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Opinion: Polls say Michigan is Trump country

Norm Shinkle

Based on the latest polling numbers, the support that carried Michigan into President Donald Trump's column in 2016 is going to be even stronger on Election Day 2020.

John James — who, as a political newcomer in 2018, came within seven points of unseating an incumbent U.S. Senator in a Democratic wave election — is looking even stronger this time as he challenges Sen. Gary Peters for his seat. The former U.S. Army Apache helicopter gunship pilot outraised Peters to the tune of a million dollars in the last quarter of 2019, a feat he accomplished even though 93% of the donations to his campaign were under $100. Moreover, it’s the second quarter in a row he’s out-raised Peters.

Republican U.S. candidate John James and incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters will face off in November 2020.

With the campaign season getting underway in earnest, the most recent polling shows the race narrowing dramatically. In September, one pollster had Peters holding a commanding 21-point lead. By October, Emerson College showed James only 6 points back, and last month a conservative polling outfit put James in the lead by a full percentage point.

These figures cast severe doubt on any notions of a return to Democratic dominance in Michigan. If that were anything more than the wishful thinking of liberal partisans, then it would be difficult to imagine such a surge in support for any candidate who supports Trump’s agenda as strongly as James does.

The biggest win Democrats scored in Michigan during the 2018 elections was Gretchen Whitmer’s nearly 10-point victory in the gubernatorial race. Shortly after taking office, she commanded a 43% approval rating. Since then, however, the situation has rapidly reversed itself.

Two separate polls conducted in October found Whitmer’s approval rating had plummeted to somewhere between 26% and 31%, trailing the President’s approval numbers by 13% and 12%, respectively.

All of this lends credence to the one poll Democrats are most desperate to forget, December’s Firehouse Strategies/Optimus survey revealing that Trump enjoyed a significant lead over all of the top Democrat presidential candidates — even at the height of congressional Democrats’ impeachment fever.

Polls aren’t everything — something the national news media learned the hard way in November 2016, when President Trump defied the predictions of pollsters by securing a landslide Electoral College victory — but the sudden shift in favor of the GOP is hard to ignore. There is ample reason to believe that Trump will repeat his 2016 victory.

President Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek, Mich. on Dec. 18, 2019.

The root reasons for the Republican Party’s strength should be obvious: Michigan is thriving under the Trump administration. The unemployment rate has fallen yet again, and now stands at only 4%, down almost a full percentage point since Trump’s inauguration. Wages are rising quickly, too. Best of all, that growth isn’t going to just the bosses, but disproportionately to the dedicated, middle-income workers who drive Michigan’s economy.

Much of the progress we’ve made so far is due to Trump’s pro-growth domestic economic policies, such as tax cuts for middle-income Americans and elimination of unnecessary regulations, but the next chapter in the story of the strong and growing Trump economy will be because of international trade relations. With the imminent passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, for instance, NAFTA’s quarter-century of crushing Michigan’s manufacturing sector will finally come to an end. Similarly, the “phase one” trade deal with China that the president just signed will provide significant benefits to Michigan’s workers, manufacturers, and especially our farmers, thanks to China’s pledge to dramatically increase its purchases of American industrial and agricultural products.

Democrats have spent the past three years pretending that Michigan’s support for Trump in 2016 was a fluke. In actuality, it was the start of something much more.

Norm Shinkle is chair of the Michigan 8th Congressional Republican District Committee.