Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's lead over Tudor Dixon stretches to 17 points: new poll

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's lead over Republican challenger Tudor Dixon has reached 17 percentage points with five weeks remaining before the Nov. 8 mid-term election, according to a new poll from The Detroit News and WDIV-TV (Channel 4).

The statewide survey of 600 likely Michigan voters found 49.5% supported Whitmer, who's seeking a second four-year term, and 32.2% backed Dixon, a political commentator and businesswoman. Meanwhile, 6.1% planned to vote for a third-party candidate, and 12.3% were undecided or refused to answer.

The Lansing-based Glengariff Group conducted the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Likely voters were contacted by phone from Sept. 26-29. Absentee ballots became widely available across Michigan on Sept. 29, 40 days before Election Day.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, left, and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, right.

The results could set off alarm bells for Michigan Republicans and indicated that Dixon, a first-time candidate from Norton Shores, fell further behind Whitmer during the month of September as Democrats funded millions of dollars in TV ads.

"It’s not tightening because nobody has done the work within the Republican electorate to let them know who their candidates are," said Richard Czuba, a pollster and founder of the Glengariff Group.

In a similar poll by Czuba's firm, a month earlier, Whitmer was ahead of Dixon by 13 percentage points.

Whitmer's reelection campaign and the Democratic Governors Association had already aired about $14 million in ads as of Sept. 20, according to one ad-tracking analysis. Many of the ads have criticized Dixon's opposition to abortion, including in cases involving rape and incest.

Dixon's campaign has not had the money to fund its own commercials to respond to the Democratic attacks or introduce her to voters. As of Aug. 22, Whitmer reported having $14 million available in her campaign fundraising account, 26 times the total disclosed by Dixon, $523,930.

GOP groups, including a super political action committee called Michigan Families United, have funded about $1 million in ads promoting Dixon this fall. But ads from the Republican Governors Association have not yet begun in the state. The association previously announced it had reserved $3.5 million in airtime, beginning Oct. 12.

Dixon's running mate, former state Rep. Shane Hernandez, told The Detroit News in an interview on Saturday that more ads would be coming soon on the GOP ticket's behalf.

Hernandez made the comments outside of a rally in Warren, where former President Donald Trump campaigned with Dixon.

"After all of the spending, we're still within striking distance," Dixon told reporters at the rally.

James Blair, Dixon's chief strategist, said in "real world turnout models," the race's margin was within single digits.

"Whitmer knows it's close, which is why they are still spending over $2.5 million a week attacking Tudor," Blair said.

Joseph Costello, Whitmer's campaign spokesman, described the race as "competitive" in a statement, adding that "special interests" have been propping up Dixon.