lines of, "of course I'm not actually going to run you idiots."

So, that left the non-celebrity crowd. A relatively young pro-Trump activist and businesswoman named Lena Epstein declared her candidacy but then switched to run for an open U.S. House instead and became the nominee after the August primary. Some Republicans were intrigued by the potential of Robert Young, an African-American former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, but after struggling to raise money, he dropped out of the race as well.

That left the field to two suburban Detroit candidates, one a 61 year old white male and the other a 37 year old African-American man. The latter was Sandy Pensler, a wealthy businessman who had made a bid for Congress way back in 1992. He had the potential of being able to write himself a large check and the possibility of appealing to moderate voters due to his business background. The other candidate, a West Point grad, businessman, and Iraq War combat pilot, was John James, whom many pegged as a potential rising star for the GOP. Indeed, candidate Robert Young endorsed James after leaving the race.

Polls showed that Pensler and James were bunched together closely for much of the spring and early summer. James was gathering endorsements though, both from the establishment wings and the more populist conservative wings of the party. He ran to Pensler's right, criticizing his opponent for past contributions to Democrats and a pro-choice position, that  Pensler claimed he no longer had. James stressed his background as a Christian conservative. What was perhaps unmentioned was the contrast with the Jewish Pensler. They did express differences on capital punishment, with James stating he was opposed to the death penalty as well, typically not a position taken by Republicans.

The two Republicans would also clash over who was a stronger supporter of Donald Trump. In the primaries of 2016, James first supported Ted Cruz and Pensler voted for Marco Rubio. (Despite this, the Senator from Florida endorsed James long before the primary, and somewhat oddly enough Rand Paul endorsed Pensler.) At the time, Pensler was videotaped saying some less than complimentary things about Trump, but he would insist in this campaign that they were taken out of context, and he was happy to support the nominee and backs him now. The race may have been close before, but down the homestretch, Trump Tweeted his endorsement of James, and the one-time underdog won the primary by 10 points.

With the general election set, James does not have the personal resource that Pensler might have been able to bring to the race against Pelosi, but James being a young, charismatic black candidate, with an impressive military background, excites a lot of Republicans for the contrast he might present to the Democrat.

The polls however have shown the incumbent holds a solid lead. James will need to catch several breaks to win this race, but could potentially be someone to watch down the road. The fact that he has embraced the Trump Administration so much, despite the current President having won the state, is not going to do much to win over anti-Trump swing voters in this midterm. Nonetheless, Stabenow would be wise to avoid Hillary Clinton's Michigan mistake and take anything for granted.

Speaking of whom, this is a race where if Mrs. Clinton were President, and as unpopular as Trump currently is, the contest in Michigan would definitely be one at risk of flipping to the GOP. That alternate universe does not exist though, and thus, Stabenow is the heavy favorite to keep the seat blue.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 
9 D (6 Safe, 2 Likely, 1 Tossup), 
2 R (2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
32 D (23 holdovers, 6 Safe, 2 Likely, 1 Tossup)
44 R (42 holdovers, 2 Tossup)


At 8:18 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Stabenow is safe.... for now.


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