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Michigan Senate: In Play Or All Over?

Eleven days before the election, both sides largely agree about the state of play in the Senate. Pennsylvania and Ohio appear all but over; Rhode Island and Montana are tilting toward Democrats; Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia are the fulcrum on which control will tilt.

And then there is Michigan. For the past six weeks, national Republicans have grown increasingly optimistic about their chances of pulling an upset, an idea that Democrats scoff at as far-fetched. Who's right? Let's take a look.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) has run her usual solid and well-financed campaign, far outspending her Republican rival -- Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard (R) -- on television over the past several months. Stabenow has been underestimated throughout her political career and Democrats believe that Republicans once again have misunderstood the depth of Stabenow's electoral appeal.

Republicans counter that Stabenow has little to show in the way of accomplishments for her six years in the Senate and that the dismal state of Michigan's economy (under the stewardship of Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm) neutralizes the negative climate nationally for Republicans. And thanks to two presidential visits over the last month and the National Republican Senatorial Committee's decision to spend $400,000 on Bouchard's behalf, Republicans believe he will be at parity with Stabenow on television over the campaign's final ten days.

That said, much of the argument for Bouchard relies on process -- particularly geography. Once reliably Republican, Oakland County, part of the Detroit metropolitan area, has gone for Democrats in each of the last two presidential elections. Al Gore won it by 7,000 votes in 2000; John Kerry carried it by 2,500 votes (out of 640,000 cast) four years later.

In her 2000 race against Sen. Spencer Abraham (R), Stabenow lost Oakland County by 9,000 votes but still managed to beat the Republican incumbent by 6,000 votes statewide. Two years later Granholm carried Oakland County by 10,000 votes, beating Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus (R) by a 51 percent to 47 percent margin statewide.

Put simply, for Republicans to have a chance at winning statewide races in this Democratic-leaning state, they must carry Oakland County by 10,000 votes or more. Of the various Republicans mentioned as challengers to Stabenow, only Bouchard can claim a chance at winning that kind of vote margin.

Polling seems to affirm Democrats' dismissal of this contest. The last two independent polls in the state showed Stabenow ahead by 12 and 11 points and, as importantly, she was at or over the magical 50 percent mark in each survey.

Two partisan polls paint vastly different results. A Lake Research Partners survey conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showed Stabenow with a 53 percent to 35 percent edge. A Strategic Vision (R) poll put the margin at just six -- 48 percent for Stabenow to 42 percent for Bouchard.

Add the margins in all four polls and average them and you get a Stabenow lead of nearly 12 percent. Faced with that reality, Republicans retort that Michigan voters are notoriously late-breaking, pointing out that in mid-October 2000 Stabenow trailed Abraham by double digits -- only to come roaring back in the final weeks to win narrowly. Of course, as of today there are only 11 days left before Nov. 7 -- meaning that if Bouchard is going to move he had better do it quickly.

The other X-factor in this race that Republicans are counting on is the millions of dollars that gubernatorial nominee Dick DeVos (R) has put into a turnout operation that many national Republicans insist surpasses that of the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004. DeVos has certainly spent heavily on ensuring every vote for him turns out on Election Day, and that is sure to have some trickle-down benefit for Bouchard. But polling shows Devos trailing Granholm, so it's not entirely clear how much of a boost his turnout game will provide the Senate nominee.

In sum, Michigan's Senate race remains on the national radar -- barely. In a neutral year, Bouchard would be well-positioned to give Stabenow a run for her money. But with the playing field so tilted in favor of Democrats it's hard to imagine Stabenow losing.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 27, 2006; 6:05 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Next: Congressional Countdown: Women Candidates Poised to Play a Major Role in 2006


Adding more info. to last post for all the Dem.readers.Illegal discharges of auto workers.How long has Stabenow held office?Congress & U.S.Senate combined.How many years has that been & what all has she accomplished.She worked on the trash problem & medical perscriptions. Have you looked at her voting recored?Based on that productivity anyone would be fired.Who in the hell would not meet with the very people that voted them in.Her office in Flint told me that she represents thousands of people & can't see them all. Wanted me to understand that.My response,"I'm the only one in the office.Not all the people that she represents were calling her about serious job losses & illegal activity".That is our U.S. Senator.She has been getting benefits & paid for going on tour in Washington.Bla,bla,bla. 3rd generation Democrat that campaigned for them. I know who they are. Sue Atkinson Flint,Mich

Posted by: Sue Atkinson | November 3, 2006 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Stabenow is a Liar & we all know it. A short story mailed to the Flint Journal. Debbie Stabenow has an office in Flint & it was visited & called daily to get a meeting with her.We were told by her aide that she was going to set it up.This went on for one & half months.Now feeling that we were being jerked around the aide finally said that she does not meet with individuals, the ones that she asks for their votes.She only meets with the people she represents at group meetings where she talks, then shakes hands & leaves.Went to the meeting,reluctant & mad, waited for her to finish & shake hands with others.It was my turn & I confronted her about the the issue of the illegal discharges of high senority GM workers & that the GM/UAW knowingly did it together.That we needed help & she said she was sorry & that all she knew about was education.That was it.She was not in the slightest concerned about our job losses or that it was illegally done.This was of a serious nature & should not have been ignored.Now she says she is very concerned.She is a liar & we,out here,the voters, know it. I went to The Flint Journal to Tom Wickum for help. He said that he would not print it,that it was not a story.Ya,Right.Well,he was at our union local all the time & I wondered why.Who was he sucking up to & for what reason? Shortly after our meeting he had quit the Journal & where was he working?GM, as their spokesperson.Understandable!All the lawyers in this town knew what happened however were tied in with the GM/UAW legal assistance program.All of our political reps.,UAW reps.(there is a list of them) & the Flint Journal covered & concealed the illegal activities of GM/UAW. The illegal discharges of thousands of high senority workers,15 to 29 years,that paid their union dues & got no representation but got put on the backs of the tax payers by seeking help from government agencies such as welfare,Social Security, etc.That lost everything they owned & worked for all their lives,is by far,a story.GM/UAW are still making a hell of a profit off of these peoples demise.Shame on all of you! You support her cause Stabenow has lost our vote.Both Parties are one in the same.I'm Blogging.Not over yet!. One of Them, Sue Atkinson Flint,Mich.

Posted by: Sue Atkinson | November 3, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I'll bet anyone here that Stabenow gets reelected.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | October 30, 2006 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Bouchard is done, Stebenow has long won this race. Yes, the governor's race is still very competitive and up in the air, this race however is over.

Posted by: reason | October 30, 2006 9:04 AM | Report abuse


Vote for Bouchard! More R's in office! Let's see just how low we can go! Maybe they'll just burn the Constitution in a public square during the next Congressional session.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | October 29, 2006 11:06 PM | Report abuse


You just got academically owned by a Democrat!

Posted by: Concerned | October 29, 2006 1:41 AM | Report abuse

"We want a Senator that will work with Bush, not obstruct at every turn, just because it's the partisan thing to do. Michigan wants and needs results, not rhetoric."

Vilora - Have you truly considered the implications of a Senator Bouchard? Granted he may well accomplish some legislative success, but on taxation and economic supply issues he sides with the Bush Administration.

And what would Bouchard accomplish by working with and (in addition to compliance of this Administration I'm assuming you would applaude) promoting Bush's agenda in the Senate?

If the voters of Michigan are truly seeking economic improvement, it would be inadvisable for them to elect a senator from the Republican party. Not only has the GOP controlled Congress regulated Federal Appropriations for the last 12 years, but the GOP Administration has inexplicably transformed a 90 BILLION dollar budget surplus into a multi-TRILLION dollar trade defecit within 6 years.

If Bouchard were to be elected, the "wants and needs results" voters of Michigan will have ultimately directed this country further along the economic path towards a not too distant recession. One direction in which Senator Stabenow's voting record has reflected she is not disposed to go.

Posted by: Concerned | October 29, 2006 1:39 AM | Report abuse

F&B- Keep believing online polls and see where that gets you.

Posted by: Pimpdaddy | October 28, 2006 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Folks this week we saw a GOP on the run, desparation ads, lies, and distoration of giagantic proportions. What has it done, fired up the DEM base IMO.

The GOP can not run on their record of a do nothing congress, a corrupt and pedophilcn House, a President that acts like he is above the law, and the list goes on.

What did we see hitting the airwaves....abortion, sex ads, racism, and more lies. People are wise to what is going on. The only people who get a kick out of this is the neocons who are about to go down in history as being the worst govenment is US History. Bank on it. Stick a fork in it, American people are going to take back their country from the neocons who have highjscked it.

Posted by: Stick A Fork IN It | October 28, 2006 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Jaxas is right. The Republican's' strategy is clearly to draw fire away from seats that they are going to lose (Ohio, PA) while putting other money into a handful of seats they think could still be competitive (NJ) outside the big 3. It is false optimisim as a strategy employed by Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman.

The thing that gives Chris away as being so partisan is that posts like this are timed with the release of these talking points from Rove and his minions - and a visit from George Bush too to campaign for DeVos. They spread the takling points to the media and bam, you affect public perception. Easy stuff here. See. I never heard that Stabenow was in any danger until I heard that Republicans were strategizing to attack her. And then this. So, JimD, its not JUST what he writes in his articles, its when and why that are in doubt.

For example, if you want to talk about a good story from Michigan, Jim Marcinkowski in the 8th district, who I posted about before, is waging a serious campaign against the incumbent and making steady ground. A Republican poll had him up by 2%. And that was a GOP poll.

Posted by: F&B | October 28, 2006 11:02 AM | Report abuse

"We want a Senator that will work with Bush,"

staying the NEW course, of course, which is...???

was that spelled St(R)ategic Vision?

Posted by: JEP | October 28, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

What we see in Michigan is big expenditure from the abortion groups on the Governor Granholm group. Hoping DeVos's position of no abortion of rape and incest victims will sway voters to view DeVos as too radical. I find this a effective argument. It is about time Democrats get back to their roots and emphasize their differences with Republicans. We have to gain back our backbone. And at the same time must come up with new leadership from Democrats (Rep Cheeks from Detroit comes to mind). The Free Press wrote a great article saying our Representatives have done a poor job in Washington of bring home the bacon and fighting for issues critical to Michigan, safeguarding the Great Lakes, trash from Canada, etc. What I Hopewill come from this election is empowerment of Democrats and energize new
faces to run in '08.

Posted by: AnitaNewCandidate | October 28, 2006 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Rove's probaby just happy because all his friends in the media/advertising business are getting so rich off this stupid money-driven campaign system.

Qui bono?
The media owners.

Who suffers?
The public. And democracy.

Posted by: JEP | October 28, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Michigan, with a 7.1% unemployment rate and an energized GOP base going after Democratic incumbents in a very anti-incumbent year....don't count Mike Bouchard out. That would be a huge mistake.

The GOP here is on the offense, not defense and we are going to win, despite the naysayers. We want a Senator that will work with Bush, not obstruct at every turn, just because it's the partisan thing to do. Michigan wants and needs results, not rhetoric.

Posted by: vilora | October 28, 2006 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Look. I could be wrong but I suspect that a lot of this optimistic happy talk on the part of the GOP--particularly coming from Bush and Rove--is fake. I think they are simply playing head games to try and keep the spirits of their base up which, for some time now, has been demoralized.

There is no doubt that in close races a ground game can make all of the difference. But look. In 2004, the GOP ground game paid off because they had a good many demographic groups from the center part of the electorate to supplement their base, which at that time was electrified by a clever national campaign grounded on values issues.

2006 is shaping up quite differently. Not only does the GOP have to spend money and time trying to excite their base but, they have also lost that vital centrist demographic which shows every evidence of going with the democrats this time.

GJackson/Mona, Utah

Posted by: Jaxas | October 28, 2006 8:51 AM | Report abuse

The problem with this useless post is why he focusing on it at all when Maryland and New Jersey are two races that are much more compelling. Each has a story line that deserves a post: Kean Sr. has started to campaign and Cardin skipped a NAACP candidate forum. Chris, Give us some of your good inside info on those interesting story lines.

Posted by: AaronK in NYC | October 28, 2006 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Well, another great run of gargabe. I will be gald when the Dem's take back congress. Maybe that way we can get back to fixing things instead of this insanity.

Posted by: Antonio | October 28, 2006 8:18 AM | Report abuse

I think the bias charges against Chris are getting a little out of hand. It is standard reportorial practice to interview the political pros in either party. Chris points out that the Republicans are pushing in Michigan because they think they have a chance based on where Bouchard's electoral base lives. Chris points out the polling info and the Democrats' assessment and Stabenow's political track record that would seem to make the Republican hopes chimerical. The Republican effort in Michigan is as newsworthy as their surrender in Ohio. Frankly, I do not understand why the GOP thinks that way, and it could well be gamesmanship. And remember Chris's closing assessment "it's hard to imagine Stabenow losing".

Posted by: JimD in FL | October 28, 2006 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Dear Mr. Cillizza,

Please try to be more impartial on your reporting and focus on the REAL tied races.

For uncensored polls please go to


For uncensored news please bookmark:

Will Ken Blackwell find the ways to steal Ohio 2006 as he did in 2004?

By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
Online Journal Guest Writers

The man who stole Ohio for George W. Bush in 2004 is now trying to steal it for himself in 2006. The question is: who will stop him, and will he also affect the balance of power in the U.S. Congress?

As election day approaches, Blackwell's dirty tricks sink ever deeper.

Blackwell is now using "push polls" made infamous by Karl Rove. True to form, child molestation charges are front and center. He has also escalated the mass disenfranchisement of Ohio voters, trashing the ballots of some 10 percent of absentee voters. He has eliminated the statewide ballot initiative meant to save workers rights and wages. He's even tried to strike the Democratic gubernatorial nominee from the ballot altogether. All of which could affect not only his race for governor, but key U.S. Senate and House races as well.

Blackwell is using Rove's notoriously deceptive push poll device to spread an unsubstantiated smear against his Democratic gubernatorial opponent, Ted Strickland. Push polls were rendered infamous when Rove used them in South Carolina to falsely suggest that Senator John McCain had fathered a mixed-race child. Often the impact of push polls is magnified by callers to talk shows that spread additional street rumors, as in the lie that McCain impregnated a black hooker. The reality in McCain's case: he had adopted a child from one of Mother Teresa's orphanages and prominently displayed her in his campaign literature.

In Strickland's case, the Free Press has obtained a statement from Barbara Mooney of Fremont, Ohio, describing in detail the phone call she received from the Blackwell for Governor campaign. On October 23, Mooney picked up the phone and heard: "This is a 45-second survey. Please answer yes or no."

Then came: "If you knew Ted Strickland had hired a child molester would you still vote for him?"

The electronic voice continued: "Are you going to vote for Ted Strickland?" and "Are you going to vote for Ken Blackwell?"

For the rest of this article please go to:

Posted by: che | October 28, 2006 6:41 AM | Report abuse

I am an independent voter in Michigan. I will actually be voting for Bouchard. My problem isn't as much with the Republicans as it is with the incumbants of both parties (most of which happen to be Republican). Out government is a mess. The Republicans made bad decisions, but an elected representative who doesn't stand up for what they believe in (& make a major stink when needed on behalf of the people that he or she represents) is worse & doesn't deserve to be in office. So this time around I am voting for Bouchard. He may not be great, but he seems better than Stabenow.

Posted by: Independent MI voter | October 28, 2006 6:41 AM | Report abuse

Gov. Granholm and Senator Stabenow are going to win. We dont want rich, lying republicans. Look what bush has done, for us to go and elect repubs would crazy!

Granholm has worked so hard to try and turn mighigan around. Bush's crap management of the economy hasnt helped her.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 28, 2006 6:05 AM | Report abuse

Bushies are pretty much toast here, although Michigan will be more Red than expected in the House.

Posted by: Will in Seattle | October 28, 2006 4:08 AM | Report abuse

Wow, you want a fresh Election 2006 story? Check THIS out:

GOP consultant cuts ties with Wal-Mart

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
1 hour, 53 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - A prominent Republican political consultant severed his ties with Wal-Mart on Friday night, forced to resign in fallout from a controversial political ad in Tennessee's Senate campaign.

In submitting his resignation, Terry Nelson said Wal-Mart had "come under political pressure from liberal special interest groups" as well as labor unions. "It's unfortunate that this pressure has had an impact on Wal-Mart."


Nelson is in charge of an independent political unit, financed by the
Republican National Committee, that recently aired the commercial in a tight Senate race between Democratic Rep. Harold Ford (news, bio, voting record) Jr. and Republican Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga.

It showed a white woman saying she had met Ford, who is black, at a Playboy Club party. The commercial ended with the woman, her bare shoulders visible, looking into the camera and whispering, "Harold, call me."


Initially, company spokesman Dave Tovar had said "it would be absurd for us to comment" on the controversy.

But Nelson's resignation letter to Wal-Mart executive Leslie Dach said he was ending his ties with the company at its request.

Tovar quickly issued a statement saying, "We believe this is the right course of action."

A Republican Walmart consultant making racist ads for Jim Talent and the RNC. Hmmmm.... I think we've been over this.... The country is SICK OF YOU. Go Away. Or we'll put you away like Safavian. No more criminals in D.C.

Posted by: F&B | October 27, 2006 11:33 PM | Report abuse

2004 Democratic media darling Gov. Jennifer Granholm might be facing a tighter race than The Fix represents. An October 27 Detroit News/WXYZ poll shows Republican Dick DeVos gaining ground, cutting Granholm down to a 48-43 lead .

But, the deeper question is why the Democrats didn't make a more concerted effort to pick off 72-year-old Rep. Joe Knollenberg, whose challenger, Democrat Nancy Skinner, has garnered kudos from both the Detroit Free Press and the nominally conservative Detroit News .

Should Ms. Skinner fail to oust Mr. Knollenberg during the Blue Wave of 2006, she might want to keep campaigning through 2008.

Peter S. Cohl
The Political Brandwagon

Posted by: Peter S. Cohl | October 27, 2006 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Rothenberg doesn't even have this close to a competitive category. He's got it in Clear Advantage for Stabenow and now even an advantage for McCaskill

Posted by: JNutting | October 27, 2006 11:15 PM | Report abuse


I'd like to point out that Chris makes mention of the fact that Strategic Vision is partisan.

Two PARTISAN polls paint vastly different results. A Lake Research Partners survey conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showed Stabenow with a 53 percent to 35 percent edge. A Strategic Vision (R) poll put the margin at just six -- 48 percent for Stabenow to 42 percent for Bouchard.

Lake Research os partisan to Dems Strat Vision is partisan to Repubs.

Posted by: Rob Millette | October 27, 2006 10:42 PM | Report abuse

As a partisan Demorat I am completely satisfied with Stabenow's polling position, she will win this election.

However I must echo the concerns of other members in my party who are worried about a surge in popularity for Conrad Burns in Montana. Burns, considered among the least intelligent and effective members of the Senate, makes a habit of ignoring the chambers stated aim of "deliberation" in favour of denigration.

This man has shown through his conduct over the last 12 years that his is far beneath the intellectual standard required for the US Senate. Any news on Montana's latest polling?

Santorum and Burns... but Inhofe and Allard still remain at large!

Posted by: Concerned | October 27, 2006 10:21 PM | Report abuse

What Republicans forget is that Stabenow led Abraham for most of the spring and summer of 2000, but fell behind in the fall when Abraham unleashed his ad campaign.

Posted by: Sean | October 27, 2006 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Debbie by double digits.

Jim Marcinkowski (MI-08) has a fighting chance but you wont hear Cilliza talk about that.

"If one believes in the veracity of online polling, the current standings for Livingston County on the Republican Michigander blog site show a sea change in Livingston County's political landscape, should they stand up to the test of Election Day.

Most surprising about the poll is that it has Democrat Jim Marcinkowski beating U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, in his own backyard by 4 percentage points, 48 percent to 44 percent."

Go Jim!

Posted by: F&B | October 27, 2006 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Hey Troy, care to put any money behind that?

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | October 27, 2006 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Chris Cillizza's analysis is so biased. It's more than coincidental he doesn't even acknowledge New Jersey is in play, pretending that only GOP seats are endangered. New Jersey is going Republican, and so is the senate majority. Game over.

Posted by: Troy | October 27, 2006 8:57 PM | Report abuse

I compiled an Election Night Helper of all the close House, Senate, and Governor's races this year, all sorted by poll closing time, to guide non-political junkies who want to follow the results on Election night. It's been "held in moderation" here--in other words sucked into a black hole forever--but it's available on my blog at and I'm happy to email it to anyone as a Word attachment. Just use the email link on my blog.

Have a happy, fun Election Night!

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | October 27, 2006 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Funny how nobody posting here yet has actually defended the stunning mediocrity that is Debbie Stabenow. I will say one thing for her, she has proven that women can be just as incompetent and ineffective as men and still get elected.

Posted by: Not amused | October 27, 2006 8:19 PM | Report abuse

What I can't believe is how obvious the Repubs are about playing the "Expectations Game." Their spokespeople seem to have no shame: they stand up in front of the country lying about things that are so obvious, even people who don't follow politics KNOW they're lying--and they seem to have no shame about it. They don't even try to finesse their statements with doublespeak--they just stand up and lie about it. Karl Rove doing it is one thing--we know he isn't human. But he has party flacks all the way down the line doing it, too.

Posted by: Staley | October 27, 2006 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Forgive me CC, but where do you draw the line between responsibly highlighting both sides chances, and dangerously sliding into the role of carnival barker for the Repub v. Dem prizefight? Are you obliged to search far and wide for a race (even if its outside the margin of error) that you can give a play by play analysis for, even in a year like this, when such a tsunami wave is cresting?
It seems like there is a yearning within the establishment to feed the storyline that the Dems are overconfident and that it really will be the same 50/50 divided electorate again this year, all evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: Pdoggie | October 27, 2006 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Forgive me CC, but where do you draw the line between responsible highlighting of both sides chances, and dangerously sliding into the role of carnival barker for the Repub v. Dem prizefight? Are you obliged to search far and wide for a race (eve if its outside the margin of error) that you can give a play by play analysis for, even in a year like this, when such tsunami wave is cresting?
It seems like there is a yearning within the establishment to feed the storyline that the Dems are overconfident and that it really will be the same 50/50 divided electorate again this year, all evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: Pdoggie | October 27, 2006 7:51 PM | Report abuse

There's a big difference between this year and 2000. Six years ago, Abraham had far more money than Stabenow, who didn't start her big TV ad push until mid-October. Then her numbers started to climb. This year, she's had far more money, spent it well and is running in a much more favorable climate.

Posted by: Rainman | October 27, 2006 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Agree with above. Republicans are playing the media game to keep the focus off of tenuous holds on upper south seats.

Posted by: trevor | October 27, 2006 7:16 PM | Report abuse

it's sad to see chris mentioning strategic vision. they are one of the most nakedly partisan (republican in this case) polling companies out there. just take a quick look at the crap they put out in 2004 and you'll see my point.

Posted by: david | October 27, 2006 6:37 PM | Report abuse

This is a non-story Chris. Stabenow put this race away over 6 weeks ago. MI voters dont care for the Grand Ole Pedophiles. Stick a fork in it.

Posted by: Stick a Fork In it | October 27, 2006 6:24 PM | Report abuse

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