Here’s a thought: Michigan Gov.Mike Rogers.
Yes, Mike Rogers, our Mike Rogers, Lansing’s congressman for the past eight years.
Don’t laugh. Don’t shuck this off if it sounds ridiculous. It’s possible. As of today, a Rogers candidacy in 2010 is the Republicans’ best shot at winning the Capitol.
After two straight cycles of harsh beatings, the Michigan Republican Party needs a clear message. They need a likeable leader to deliver that message. And they need someone who can win elections against Democrats in competitive areas.
More than any other possibility being tossed about, Rogers meets that checklist. He’s a clear messenger and a clear thinker. He’s an attractive, smiling face who makes sense without being condescending, abrasive or scary. And all the while, he doesn’t run away from the public or the press when confronted with tough questions.
His Washington voting record puts him in Tim Walberg conservative territory, but you wouldn’t know it from watching TV.
Didn’t you chuckle looking at his sunburned face during his renewable energy commercial? Or smile when you saw his baby picture flash on the screen? His overarching message is practical, not divisive. He talks in terms of working together, not slamming Democrats.
People can’t help but like the guy, and the numbers bear this out. With a bullet, Rogers received more votes in Ingham County than any other Republican this month. His 60,867 was 15,000 better than John McCain and Justice Cliff Taylor. The party’s Republican base in Ingham County this cycle was 33 percent. Rogers registered 44 percent of the vote here.
While Rogers’ Republican colleagues in Congress, Joe Knollenberg and Walberg each lost their re-elections, Rogers won with 56 percent in a district that has roughly the same number of Republicans. Sure, Rogers wasn’t targeted by Washington-based Democrats like the other two, but organized labor did go after him two years ago during the “Democratic tsunami” and he still won by double-digits.
Like it or not, Rogers is a winner, and don’t think other Republicans haven’t considered that. Called a “phenomenal” gubernatorial candidate by one GOP insider, Rogers’ stock goes up after a glance at the rest of the field.
Dick DeVos, the multi-millionaire who opened his wallet for $35 million for 42 percent of the vote in 2006, said last week he’s not dropping another small fortune into 2010.
Who does this leave? U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra and state Sen. Wayne Kuipers, both Holland Republicans, are reportedly thinking about it, but both suffer from being part of same West Michigan-based “Dutch mafia,” whose history of staunch social conservatism doesn’t yield widespread popularity east of Ionia County.
Attorney General Mike Cox is diving in head first, but he’s not exactly the most huggable person, and it’s questionable how much intraparty support he’d be able to manage after eight prickly years as the state’s top lawyer.
Terri Lynn Land is a possibility, but her two terms as secretary of state haven’t been particularly notable. Land may be a better fit to replace U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, whenever he hangs it up.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller should have run for governor in 2002 after her two terms as secretary of state were over. Now she seems to have caught a case of Washingtonitis as she climbs the ranks of the congressional Republican caucus. Given the number of times she’s stuck her left foot in and her left foot out of past gubernatorial races, any speculation Miller may get in again sounds like hokey pokey.
And Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard couldn’t catch fire in 2006, when he tried his best against U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
Rogers is the best option, and now may be the best time. Michigan will lose one congressional seat after the 2010 census, meaning one of the current crop of 15 is getting squeezed out of a job. Given the Democrats’ increasing control of the political climate, Rogers could end up being the odd man out.
Is Rogers’ interested in the job?
Asked about his possibility this week, Rogers spokeswoman Sylvia Warner said, “The congressmans sole focus right now is the economy and jobs. There will be time for these discussions at a later date.”
That doesn’t sound like a no.
(Kyle Melinn is the editor at the MIRS newsletter. His column runs weekly. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)