Rachel Weiner profiles the Michigan GOP’s search for a challenger to Senator Debbie Stabenow:
The fundamental question is just how much that political environment will impact Stabenow. After winning in 2000 with just 49 percent, Stabenow cruised to a 16-point win six years later against Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.
While polling suggests Stabenow’s numbers are in dangerous territory, running with President Obama on the top of the ticket should help Stabenow drive African-American turnout. (No Republican presidential candidate has carried Michigan since George H.W. Bush in 1988.) Stabenow also has $2 million in the bank as of the end of 2010, putting her towards the top of the pack of vulnerable senators in cash.
“I don’t think 2012 is going to be 2010,” said Bill Ballenger, a pundit and former Republican lawmaker.
It seems to me that you have two different cases here. One is one in which the economy is doing so poorly that Barack Obama loses a state where he got 57 percent of the vote in 2008. In a scenario like that, clearly Stabenow is in big trouble if faced with a reasonable opponent. Another is a scenario in which Obama joins Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry in carrying Michigan. There it’s hard to see why Stabenow could possibly lose since there’s precious little sign coming out of recent state-level politics that the Michigan GOP is interested in nominating moderates. They seem to have (not necessarily wrongly) decided to go with a strategy of nominating hard-core conservatives in a moderately liberal state, losing most of the time, but achieving dramatic right-wing policy advances when they do win.