Republicans are dropping at least $6 million into the Tudor Dixon's cash-strapped gubernatorial campaign four weeks before the General Election because, frankly, they need to win something.
At this point, it's not about knocking off Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. That ship left the harbor and sailed away right around Labor Day. The Democratic Governors Association painted her as Ms. No Exceptions On Abortion with a relentless barrage of ads — and that was that.
A CBS/YouGov poll last week found that less than 0.5% of the 1,285 Michigan voters they polled are undecided about the governor's race. Less than 1 percent.
Everybody has an opinion on Whitmer at this point. After she used extraordinary emergency powers during COVID to dictate who and when people could go to work, it's hard not to. She either did the best she could to prevent widespread spread of an unknown virus or she recklessly micromanaged society to a point where people lost their jobs and livelihoods.
There isn't a lot of middle ground on this one.
It's not like past governors. Most voters had a passive awareness of the job Rick Snyder or Jim Blanchard was doing, but enough were pliable enough to have their mind changed by a good ad campaign.
That's not going to work in 2022. Folks have made up their minds on the governor. Now it's a turnout battle.
This brings me to why the ads are coming out now. Republicans need their voters to show up.
They can't take their ball and go home like John McCain did in 2008. They lost everything that year. They need to show their party faithful that they're fighting the good fight. Their only chance is to drive turnout.
That's what this late spend is all about.
Former President Donald Trump didn't show up to Macomb County because he was going to change anybody's mind. He did it to excite the people who were going to vote Republican all the way down the ballot.
The game at this point is winning the U.S. Congress, keeping at least the state House or the state Senate (but preferably both) and defeating Proposal 3, which would safeguard reproductive rights.
Those are the Republicans priorities, in order.
It's making sure Republicans show up to the polls in mid-Michigan to elect Tom Barrett to Congress, West Michigan to elect John Gibbs to Congress, Macomb County to elect John James to Congress and Flint/Tri-Cities to elect Paul Junge.
After that, it's all about the state Legislature. In the Senate, the race is really down to about five to seven races that overlap with most of the Congressional races. A good turnout for James in Macomb County could mean two big GOP wins in the Senate. A good turnout for Junge could mean a critical win for their state Senate candidate, Annette Glenn.
It's the same story in West Michigan, where strong numbers for Gibbs means critical support for competitive Senate seats in Grand Rapids and Muskegon.
Over in the state House, there are around 20 seats that are realistically in play. These are centered in West Michigan, Downriver and a section of northern Macomb and Oakland counties.
Realistically, it's a 50/50 shot the Democrats take control of the state House at this point. Republicans can't count on district maps they drew to bail them out of election. They have more money than Democrats. They'll need every penny to save themselves because the cavalry is thinner than usual.
Finally, for Republicans, it's about defeating Proposal 3. Writing abortion rights into the Constitution turns anti-abortion groups in Michigan into mere watchdogs. They'll have no real power to enact real abortion restrictions.
If the GOP can salvage those three things out of what could still be a disastrous election cycle, they should consider themselves fortunate. Dreams of anything beyond than that, realistically, are just that.
Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS at email@example.com
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