The latest development in the Michigan Senate race could transform the open seat contest into a top tier Republican challenge race.
As expected, via a strong video announcement, former US Representative Mike Rogers, who served in Congress from 2001 to 2015 and rose to chair the House Intelligence Committee, officially declared his US Senate candidacy.
The Rogers entry gives the Republicans a notable candidate in a state that has trended against the party in the last two elections. Since Donald Trump carried Michigan in 2016, the Republicans have lost nine consecutive statewide races, most, however, by small margins. The last Republican US Senator, Spence Abraham, was elected 29 years ago, in 1994.
Prior to 2016, the Republicans had a strong run in Michigan. They won all the statewide campaigns in 2010 and 2014 with the exception of the US Senate contests. Since the early 1960s, when George Romney (R), current Utah Sen. Mitt Romney*’s father, was first elected Governor, Republicans have won four governorships and the Democrats’ three. All seven of the post-1960 governors served multiple terms, including Mr. Romney, William Milliken (R), and John Engler (R) who were each elected three times. The state now limits its chief executives to two consecutive terms.
Turning to the 2024 Wolverine State Senate race, polling suggests the favored Democratic candidate, US Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing), who represents the same Michigan congressional district as did Mr. Rogers, would have only a small lead to start the campaign.
In August, Emerson College (8/1-2; 1,121 MI registered voters; multiple sampling techniques) found a Slotkin-Rogers pairing breaking 44-38% in the Democrat’s favor. EPIC-MRA, in a more recent survey (8/6-11; 600 MI likely voters; live interview) projected a similar 42-37% ballot test result. Both candidates are unfamiliar to a majority of voters indicating each has room to grow.
Expect both candidates to do well on the campaign finance circuit. Rep. Slotkin has already proven herself as one of the top Democratic House fundraisers. For this Senate race, Ms. Slotkin has already raised $5.9 million with over $3.7 million cash-on-hand according to her June 30th financial disclosure report. Included in her receipts is a transfer of over $895,000 coming from her US House campaign committee.
Former US Rep. Peter Meijer is also a potential Republican US Senate candidate, though the Rogers entry would make him a decided underdog in a statewide primary. Mr. Meijer was elected to the House in 2020 but lost his bid for renomination in 2022. Michigan Board of Education member Nikki Snyder (R) was the first to announce her candidacy and did so soon after Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) made her retirement intentions known.
In the Democratic primary, Rep. Slotkin faces state Board of Education President Pamela Pugh, actor Hill Harper, and former state Representative Leslie Love. Early polling posts the Congresswoman to a strong lead over the entire field. Both Rep. Slotkin and Mr. Rogers should be viewed as heavy favorites to win their respective partisan primaries.
While the Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia Senate races clearly comprise the top Republican challenger tier, the Michigan race currently resides with Nevada as a campaign that has the makings of a highly competitive November 2024 political contest. Each could move into the top tier.
Democrats have lesser chances against Republicans within the in-cycle Senate class. Texas may be their best opportunity, but it would be quite a stretch to see Sen. Ted Cruz (R) lose the Lone Star State race in a presidential year when the turnout favors the Texas Republicans to an even greater degree than in the midterm election cycle.
The unique three-way race among Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I), likely Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix), and an eventual Republican nominee will remain as a wild card race because of its unique nature. A path to victory is plausible for Sen. Sinema, Rep. Gallego, and a viable Republican nominee.
Together, all of these aforementioned campaigns will decide the next US Senate majority.
*denotes candidate received an AGC PAC contribution during the 2023-2024 election cycle.
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