A perfect storm is brewing in Michigan that may propel a Republican into the U.S. Senate seat Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), a Democrat, has held since 1979.
Terri Lynn Land, Michigan’s ex-Secretary of State and a Republican National Committeewoman, is running her U.S. Senate campaign on an aggressive conservative populist message that seems more fit for red state Republicans than a Republican running in a bluish-purple state like Michigan.
A national mood against President Barack Obama is hurting Democrats, especially those who don’t have the luxury of incumbency like Land’s opponent Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI). Package all that together with a series of mishaps Peters and his campaign have made so far, and it puts Land in striking distance two months from election day.
The biggest slip-up by Peters in Michigan–for which he still hasn’t provided an answer–is that he told a group that “immigration reform is not about enforcement.” There is also how Peters claims he is against outsourcing American jobs but actually engaged in the process as Michigan’s lottery chief. Acccording to the Washington Free Beacon, he’s been rolling in the dough, making thousands–potentially more–in profits off of outsourcing by an investment property of his.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Peters has claimed he’s for equal pay for women and men in the U.S. job market but only pays women in his U.S. House office 67 cents for every dollar paid to men who work for him, according to a recent National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) hit on Peters.
Land told Breitbart News in a phone interview:
Starting right out with immigration, he tells one group it’s important to secure the border but another group that it’s not about enforcement. So it’s nice to talk about it but where does he stand? And then as far as equal pay, when you’re not paying the women in your own office the same as the men–and it’s 67 cents on the dollar–that’s not the place you should be. When I was Secretary of State, we actually created programs where men and women could learn skills for management so that when they were ready they could apply for management jobs and move up the ladder as far as pay and responsibilities and that’s what you want to do in your job. We actually did it–by the time I left the Secretary of State’s office, we had more women managers than when I started with a program that definitely worked. As far as outsourcing, he claims he’s against that but yet did that when he was the lotto director and then also through the stimulus bill outsourced to foreign countries for car manufacturing. We build the best cars in America, and Detroit put America on wheels–and we do the best here in Michigan.
The theme of Land’s campaign is “Michigan First,” something she said in an interview means that she believes the role of government is to enact policies that help ordinary Americans–in her case, Michiganders–succeed economically. Land told Breitbart News:
What we’re talking about with Michigan First is jobs and the economy. Michigan has been through some tough times here and we need to make sure we have some good-paying jobs here in Michigan, and in order to do that we need to have a tax structure that’s fair, simpler and lower. I went out and visited with businesses across this state–manufacturers, retailers–and they basically say they need stability. We need to know what the tax code is going to be, we need to know what the regulations are so we can invest in capital and grow our businesses so we have good-paying jobs.
It may sound like House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)–and his out-of-touch 2012 vice presidential campaign rhetoric of “job creators” that has since translated into his support for comprehensive immigration reform and amnesty for illegal aliens–all over again, but it’s not. There’s a key distinction here. The Washington establishment of the Republican Party has been focused for years on helping business owners–industry’s elite players, a small group of wealthy but influential commercial titans. What Land is talking about is helping everyday workers, the people who vote in elections in America. And what she’s doing is no accident: It’s a coordinated message across her press strategy and policy strategy, and it’s tapping into a national discontent with Washington, D.C.
Land has offered a series of “Michigan First” plans on issues like immigration, transportation, and trade policy. Her transportation, or her “Roads, Bridges and Highways Michigan First” plan calls for a series of policy reforms that return power on infrastructure rebuilding back to the states and away from Washington, D.C., and her “Michigan First” trade policy isn’t a traditional “free trade” deal–it calls for restrictions on outsourcing of American jobs to foreign countries so those jobs stay in the U.S. rather than go to increasingly globalized corporations around the world.
Land’s immigration plan, perhaps the most interesting of them all, focuses on how America’s “broken border with Mexico has cost Michigan jobs,” honing in on the drastically negative economic effects of open borders policies on struggling Americans. It calls for tough interior and border enforcement, so that illegal aliens aren’t getting jobs that Michigan’s citizens and legal immigrants could be doing, and for blocking any amnesty for illegal aliens.
And while the immigration plan is far from perfect–it does call for an increase in H1B high-tech visas in response to a supposed “shortage” of high-tech workers in the U.S. that experts like Robert Charette have argued in IEEE Spectrum magazine is based on false data-it does focus on low-skilled workers, on getting Americans back to work rather than helping illegal aliens.
This is impressive for a Republican running in a state like Michigan. It allows Land to say she’s pro-immigration reform, but only in support of reforms that are positive for the country and for Michigan–those that put “Michigan First”–rather than the Democrats being able to paint her into a “party of no” box they’ve been trying to do with Republicans nationally for a long time.
Land told Breitbart News:
We need to reform our immigration system–it’s too complex for folks that want to do it legally. It’s too challenging. We need to make it so folks can go through the process to come here legally. Second, I’m a mom–and these children who have come across the border, we need to get them back to their parents. That should be a priority, and we need to do that. With the border, we need to secure the border and make sure people can’t come here illegally–and then with all three of those, it will make the system work and work for our great country.
Michigan’s 2014 U.S. Senate race offers Republicans a chance to test out new, voter-focused messages aimed at detailing how liberal policies of the Democrats are hurting everyday people–rather than just the messages of the past few years of how the Democrats’ policies are hurting wealthy businessmen. It lets Land say she’s not anti-government, but in favor of making government serve the needs of her constituents rather than serve the needs of special interests and big-time donors.
“As Secretary of State, it was all about customer service. We reduced the operation and reduced cost but delivered more services and were able to deliver a lot of them online,” she said. “We actually made government work for the people–that’s my background of eight years, and I actually believe we can bring that to the federal government, make it work for the people. From that, that should be our priority.”
That kind of logic applies especially to the Detroit bankruptcy situation. Liberal Democratic and big government policies sank Detroit to an all-time low, making it perhaps the biggest U.S. city to be forced into declaring bankruptcy. But it’s practical policies from Republicans, Land says, that will pull it back from the flames and burst it back to life. According to Land:
The good news is we have Gov. Snyder, who’s working very hard with the emergency manager Kevyn Orr to get that on the right track. They’ve got a great plan–the folks in Detroit and across Michigan have been very supportive of that. They’ve got nonprofits and the autos who have contributed to the legacy cost of the pensions of employees with the city of Detroit. As I mentioned, Detroit put America on wheels, and they need to get the support they need to do that again. The good news is the pensioners came together on the plan and supported it, and we need everyone to come together and make sure Detroit is successful. We need Detroit to be successful for Michigan to be successful.
What Land’s doing is working: She’s polling neck-and-neck with Peters, and the liberal leftwing billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer–an architect behind funding a “climate change” battle in Congress–has dumped millions into Michigan to attack Land.
“With Gary Peters slipping in the polls, national Democrats are spending over $1.8 million on the Michigan U.S. Senate race this week, and Steyer is committed to $2.6 million over the next 3 weeks, almost exclusively on ads attacking Terri Lynn Land,” Joe Kildea, a Land campaign adviser, said in an email.
Land is a few points back, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, but she’s stayed within a few points of Peters in most major polls–even taking some leads–since the end of 2013. A break or two for Land may blow this race, which most prognosticators are considering a toss-up, wide open. If she pulls that off, it would mean a Republican won in a blue state using a conservative populist message, yet again emboldening the cause of grassroots conservatives on a national level.