Sunday, August 16, 2020

Race of the Day- Michigan U.S. Senate

 Michigan U.S. Senate

79 Days Until Election Day
Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)
Outlook: Leans Democrat

If there is one Senate seat outside of Alabama that Republicans hope to flip this year, Michigan is probably the most realistic. That being said, it is probably not that realistic. Democrats have had advantages in federal races in the state for decades now and the GOP has to much ground to defend nationwide to really invest resources here, minus a late breaking development. Nonetheless, the Republicans are once again running what they feel is a very appealing candidate and the polls, as of now, look somewhat close.

Both major party nominees were selected without intra-party opposition this year and both have ties to the U.S. military and the business world. They have also both now lost statewide elections.
Democrat Gary Peters is seeking his second term in the U.S. Senate. As a State Senator and a Naval Reservist, he was deployed to the Persian Gulf. Peter also had a long career as a financial advisor. In 2002, he started of wanting to run for Governor, but others in the party were better known. He was given the nomination by his party though for Attorney General when he lost the contest very narrowly. In 2008, he was elected to Congress, defeating an incumbent in an area that had been historically Republican. After a round of Congressional redistricting, Peters was thrown in with a fellow Democrat who would have had an advantage. Instead, he ran in a new district designed to elect an African-American and beat two black opponents in the primary. By the time he ran for the Senate, the nomination was there for his asking in an open race and he easily defeated a Republican woman who had won statewide office and had been considered formidable at the start of the campaign, even in spite of a strong GOP tide nationwide.

Peters has not made many waves in the Senate and with his somewhat low profile, Republicans have hoped to target him. John James as a very impressive biography and Republicans have been quite excited about the possibility of him becoming a rare African-American officeholder, let alone one from a Midwest swing state.

Still just 39 years old, James graduated from West Point, served in the Army, and as a combat pilot in multiple tours of Iraq. Returning home, he joined his family's business and eventually became President of the management supply company. His first bid for public office was a race for the U.S. Senate in 2018. He was facing a more experienced and wealthier opponent in the primary, but an endorsement Tweet by Donald Trump helped him win the nomination, despite the fact that James has at times expressed some mild disapproval of the rhetoric and tactics of Trump. Many in the party immediately pegged him as a rising star, and pointed to the fact that Trump was an upset winner of the state two years earlier, the first Republican to carry it since 1988. Polls showed a competitive race against incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow, but she won reelection to the Senate by a 52-46 margin, in a year where Republicans struggled in all but Trump's strongest areas.

All things considered, it was an impressive political debut by James and he seemingly did manage to win over some voters who did not typically support the GOP. Afterwards, it had been reported that Trump was considering a nomination of James to be Ambassador to the United Nations, despite the fact that the former candidate had no foreign policy experience. Trump eventually picked another woman to fill the post, as he seems to like that optic on television.

Now, James is running against another incumbent Michigan Democrat for the Senate. While he did not face any primary opposition, he runs the risk of being the somewhat rare politician in American history to lose both Senate seats in his state and in consecutive cycles. What that might mean for his future political objectives is unclear, but he might be risking the "perennial candidate" label.

The fact that Republican types from around the country seem to so badly want to inflate the political prospects of James and to hope to count them among their officeholders speaks to how badly many on the right want the party to be seen as diverse and inclusive. Of course, this contrasts with the rhetoric often coming out of Trump that appeals to white nationalism and the politics of resentment. James, who is now running once again as a strong conservative, has stated his complete support for Trump and is thus tied to him politically. If Trump somehow wins Michigan again, then James will have a very good chance of having ousted Peters. However, the Presidential polls out of Michigan show a wider gap for Trump than the somewhat smaller margin, at least in one recent poll, than James is trailing Peters. In fact the recent poll, conducted by Democrats, showing Joe Biden ahead in the state by just four and James trailing Peters by a scant three probably raised a lot of eyebrows. Time will tell if it was an outlier.

It looks like James may be winning support, perhaps from African-Americans, that are not likely to go Trump, but he still seems to have a bit of an uphill struggle to get enough to win. Michigan has not elected a Republican to the Senate since the strong Republican year of 1994, and it had been some time before that as well. Democrats are far less likely to take Michigan for granted this year as they were under Hillary Clinton in 2016.

John James may still have a political future after Trump, but he should probably start by setting his sights a bit lower.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far:

8 D (3 Safe, 3 Lean, 2 Tossup) 
9 R (2 Safe, 3 Likely, 3 Lean, 1 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

43 Democrats (35 holdovers, 3 Safe, 3 Lean, 2 Tossup)
39 Republicans (30 holdovers, 2 Safe, 3 Likely, 3 Lean, 1 Tossup)


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