Back in 2018, then-congressional candidate Elissa Slotkin hammered U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop on being invisible in mid-Michigan. To her, it wasn’t a partisan thing. It was a being-present thing.
In one podcast with now-MSU Trustee Dennis Denno and political pundit Bill Ballenger, Slotkin said that if former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers were still in office, she wouldn’t have run.
The former CIA analyst not only respected Rogers’ background with the FBI, she appreciated how engaged the Livingston County politician stayed with Lansing.
Fast-forward to today.
The seas are parting for Slotkin to be anointed the successor to retiring U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Democrats are ditching the idea of running against her left and right. No Republican of any financial or political prominence is stepping up.
The only Democrat to not have ruled out a race who has any national fundraising apparatus is Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who raised half as much dough in her statewide race last year as Slotkin raised for one congressional race.
Prominent African American author and TV actor Hill Harper is 50/50 on a U.S. Senate bid at this point. He’s worth $15 million, according to one report, and has connections all over the place.
Still, it’s been 30 years since the Democratic Party has had a competitive primary for the U.S. Senate nomination. Both Stabenow and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters won their nominations unopposed. The Democratic Party powers-at-be don’t like expensive primaries. They drain resources and batter the eventual nominee before a general election.
The Dems like to back the same horse. And then that horse wins.
In 15 of the last 16 U.S. Senate elections in Michigan, the Democratic nominee has won. The one race Republicans won? It was 1994, when Democrats last had a competitive U.S. Senate primary. Republican Spence Abraham lasted just one term in the Senate before Stabenow ousted him.
Meanwhile, the Republicans are spinning their tires. They’re begging former U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer to bring his big bucks, youth, independent streak and military background into a race.
But after losing a bruising congressional primary to a Donald Trump acolyte last year, would he be suspectable to fall to the same fate in 2024? For as much as Democrats circle the wagons around their U.S. Senate nominee, the Republicans don’t.
As likely as the sun rises tomorrow, some ultra-conservative U.S. Senate candidate will pop up. In a primary election, Meijer, who voted twice to impeach Trump, is vulnerable.
This brings me back to the most realistic threat to Slotkin’s coronation: Mike Rogers.
Rogers’ 111-vote win over Dianne Byrum in 2000 allowed Republicans to craft a GOP-leaning mid-Michigan district that Rogers kept for 14 years.
Before leaving Congress on his own terms in 2014, Rogers earned a reputation as a center-right Republican and the House Intelligence Committee chair.
There are immediate stumbling blocks to this idea.
Rogers would need to move back to Michigan (for starters) and raise money. Slotkin already has $1.2 million after Day 1 of her campaign.
But, at a minimum, he’s flirting with the idea of running for something.
For several months, he’s brought his Leadership to Ensure the American Dream —LEAD — initiative to Iowa and New Hampshire with a not-so-hidden objective of seeing if his “America’s best days are ahead of it” message ignites into a presidential run.
This week, he just so happens to be in Michigan. On Friday (March 2), he’s scheduled to speak to the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce about emergency technology and national security. He’s also making a weekend appearance on public television’s “Off the Record.”
On radio’s “Michigan’s Big Show” recently, he bemoaned the “dysfunctional” Congress and a divisive president. He talked about a need to offer “real solutions.”
With Michigan one of seven likely competitive U.S. Senate races in ‘24, a candidate like Rogers would draw lots of national attention. His profile neutralizes Slotkin on several fronts.
He’s strong on national security. He sharp. He’s personable. He’s engaging. He’s hard-working. He’s present. He doesn’t hold polarizing views that repel him from the sensible middle.
Just like in 2018, he’s exactly the type of candidate Slotkin doesn’t want to face.
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