The Midterms: Michigan

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Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
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Today, we close out the Upper Midwest with a look at Michigan.

In the Senate race, Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow faces off against John James for the Republicans.  This race theoretically should be a lot closer than the polls indicate.  Stabenow has a 43% approval rating against 37% disapproval.  However, she leads James by an overall average of almost 15 points in a state where Trump has a 44% approval rating.  News out of this race is almost hard to come by which is a shame because Stabenow is vulnerable.  Prior to October, James trailed by an average of 17 points.  After October 1st, he trails by an average of 10 points across seven polls indicating he is gaining ground.  The problem is it is a lot of ground to make up and time is running out.  While some may see an opportunity here, this writer doesn’t.  He make it closer and it may throw an election night scare into Stabenow, but I believe this seat will remain in the hands of a Democrat.

The House delegation favors the GOP 8-6 in Michigan.  There are two safe open Democratic seats and one very vulnerable open Republican seat.  Besides that one, the Democrats are targeting others.  Fred Upton in the Sixth District has never taken less than 55% of the vote in this Kalamazoo-based district, but finds himself opposed by a credible Democrat, Matt Longjohn.  Polling thus far shows him at the cusp of being comfortable- up by four points on average.

Mike Bishop is the Republican incumbent in the Eighth District facing a serious challenge from Democrat Elissa Slotkin.  Recently the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund canceled part of a previous ad buy in support of Bishop with some claiming that internal polling indicates a GOP loss.  The NRCC has continued funding and supporting Bishop and although the Democrats saw the withdrawal of ad time as advantageous, most of it was pulled from the Lansing media market, but significant funding remains in the Detroit market.  Like Upton in the Sixth, despite some doom and gloom, Bishop is up by an average of about 4 points.

Finally, we have the open GOP-held 11th District seat currently occupied by Dave Trott.  A competitive primary ended up pitting Republican Lena Epstein, who co-chaired Trump’s Michigan campaign, against Haley Stevens, who served on Obama’s Auto Task Force.  This is a tough one to prognosticate given the lack of polling and news out of the district.  However, given Michigan’s more-often-than-not blue streak, a 7-7 Congressional partisan split seems reasonable with the Eleventh most likely to fall to the Democrats.

There is also an open gubernatorial race where outgoing Republican Governor Rick Snyder is term-limited.  In the primary, state attorney general Bill Schuette emerged victorious over Lt. Governor Brian Calley for the GOP, while Gretchen Whitmer became the Democratic candidate in a less-contested primary.

And there starts the problem for Schuette.  Rick Snyder has refused to endorse or support Schuette in the aftermath of the GOP primary saying he is “staying out of politics.  I’m governing.”  However, Snyder was quite vocal in the primary and campaigned for and supported Calley.  Snyder may also be smarting after Schuette indicted several state officials in Snyder’s administration over the Flint water crisis.  Calley, during the primary, accused Schuette of bringing the charges to distance himself from the Snyder administration.  Calley himself has allegedly reached out to support Schuette, but according to some reports Schuette rebuffed those overtures.  In short, both sides are acting like A-holes at this point.  And in an attempt to establish some unity, Mike Pence sponsored a dinner which Snyder refused to attend.  Dennis Muchmore, a former aid to Snyder, even suggested that Snyder may even endorse Whitmer over Schuette.

As a state attorney general, Schuette was involved in efforts to repeal Obamacare through the courts.  Whitmer has used that as proof that Schuette wants to kill those with pre-existing conditions.

In what may be final act of desperation, Schuette has recently run some ads accusing Whitmer, while interim prosecutor in Ingham County, of failing to bring charges against disgraced US gymnastics coach Larry Nasser who worked out of Michigan State University.  As state attorney general, that mud may yet come flinging back at Schuette.

Polling shows Whitmer with a lead of about, on average, 9 points headed into Election Day.  And trends in those polls show no discernible movement towards Schuette.  Snyder leaves office not the most popular of Governors and he has the “R” after his name, like Schuette.  After eight years, given all the available information, it would appear the voters of Michigan are switching gears.  In the end, an endorsement from Snyder may actually amount to squat.

All in all, despite Trump’s narrow and surprising victory here in 2016, this is, at heart, more of a blue state than purple.  Both Schuette and John James are good conservatives who likely have a future in Michigan politics somewhere down the road, but not this year.  Additionally, one can foresee a one seat loss in the House delegation coming from the state, most likely in the Eleventh.

After this entry, the numbers stand as follows:

US Senate 49-43 Republican, US House 190-187 Republican, and Governors 28-18 Republican.

Next: Arizona