According to the Cook Political Report [subscription required], the Michigan Senate race is a tossup. Think about that for a moment. In 2012, President Obama won the state by almost 10 percentage points. But much has changed in Michigan, which serves as an example of what happens when skilled, reform-minded Republicans take on Democratic incompetence and overreach.
Today it is not the same deep-blue Michigan. Since November 2012, the president’s approval ratings have dropped like a stone. He is underwater in Michigan, and opposition to Obamacare runs high. Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has been on a roll, helping to revive the western Michigan economy, ushering Detroit into bankruptcy and hopefully revival, and signing into law right-to-work legislation. In addition, ” Of the 14 congressional districts, nine are held by Republicans. Republicans also hold the office of Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General, and they have majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Any suggestion that a Republican can’t win a U.S. Senate seat defies logic.”
The Republicans have united behind former Michigan secretary of state Terri Lynn Land. In a man-bites-dog race, it is Land who has the class issue working in her favor against Democratic congressman Gary Peters. Peters, who has a law degree, an MBA and graduate and doctoral degrees in philosophy, “worked as an assistant vice president at Merrill Lynch from 1980 until 1989 when he joined UBS/Paine Webber as a vice president.” Land, on the other hand, “grew up in Michigan where her grandparents owned a motel and trailer park. She lived on the property and helped her grandmother take care of the motel, doing everything from changing beds to cleaning rooms. She got an undergraduate degree from in political science from Hope College. After college, she worked in the family business, which had expanded to include the development of apartment complexes.”
The particular set of issues this election also seem to favor Land. By focusing on jobs, Obamacare and other economic issues, she is running a race not too dissimilar from Snyder’s 2010 race. (Neither focus on social issues.) Giving the back of the hand to the Democrats’ “war on women” charge garnered grudging admiration, even from Democrats.
How close is the race? “There have been 17 surveys taken in the contest. Land was ahead in nine of them, Peters had the lead in seven, and one was tied. . . . Land has been ahead in two of the three most recent surveys.”
The outcome is likely to come down to how well each side turns out its base and whether Land can maintain her error-free campaign. With the gubernatorial race at the top of the ticket, Land may get an extra boost from Snyder, who is favored to win. A Land win would add another woman to the U.S. Senate. (If GOP challenger Monica Wehby wins in Oregon, that will add up to five GOP women.) It would also demonstrate that when a conservative candidate can appeal both to the tea party and general-election voters, the GOP can win in a traditionally Democratic state. That will be food for thought as Republicans head into 2016.