Michigan GOP pushes 'Results not resistance,' while Dems want Trump referendum
Lansing — Michigan Republicans fighting to retain full control of state and federal government hope voter satisfaction with the growing economy will provide a break wall to at least minimize losses from any Democratic wave in Tuesday's election.
The Michigan GOP is touting “results not resistance” as it works to project majorities in Lansing and Washington, and push back against Democratic outrage over President Donald Trump.
“The contrast is pretty stark between what our parties are offering,” said Sarah Anderson, deputy chief of staff for the Michigan Republican Party.
But Tuesday’s election will likely serve as a referendum on the bombastic president and his party’s record on health care, Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon predicted.
“I think there’s a strong desire, not just in Michigan but definitely in Michigan, to have a check and more balance in Washington,” Dillon said. "I think Democrats have a real shot at taking over Congress, and we hope to contribute some of those members here in Michigan.”
At the state level, the GOP is promising “the same kind of results we have provided over the past eight years,” Anderson said, including “a record drop in unemployment and eight balanced budgets, done ahead of time, with money left over for a rainy day.”
Trump, who signed individual and business tax cuts in 2017, celebrated a new jobs report Friday showing the national economy added 250,000 jobs in October. "Keep it going, vote Republican," he wrote on Twitter.
Democrats contend the improving economy has not benefited all Michigan residents, pointing to relatively stagnant median incomes that rose from $49,992 in 2010 to $52,492 in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available.
Health care also has been a central talking point in Democratic congressional and gubernatorial campaigns. They argue Democrats will ensure coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions under federal Affordable Care Act and counter Trump administration efforts undermine them.
“I think people are tired of one party being in control,” Dillon said. “They want a system that’s fair and allows for an actual exchange of ideas in the Legislature.”
The state is key to congressional Democrats’ large battleground map for retaking control of the U.S. House. They aim to pick up Republican strongholds in the Detroit suburbs, including the open seat of retiring GOP Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham.
Outside groups have poured over $8 million into the fight over Trott's seat, and a whopping $16 million into Michigan's 8th District — a battle between GOP Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester and political newcomer Elissa Slotkin, a Holly Democrat.
Michigan native Nate Silver, the statistician who runs the website FiveThirtyEight.com, said this week the Bishop-Slotkin matchup is the one to watch on Election Night to best predict other outcomes.
"Toss-up district. Fairly normal demographics. ... Republican incumbent," Silver said on a recent podcast.
"If (Republicans) don't win Michigan 8, it's probably a question of are they having a pretty bad night, or really bad night. And probably holding the House becomes very difficult."
The National Republican Congressional Committee released its first-ever nationwide get-out-the-vote ad, which is running on radio stations in Detroit and other markets, warning that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi can't be allowed to take over.
“Tuesday’s election has historic consequences. Will we elect a Republican to represent us in Congress? Or will we allow a Democrat to take office and take us backward?” the narrator says.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has had a massive fundraising advantage this cycle, investing in 80 races across the country. Its $25 million get-out-the-vote effort is targeting women, minority and millennial voters.
Its series of get-out-the-vote ads say, "Vote to change Congress ... for all of us."
Democrats would need to pick up 24 GOP seats to win the U.S. House, but are not expected to compete for control of the U.S. Senate.
Democrats would need to flip nine seats to win the Michigan House, which they lost control of in 2010, and nine seats to flip the state Senate, which Republicans have held since 1984.
In state races up and down the ticket, the GOP is asking voters to consider whether they’re better off now than they were in 2010.
“I believe moms and dad and grandmas and grandpas can look at their kids and grandkids and be certain they have more opportunities than they could have thought about eight years ago,” said state Sen. Mike Shirkey of Clarklake, who is expected to become majority leader if the GOP retains control.
He's confident Republicans will hold the upper chamber, saying the chances of Democrats overcoming the GOP's current 27-10 majority "would be like lightning hitting three times in one spot."
But Republicans are on defense in areas such as Oakland County, where Democrats could flip GOP seats in both the state House and Senate.
Both party caucuses have been spending furiously in races like the 13th state Senate District, where incumbent Sen. Marty Knollenberg of Troy is facing a tough fight against Democratic challenger Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak.
The GOP's Oakland County woes appear to be the result of “disagreement or angst over my president, which is really unfortunate,” Shirkey said, referencing Trump.
"I’d hate to see people waste their votes over disappointment with my president, when really what this is about is Michigan.”
While Trump isn't on the ballot, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer has led Republican Bill Schuette in every public opinion poll of the gubernatorial election, and she could "have large coattails here in Michigan,” said Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. of East Lansing, who is leading Democratic campaign efforts for the state Senate.
“If Republicans want to run on results, I’d say there isn’t much to run on,” he said.
“People are paying more in taxes than they were eight years ago, and what are they getting? Our roads aren’t fixed, our schools are bad and college education is less affordable than ever.”
Republicans warn that Democrats, if they regain full or partial control of state government, would undo GOP policies that conservatives argue contributed to the state’s economic rebound.
Whitmer has proposed repealing the GOP’s “right to work” law, for instance, which prohibits union dues or fees as a condition of employment. She would need majorities in the Legislature to do so and would be unlikely to find many partners in the GOP caucus.
“That would be one of the most dangerous things we could do to stop the economic activity we’re enjoying now,” Shirkey said.
“It would send a strong signal to the capital markets that Michigan is not a place to invest in. People would be surprised and astounded about how it would change things.”
The AFL-CIO labor federation said Michigan is part of its sprawling get-out-the-vote push.
Members will be knocking doors, sending mailers and running ads targeting minority voters on Detroit African-American and Spanish-language radio stations.
"Rick Snyder has been an unmitigated disaster for working Michiganders, and Schuette falls in the same exact line. Our members are just sick of the attacks on our unions," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumpka said.
"Quite frankly, they're done and ready to fight back. That's why we've seen such a surge in energy there. ... I think we're going to make the difference there in Michigan."
If Democrats do take the reins in Lansing, they would spend more on K-12 education, respect teachers and worker rights to collectively bargain, and make sure that “everybody is paying their fair share,” Hertel said.
“I think the next governor, whoever she is, is going to need a Legislature that actually invests in people, and that’s what we’re fighting for every single day.”