Is Michigan now in play?
- A poll of 600 Michigan residents by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA, conducted in February showed Republican Land slightly ahead of Peters, 41%-38%.
- Even thought the GOP controls the governorship and legislature, Republicans have their work cut out for them. Michigan has not voted Republican for President since 1988 and no Republican has won a Senate race in Michigan since 1994.
Democrats are facing their toughest Michigan Senate fight in two decades.
A sour national political climate, a little-known candidate and big spending by conservative outside groups have given Republicans a real shot at winning an open seat and boosted their chances at seizing Senate control.
Republicans had all but written off the Democratic-leaning state last summer after they failed to recruit either Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) or Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) to run, leaving them with former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) as their nominee reports The Hill.
But President Obama’s dismal poll numbers, millions spent by conservative groups and Land’s high name recognition compared to Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) have given her a small lead in most recent public polling. Land is also building a big campaign warchest, and has $3.4 million to Peters’s $2.9 million. Michigan also behaves a lot more like a swing state in midterm elections than presidential years.
“The race is close. It will be close. Off-year elections here are often close,” says Michigan-based pollster Ed Sarpolus.
Some Democrats are nervous.
“This is a national race. If we lose Michigan, it’s over for us controlling the Senate,” said one Democrat involved in the race. “This race has become more competitive… We have to take this campaign to a different level now.”
Democrats also worry privately about infighting beteen the state’s unions, which Democrats rely on more in Michigan than anywhere else, and former Rep. Mark Schauer’s (D-Mich.) struggling gubernatorial campaign.
Most believe the race is still Peters’s to lose, however. No Republican has won a Senate race in Michigan since 1994, and Democrats think Land’s small edge in the polls is due mostly to her position as former statewide official. They say when both sides begin spending in earnest Peters will bounce back.