Rep. Bill Schuette (Mich.) may be campaigning as if he already had won the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), but he first has to defeat conservative rival Clark Durant in Tuesday's GOP primary.
Durant, a lawyer and political ally of Jack Kemp, wanted to debate Schuette. But Schuette said he would debate only if Durant released his income tax returns and agreed to a "no negative attack" pledge, including not mentioning Schuette's name or record in his ads.
Durant refused. "What am I running against here, a ghost?" he responded. "The question Republicans have to ask themselves is whose ideas are best going to offer a contrast to Carl Levin and who's best equipped to take on Carl Levin," Durant said. "I want the people to decide and Bill won't engage in that."
Schuette leads Durant in polls, although a large percentage of voters are undecided. He insists that Durant is not and should not be his focus. "I'm running against Carl Levin," Schuette said. "Beating Carl Levin is the goal here, not beating up on other Republicans."
Schuette is the favorite of the GOP establishment and has close ties to President Bush dating from Bush's 1980 presidential campaign. But Schuette quickly put distance between himself and the president when Bush broke his "no new taxes" pledge.
He emphasizes his six years of experience in Congress and focuses on what he calls "defining issues" -- crime, drugs, and Levin's opposition to the death penalty -- while pounding on his theme that the two-term senator's views are out of step with Michigan voters.
Durant paints Schuette and Levin as Washington insiders, beholden to special interests. He presents himself as a conservative "alternative" who wants to cut taxes and reduce government regulation. He has begun airing ads linking Schuette and Levin to the S&L crisis.
Durant, a national co-chairman for Kemp's 1988 presidential campaign, was a leader of the "Anybody But Bush" campaign put together by Michigan supporters of Kemp and Pat Robertson.
Levin has no primary opposition.