2014-09-06 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Outside Money Soars in Races for Governor, U.S. Senate
By George Weeks

Labor Day traditionally signals acceleration of general election campaigns, although this year the candidates for governor and U.S. Senate have been duking it out for many weeks, thanks in large part to a heavy dose of third party television advertisement money from well-heeled, out-of-state supporters.

In the governor’s race, the watchdog Michigan Campaign Finance Network says spending could exceed a whopping $40 million. The Democratic Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association both have been big spenders.

Polling indicates tight races between Governor Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer, a former congressman, and between Democratic U.S. Representative Gary Peters and Terri Lynn Land, former two-term Michigan Secretary of State.

According to a list August 21 in Inside Michigan Politics (IMP) newsletter of 21 polls by many organizations since September 2013, Snyder led Schauer in all of them, including a one percentage point lead in one by Marketing Resource Group about a month ago.

“As Mark Schauer has become better known, he has consistently gained support among his Democratic base,” said MRG President Tom Shields. “At this time, the race for governor in Michigan has to be considered a toss-up.”

The MRG poll had Snyder leading with male voters and in West Michigan, Mid-Michigan, and Macomb County. Schauer led with women and in the Detroit Metro area.

Declared a toss-up were Oakland County, the Flint, Saginaw, and Bay City region, and northern Michigan.

Last week, the Detroit Free Press reported Schauer inched ahead of Snyder with a twopoint lead in an August 18-22 poll of 600 voters conducted by EPIC-MRA. The paper said the lead is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points, meaning the race remains a statistical dead heat.

EPIC-MRA President Bernie Porn said: “I would have bet that Snyder would have a significant lead at Labor Day. The fact that Schauer is up by a couple of points against an incumbent… probably spells that this is going to be a close race.”

In 22 Senate polls starting in September 2013 cited by the IMP newsletter, Peters led Land in 13, including a onepoint lead in Mitchell Research’s poll released August 5 of this year.

The EPIC-MRA poll, released exclusively to the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV last week, had Land gaining ground on Peters. He had a 45%-39% lead over Land, a three-point improvement for her from July.

But pollster Porn said, “If she doesn’t figure out a way to close the gap among women, she’s going to continue to have a problem.” Ads for Peters have criticized her on that issue, among others. She has criticized him on votes in Washington and such issues as inconsistency on immigration. They criticize each other on road funding.

The Detroit Free Press calculates that at least $13 million of outside money already has been spent on the race. Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network said: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go another $20 million, which is a lot for a Senate race in Michigan.”

On the eve of the holiday weekend, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, which is noted for significant roles and spending in campaigns, endorsed Schauer. It cited his “long record as an advocate for Michigan’s land, air, and water, and his commitment to move Michigan forward by protecting our state’s natural resources.”

In this year’s legislative primaries, its affiliated PAC made eight mailings, 6,000 phone calls, and ran a $45,000 radio advertising campaign to support conservation candidates.

On the day after Labor Day and leading the 57th annual Mackinac Bridge Walk, Snyder plans to begin a new wave of television ads with one that touts his “Road to Recovery” theme.

Also this week, Snyder is expected to be endorsed by former Gov. William G. Milliken, who was taped in his Traverse City home by a Snyder film crew for a commercial that will be aired at an unspecified date.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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