The race for Carl Levin's soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat may be Republican Terri Lynn Land's to lose. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Money draws money. Nowhere is that truer than in politics, as perfectly illustrated by Michigan’s U.S. Senate race.
Terri Lynn Land entered the contest as the Republican Party’s last, best choice, after other candidates the GOP deemed more desirable opted out.
But she brought with her a resume of winning statewide races in Michigan, and $5 million of her own money. It was the cash that caught everyone’s attention.
In the first fundraising cycle last fall, Land tossed in $1 million of her stash, and matched it with $1 million from other donors. Her ability to move beyond self-funder status to capture outside dollars made an impression on those who were skeptical about Republican chances in Michigan, which hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate in 20 years.
In the latest reporting period, Land raised $1.66 million, with $600,000 coming from her own wallet, outpacing her Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township, who drew $1 million. So far in the campaign, Land has raised $3.7 million, contributing $1.6 million herself.
Her strong money position is bolstered by a solid showing in the polls. Land has come out ahead of Peters in every poll taken this year; Rasmussen had her up 2 points in its mid-January survey.
At this point, support for each candidate remains steady at between 35 and 40 percent, reflecting the partisan alignment of Michigan voters and the stronger statewide name recognition Land enjoys from having her name on Secretary of State’s offices for eight years.
But for Land, staying consistently ahead in a race she entered as the perceived underdog has gained her the other most coveted commodity in politics: Buzz.
Two weeks ago, pundit George Will said on Fox News Sunday that Michigan is the hottest Senate race in the nation and praised Land’s campaign prowess. The respected Cook Report moved the race from “leans Democrat” to “toss up,” as have other political rating services.
Michigan is now a key calculation when Republicans do the math in their quest to capture the Senate. Despite its long blue state track record in national elections, the GOP considers Michigan one of 10 states that will decide their chances of picking up the 51st Senate vote.
That explains why Americans for Prosperity recently launched what’s believed to be a $1.2 million media buy in support of Land, and is reportedly preparing a follow-up infusion of roughly the same size.
If Land can keep both the fundraising and her polling close, Michigan will be a major battleground for control of the Senate, and that means an outrageous amount of money will flow into the state.
Land and Peters are expected to each raise $15 million on their own. Soft money spent by liberal and conservative interest groups could push total spending in the race to $50 million, or more.
It’s still the equivalent of spring training in the political season. But Terri Lynn Land is proving ready for the big show.
Follow Nolan Finley at detroitnews.com/finley, on Twitter at nolanfinleydn, on Facebook at nolanfinleydetnews and watch him at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on "MiWeek" on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.