9550101-largeMichigan Republicans are losing faith in U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, according to a story this week in the National Journal. The political sleuths uncovered that she was never considered the ideal candidate by most Republicans (true), that she’s shown herself uncomfortable with issues and media (true) and that her campaign ran a silly television spot (true.) But one truth National Journal failed to uncover is that none of these items are newsworthy anymore. Everything “reported” was readily available to anyone with a Web browser and the ability to spell her name correctly.

Another truth overlooked: For all these faults, Land is still competitive. It says a lot that her rival – Democratic Congressman Gary Peters – can’t exploit her problems.

Polling released this week from Marketing Resource Group shows Land down 6.7 points, with 13.3 percent still “undecided.” Most other polls show it closer than this. TheReal Clear Politics average is just a four point lead for Peters. And it’s mostly trending Land’s way: Two other results from this week show Peters with just a one point lead.

The outlier: Polling firm EPIC-MRA gave Peters a nine point advantage in mid-July, the best Peters result reported by anyone. It’s perhaps revealing that EPIC-MRA followed this up a week later with a poll for the 4th Congressional District GOP primary contest showing Paul Mitchell with 50 percent, blowing out Michigan State Sen. John Moolenaar at 27 percent, with just two weeks left until Election Night. But then Moolenaar won with 52 percent to Mitchell’s 36 percent (which in polling jargon must be what is known as an “error margin” of something like +/- 25 percent.)

In the last financial reporting period, Peters and Land were roughly equal in money raised from donors. But Land’s ability to put $2.9 million of her own money into the till shoots her out to an $8.55 million total, way ahead of Peters’ $6.78 million. If the race is tight to the end, that personal wealth could allow her to spend more big bucks without the need to burn time and energy harassing donors.

Unlike Peters, Land has won two statewide races by at least a dozen percentage points each, and she’s had her name emblazoned on the outside of Michigan Secretary of State offices for eight years. There is a proven connection between this lady and Michigan voters that often isn’t appreciated by her critics.

Finances and popularity are huge and permanent assets in the toolbox for future use. Her dreadful “coffee mug” television commercial has done all the damage it can. April blunders do not equal November disasters. An unbroken string of electoral success does not demonstrate this to be an otherwise accident-prone politician.

She’s also capable of learning an important lesson from the botched appearance at the Mackinac Policy Conference, when she displeased media by fumbling the issues.

The unpopularity and legal jeopardy of the Affordable Care Act provides a single major issue she can master and ride to victory. This isn’t a hard hill to climb. The ACA – which Peters voted for – is a big reason the President remains unpopular and Republicans like Land are now narrowly expected to win enough seats to take over the U.S. Senate.

Land’s critics should recall that U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow did pretty well at the ballot box in 2012 despite ducking debates against her Republican rival and telling the Detroit News editorial board that routine aircraft turbulence is evidence of global warming.

Elections are won by popular issues and people, not policy geeks.

By Ken Braun | [email protected]

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