As President Donald Trump was rattling off the names of congressional critters and other dignitaries at his March 28 rally in Grand Rapids, a few voices yelled for John James. James, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate last year who came uncomfortably close to Debbie Stabenow in an expected blowout for the incumbent Democrat, is a cause celebe for conservative grassroots types looking for a fresh face who speaks their language.The 37-year-old Marine fits that bill.
Now a regular FOX News commentator, James is being recruited to run against U.S. Sen. Gary Peters in 2020.Trump loves the guy. The president toyed with the idea of making him U.N. ambassador. Maybe Trump wants him right here to take the Senate seat away from Peters, a freshman senator who isn’t all that well known.The last Morning Consult survey found 40 percent of likely Michigan voters either have no opinion of Peters or don’t know him. Among the 100 U.S. senators, only Arizona’s John Kyl has a higher number. Stabenow’s “no opinion/don’t know” number is 20 percent.
March’s Emerson College poll found Peters and James with roughly the same name ID numbers. In a hypothetical head-to-head battle, Peters was at 44% to James’ 43%, a statistical tie. So back to the Trump rally. Smatterings of people called for James, but he was nowhere to be found. Trump didn’t even mention him. Will James get into the 2020 sweepstakes? One of James' top advisers, Stu Sandler of Grand River Strategies, put the odds at 50-50. The Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and his wife, Elizabeth, just celebrated the birth of their third child. Whether another taxing statewide run for public office with a young family is something James wants to do is only a decision only he can make.
Trump is making it known through back channels that he doesn’t want a contested primary, so if James wants to run, the nomination is essentially his.
Meanwhile, Republicans do have another option. It’s their other former top-of-ticket nominee in 2018: former Attorney General Bill Schuette.
The Midland career public official was working the suites and tailgates at Comerica Park last Thursday for the Tigers’ opener, sparking new questions about his future.
Schuette, 65, was asked at one point about running for the U.S. Senate against Peters — and did not brush off the suggestion, one source said. The former AG lost to Gretchen Whitmer by nearly 10 points, but he has come back from a political loss before. He’s also good with Trump, who supported him in the primary, lest we forget.
Schuette could make sense for Republicans as a fallback option. He has strong name ID and political connections all over the place. His best friend is former U.S. Rep, Dave Camp, who has $2 million sitting in his campaign account.
Schuette's 2018 general election campaign was not his most inspired effort (to be charitable). But, in his defense, he was stuck in this half world of simultaneously running with and away from Trump and Gov. Rick Snyder in a bad year for Republicans.
As a Senate candidate, Schuette can be a full-throated Trump disciple who can push the Republican message of border security and low taxes in a must-win state for the president. Schuette excels at playing the loyal Republican lieutenant.
Another option for Schuette is Michigan Supreme Court. It’s a job former governors G. Mennen Williams and John Swainson held in their later years.
Because of the 70-year-old age restriction, the former Court of Appeals judge could only serve one term, but Republicans will need to fill two nomination slots. In a race where name ID is practically everything, Schuette would have a leg up on any opponent.
It’s not definite Schuette will do either. But considering he’s been serving in or seeking a public office for the last 40 years, don’t rule it out.
(Kyle Melinn, of the Capitol news service MIRS, is at email@example.com.)