Column: GOP gov race not inevitable
Opposing political operatives with no record of winning — literally zero — have made ridiculous claims of inevitability in the primary race for governor.
My company, Strategic National, has not lost a primary in almost a decade. This includes helping elect Jack Bergman, John Moolenaar, Kerry Bentivolio, Dave Trott and Candice Miller to Congress; Rick Snyder as governor twice; Brian Calley as lieutenant governor twice; Bill Schuette as attorney general twice; and a record of 60-1 in state conventions.
Our poll, the lead on Drudge the final weekend of the 2016 election, is often credited with helping to convince the campaigns and country that Donald Trump was going to win Michigan.
Some of the losing operatives are the people who claimed Cox was going to win in 2010, Jeb Bush was inevitably going to win the GOP nomination and/or Trump had no chance to win Michigan.
This campaign could be very similar to 2010, with Schuette similar to Mike Cox, Patrick Colbeck similar to Pete Hoekstra and Calley as a more conservative Snyder. Schuette is the attorney general with name recognition, for better or worse. Colbeck is a strong conservative who can’t afford TV ads. Calley has support from Snyder to continue the comeback.
The attorney general led in 2010 in the early stages of the race, but ended up coming in third. Hoekstra was ridiculed as having no chance because he couldn’t afford TV advertisements, but surprised people and came in second.
The similarities are striking. Schuette started out strong in 2018 but his supporters have given only two reasons to support him: that he will “inevitably” be the nominee, and has support from the president. The risk of building support on inevitability is that as soon as you are are no longer “inevitable” your support collapses like a house of cards.
Trump is my favorite president of my lifetime, and was a major client of my companies in 2016. His endorsement is obviously important. However, Schuette will have as hard a time maximizing the endorsement as the now-defeated former senator from Alabama.
Schuette is the epitome of establishment GOP and therefore it is very difficult for the president to deliver votes to him. Schuette was chairman of Jeb Bush’s campaign for president, rather than support conservative outsiders such Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. Schuette attacked Trump when the times were tough and “Trump Republicans” remember.
The failure of the “inevitability” strategy and the inauthentic nature of his pro-Trump rhetoric have fueled a quiet Schuette collapse. His support dropped from 40 to 27 percent.
Simultaneously, Calley support is growing as his name ID improves. He had an integral role in the Michigan miracle by leading on issues such as tax reform and casting a tie breaking vote to balance the budget. His message of continuing the comeback is persuasive, given the success of Michigan in the last decade.
The introduction of Calley to voters in his “running” ad campaign, strong endorsement from Snyder and the new “Nerd” ad will continue to increase Calley’s standing in the polls.
As the primary approaches, two things will evolve. People will begin choosing the candidate they “prefer” rather than the candidate who “is inevitable.” Also, Republican voters will weigh which candidate is truly electable in the general election — as they did when they moved to Snyder in 2010.
Schuette knows he has a problem. There could be no clearer sign of his panic and fear than the fact that he launched his campaign with a negative ad, reminiscent of the losing negative ads in 2010.
Nothing in politics is inevitable.
John Yob is CEO of Strategic National and a political consultant for Rick Snyder, Brian Calley and other elected officials.