Opinion: Democrats favored as Michigan’s Republicans struggle

Dennis Lennox

Voting is just around the corner and things look bad for Michigan Republicans after controlling the governorship and both houses of the Legislature for the last eight years.

Gubernatorial nominee Bill Schuette is down against Democratic nominee Gretchen Whitmer, thanks in no small part to a bruising primary for the GOP nomination that saw Lieutenant Gov. Brian Calley throw everything and the kitchen sink at Schuette.

Schuette’s path to victory in November has always been difficult. After all, it’s a given that in a two-party system the opposition party is favored to win after two terms and eight years of the other guys in control. However, it didn’t help him when Calley went nuclear. To make matters worse, term-limited Gov. Rick Snyder has heretofore withheld an endorsement.

I have often commented on the tension — to put it mildly — between Schuette and Snyder, but it’s long past time for the governor to stop acting like a sore loser and endorse Schuette and the Republican ticket.

It’s as if Republicans learned nothing from 1982, when outgoing Gov. Bill Milliken’s refusal to endorse Dick Headlee, who bested Milliken’s heir apparent in another bruising primary, created enough of a split for Democrat Jim Blanchard to win with 51 percent of the vote. Blanchard cruised to re-election and occupied the governor’s mansion for eight years.

If Snyder doesn’t put aside his deep differences with Schuette, which have more to do with style and personality than substantive policy, then Whitmer is going to succeed him and immediately begin work to undo everything Snyder and majority Republicans have done.

Even if Whitmer has a Legislature partly or wholly controlled by Republicans, it won’t be long until Democrats control both houses thanks to Proposal 2, their too clever by half power grab under the guise of nonpartisan redistricting reform.

Maintaining legislative majorities and defeating Proposal 2 as well as Proposal 3, which was also schemed up by Democrats, look increasingly difficult because the Republican Party looks leaderless.

GOP chairman Ron Weiser is missing-in-action or at least that is the perception. Yes, his name is quoted in press releases but the prolific fundraiser isn’t seen on the frontlines.

Gubernatorial running mate Garlin Gilchrist, former Vice President Joe Biden and Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer arrive at Leo's Coney Island in Southfield.

Just look at the primary election, where a more active chairman could have intervened and reduced the number of broadsides coming from Calley, who everyone knew was going to lose to Schuette. It was just a question of by how much would he lose. Weiser could have also brokered the primary for the U.S. Senate nomination to challenge Democrat incumbent Debbie Stabenow instead of allowing millions to be wasted between the campaigns of senatorial nominee John James and loser Sandy Pensler.

All the money Weiser has raised won’t matter if Republicans end up in the political wilderness, especially if Proposal 2 passes and a Democrat secretary of state gets to handpick the mapmakers of state House and Senate districts.

Yet, as MIRS News reported, the GOP and interest groups aligned with the party aren’t organizing campaigns against Proposals 1 and 2.

Republicans have a big problem as the campaign moves into the final stage. The party needs to step up its game or it will be in opposition to Whitmer and the Democrats for the next eight years.

Dennis Lennox is a public affairs consultant and political commentator.