Those who are looking for a Republican wave building for the November election won’t find evidence of it in Michigan.
In fact, the latest poll from The Detroit News and WDIV-TV should have the GOP worried about an undertow that could drag some incumbents out of office.
The poll, by the Glengariff Group, is shocking on a number of fronts for state Republicans.
Foremost is the governor’s race, which has closed to a statistical dead-heat, with Gov. Rick Synder up slightly 43.6 percent to 41.8 percent over his Democratic challenger Mark Schauer. What’s worrisome for Snyder is that critical independent voters have been breaking Schauer’s way since the last Detroit News poll in May, as have voters in densely packed Metro Detroit.
Schauer, little known and lightly experienced, is scoring with ads that are largely deceptive, but apparently highly effective at moving voters.
Snyder is still hung up on the quaint notion that facts and performance should matter. He’s been reluctant to counter Schauer with sharp punches of his own, leaving it to the Republican Governor’s Association to remind Michigan of the bad ol’ days when Jennifer Granholm was governor and Schauer was her key henchman in the Legislature.
Snyder’s response is a somnambulist commercial in which he comes across as dull as a valiumed-up dental patient with a message eerily reminiscent of Granholm’s infamous “in five years, you’ll be blown away” pledge.
Michigan hardly ever unseats an incumbent governor, particularly when the economy is on the upswing. If there were a 2010-style Republican wave cresting, Snyder would be up 10 points in this race.
The same is true in the Michigan Senate race, where Terri Lynn Land is down 10 points to Democratic Rep. Gary Peters. That’s double her deficit in May, again, defying any suggestion that this is going to be a very good year for the GOP.
But the most damning evidence is further down the ticket. Two Republican incumbents, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, hold only narrow leads over their recently nominated Democratic challengers.
Quick: Name those opponents. If you can’t, you’re in good company. Most voters don’t know Mark Totten (attorney general) and Godfrey Dillard (secretary of state). Neither have held statewide office, and they’re only now starting their campaigns.
And yet Schuette, with four years on the job and in the spotlight, is managing only a 3 percent lead over Totten and Johnson just a 6 percent edge over Dillard.
Neither incumbent has crossed the 40 percent mark.
All down the ballot, from judicial races to county commission contests, GOP candidates are counting on a strong top-of-the-ticket showing to haul them to victory as well.
But despite the advantage of incumbency, the coattails of Snyder, Schuette and Johnson look might short at this point.
It still seems to me that Republicans are way overestimating the benefit they’ll reap from the immense unpopularity of President Barack Obama. If there’s a wave coming in November, it is just as likely to wash Republicans out of office as to carry them in.
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.