With little more than two months remaining before the November election, where do Michigan’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races now stand?
Capitol Confidential asked a three-person panel of political observers for an update.
Q. If you were forced to bet on which candidate will win the gubernatorial race, who would you bet on; Republican Gov. Rick Snyder or former Democratic Congressman Mark Schauer?
“If I have to pick at even odds, I'd go with Snyder,” said Mark Grebner of East Lansing-based Practical Political Consulting. “But if you give me four points, I'll take Schauer; or if you'll give me odds at 2-to-1, I'll take Schauer.”
John Truscott of the Lansing-based Truscott Rossman Group said he is convinced that Gov. Snyder will be victorious.
“I’m pretty much 100 percent confident of Rick Snyder’s eventual victory,” Truscott said. “He’s done a lot for Michigan in the past four years and much of that has been accomplished by eliminating problems created under Jennifer Granholm. I think people generally feel good about what’s happening and that tends to get candidates re-elected.”
Dennis Darnoi, of Farmington Hills-based Densar Consulting, said that in spite of some erosion of his support, Gov. Snyder remains in a better position to win in November than Schauer.
“When all is said and done, my money is on Gov. Snyder to retain his office,” Darnoi said. “His margin of victory will be smaller than it was four years ago, due in part to a drop in support from key Republican constituencies as well as a loss in crossover votes, but overall he’ll still have enough support to win re-election.”
Q. Would you say Mark Schauer has a better chance of winning than you would have predicted at the beginning of the year, less of a chance or just about the same?
“It would be hard to argue that Congressman Schauer isn’t in a much better position now than he was at the beginning of the year,” Darnoi said. “He has certainly benefited from the DGA (Democratic Governors Association) ads as well as the general sense among voters that their personal financial situation has not improved. That said, it’s a little like the team that was down 21 points at half and are now down 11 at the start of the fourth quarter; their situation has improved but there’s still a long way to go before they can score the upset.”
According to Grebner, he sees Schauer’s chances as being just a little bit brighter than he did at the beginning of the year.
“I would say that Schauer's odds have improved slightly,” Grebner said.
Truscott said Schauer has done nothing to improve his political position.
“I didn’t think he had much of a chance in the first place,” Truscott said. “But he would have a better chance if he had established some kind of policy or program he stands for other than the same old Democratic tax-and-spend policies.”
Q. If Gov. Rick Snyder had been successful in getting the fuel tax hike he wanted for road funding it could have been argued that he was a net tax hiker. Does the issue of tax increases hurt him politically with voters in general, or just with the political right?
“I think that would be something that would just hurt him with the political right,” Truscott said. “He’ll lose some of them in the election and he won’t do as well with the crossover voters as he did last time. But I think he is still solid with the Independents.”
According to Grebner, the perception of Gov. Snyder as a tax-hiker is hurting him with voters beyond the GOP’s ‘conservative’ base.
“Snyder has a clear, specific, problem with older mid-income voters who are quite clear in their minds he raised ‘their’ taxes, regardless of what he may have done for anybody else,” Grebner said. “It shows up quite clearly in the polling, and it's the main reason he hasn't pulled away from Schauer.”
Darnoi disagreed, maintaining that the issue doesn’t resonate much beyond the political right.
“The current political debate about taxation serves more as a litmus test of conservative credentials and resonates more with the political right than with the general population,” Darnoi said. “Moderates and left-leaning voters certainly weren’t going to punish Snyder for increasing the fuel tax if it meant spending more on roads. The damage to Snyder on that issue is limited to the suspicion it sows among the conservative core of the Republican Party that he is not sufficiently committed to their principles.”
Q. If you were forced to bet on which candidate will win Michigan’s U.S. Senate race, who would you bet on; the Republican, former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land or the Democrat, Congressman Gary Peters?
“I’d bet on Peters,” Grebner said.
However, Truscott said he thinks Land will eke out a win.
“I would say Terri Lynn Land in a squeaker,” Truscott said. “I think it is going to be a Republican year and once Gary Peters gets firmly tied to Obamacare and Washington I think it is really going to hurt him.”
Darnoi said that, for the time being, Peters has to be seen as the favorite in the race.
“Gary Peters still has to be considered the more likely of the two candidates to win but it would probably be wise to reach for the smaller bills when making that bet,” Darnoi said.
Q. Would you say Terri Lynn Land has a better chance of winning than you would have predicted at the beginning of the year, less of a chance or just about the same?
“Terri Lynn Land’s chances have remained about the same, although recent negative stories surrounding her may have marginally lessened her chances,” Darnoi said. “The bad news for Land is her numbers in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne aren’t where they need to be at this point. The good news is that turnout in 2014 will favor Republican candidates, although not as favorably as in 2010. Yet, in a race that consistently polls within the margin of error, that small wave of Republican support could be enough to make Land victorious and Peters feel like he is reliving Nov. 5, 2002.” (In 2002 Peters lost the Attorney General’s race to Mike Cox by a whisker.)
According to Truscott, the odds have shifted more in Land’s favor compared to what they were at the beginning of the year.
“I actually think Terri Land’s chances are little better than I did before,” Truscott said. “I tie that to the recent polling we’re seeing showing that most people want government to get out of their lives. I think that’s going to provide a very effective message for her.”
Grebner said precisely the opposite.
“Her chances are slightly less,” Grebner said. “That's not really because of anything Land has done, but simply that eight months ago it seemed possible we'd be looking at a more Republican climate than we actually are today. I'm guessing the 2014 Republican baseline in Michigan will be about 51 percent, which probably isn't enough to put Land over the top.”
Jack Spencer writes for Michigan Capitol Confidential.