Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) lost a nasty gubernatorial primary in 2010. Now he's running for Senate. (Adam Bird/AP Phptp)

Now Hoekstra is hoping to unseat Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who is slipping in polls as the economy continues to falter. Right now, Hoekstra is collecting support all around Michigan.

But skepticism about him remains, and there’s one challenger who could give the former lawmaker a run for his money. If that happens, it would be a serious blow to Hoekstra — and potentially, to Republicans’ chances in the state.

Hoekstra got plenty of conservative support in 2010 — including the backing of tea-party godfather Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) — but he split the conservative backing with Attorney General Mike Cox, who ended up getting battered on more personal issues. Snyder was perceived as the likable, reform-minded candidate.

“Hoekstra has a long record of being a fiscal conservative, he’s a founding member of the tea party caucus, people who know Pete Hoekstra now that hes a committed fiscal conservative and there will be a clear distinction in the race between him and Senator Stabenow,” said Brian Jones who is advising Hoekstra’s bid.

But there may be little bit of room to attack Hoekstra from the right. He recently said that tea-party supporters need to give House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “a little bit of breathing room.” And, Hoekstra supported the bank bailout known as TARP, which many conservatives deplore.

The main knock against Hoekstra, though, is what doomed lots of incumbents in 2010 — he was a certified member of the Washington establishment. That coupled with his past fundraising struggles — he raised about $1.4 million for the governor’s race — has some people doubting how strong as frontrunner Hoekstra actually is.

Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch has urged other candidates to drop out and rally around Hoekstra, as he did. But not everyone is following suit.

Back in March, when Hoekstra was first considering a bid against Stabenow, state GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak said he was still looking for a candidate “head and shoulders” above the rest of the field. Hoekstra called the comments “very unfortunate.” A few weeks later, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee decided not to run.

At that point Clark Durant, a charter school executive, was approached about a bid. Now Hoekstra has changed his mind, but Durant is still considering a run and could give Hoekstra serious problems.

While Hoekstra supporters say personal loyalties lost him the support of Michigan Right to Life and the state Chamber of Commerce in 2010, others say it was concern over his fundraising. Some Michigan Republicans say that given excitement over Stabenow’s vulnerability, fundraising shouldn’t be a problem this time around.

But “there’s no evidence” that Hoekstra will be able to raise more money this time around, said Bill Ballenger, a Michigan pundit and former Republican official. “Hope springs eternal ... Everyone is waiting to see whether Clark Durant runs.”

“It’s too early to tell,” agreed former Michigan Republican Party chairman David Doyle. “Right now [Hoekstra] appears to be wrapping up support from people all around the state, but it really comes down to what these guys show in their FEC reports in the next filing.”

Durant is considered a formidable fundraiser, and he’s been attacking Hoekstra, recently saying that he didn’t think the former House member’s experience “is helpful if you want to go down and change the conversation.”

He’s repeatedly referred to Hoekstra as a lobbyist (the former lawmaker worked at a lobbying firm but was not himself registered as one).

Saul Anuzis, former Michigan GOP party chairman, is also encouraging Durant to run.

Gary Glenn of the socially-conservative American Family Association, is also running but has little chance of winning. Former Kent County Probate Judge Randy Hekman and northern Michigan businessman Peter Konetchy are also both still in the race, but both are considered weak challengers.

If Durant opts out, Hoekstra should have a much clearer path to the GOP nod. If he doesn’t — 2012 could be a repeat of 2010, which for one Republican, is bad news in trying to topple Stabenow.

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