First of two parts
In politics, two years is a lifetime — or just long enough to begin planning a bid for higher office. With the prospect of facing a close-to-unbeatable five-term Sen. Carl Levin (D) and only one feasible Congressional pickup opportunity this cycle, Michigan Republicans are playing defense this cycle and looking to 2010 as their year to pick up some ground. [IMGCAP(1)]
“Levin is very, very, very liberal,” said Michigan Republican National Committeeman Chuck Yob. “He’s got a very good strong constituent service program and we’re in a unionized state, so he’s a tough guy to beat.”
But two Republicans are publicly considering challenging Levin. Military veteran and 2002 Republican candidate Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski is running and state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk (R) also is considering a bid, though neither is considered a top-tier recruit.
“He’s going to have that seat until he passes on,” said one Michigan Republican operative of Levin.
In the 1st district, which gave President Bush 53 percent of the vote in both 2000 and 2004, Republicans are trying to take down eight-term Rep. Bart Stupak (D). This time they’re bringing in the man who beat Stupak’s wife for a state House seat, state Rep. Tom Casperson.
“I think Tom’s pretty much cleared the field,” Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox (R) said. “Tom came out of nowhere to beat Stupak’s wife six years go, so I would never underestimate him.”
But Casperon, who is term-limited in the state House in 2008, raised only $25,000 for his campaign through Sept. 30. And the district is also one of the toughest in the country to play in — media markets are sprinkled across the almost 28,000 square miles that includes only a few small airports. Yob ran against Stupak in 2000 and estimated it takes up to 10 hours to get from one end of the district to another — a plus for an incumbent who can travel the region on official duty, but a hardship for any challenger.
The other priority for Republicans this cycle is defending two incumbents who some national and Michigan political observers see as vulnerable in 2008. Rep. Tim Walberg (R) is being challenged by state Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer (R), while Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R) has a race against either 2006 Democratic nominee Nancy Skinner or former state Lottery Commissioner Gary Peters (D).
Freshman Walberg might also still get a primary challenge from his two-time former primary opponent, ex-Rep. Joe Schwarz (R). One Republican close to Schwarz, however, doesn’t seem him getting in the race again — as a Republican, Democrat or Independent.
Mostly Michigan Republicans are itching for their chance to take back the governor’s mansion in 2010, when incumbent Jennifer Granholm (D) is term limited. Cox and Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land are among the most-often mentioned Republicans considering a bid. Conservative businessman and 2006 candidate Dick DeVos (R) also is said to be considering a second stab at the seat.
“The great thing about my office,” Cox said, “is that I get to see and touch a whole lot of what the general governor gets to do. … It’s a great training ground, not that the current governor took advantage of that.”
Granholm also used the attorney general post as her stepping stone to run for governor in 2002.
Michigan Republican Party Political Director Larry Ward said Land’s name “has always been bantered about filling that role.”
“Terri Land and Dick DeVos are out front,” Yob said. “Because Terri has been on the state ballot twice. She got more votes than Granholm.”
Yob pointed out that DeVos will have “those millions of dollars he put in again” if he runs. And if Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R) wants to run for governor and can raise the money, “he’d be formidable.”
“The fact that it’s an open seat this time means it’s going to be up for grabs,” Yob said.
And some names are bantered about to run for Senate in 2012, when Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) would be eligible for a third term. The 2006 Republican nominee, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard (R), said he wouldn’t rule out anything just yet and “a lot of people have talked to me about running statewide again.”
Also, some of the younger Members of the Congressional delegation could run for the Senate seat.
Ward said Rep. Mike Rogers was one of the most-often mentioned Republicans who might run for higher office eventually. Rogers is only 44 years old, making him the second-youngest Member in the delegation next to Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R).
“My favorite has always been Mike Rogers,” Ward said. “I think he’s doing a great job.”
McCotter’s name is also mentioned as a possible Senate candidate someday, almost as often as Rep. Candice Miller (R). As a former two-term Secretary of State, Miller has been a top vote-getter in the Wolverine State.
Next week: Michigan Democrats