U.S. Sen. Debbie STABENOW (D-Delta Twp.) used a positive campaign focused on being a “champion of agriculture” and a proponent of Michigan’s economy to coast into a fourthterm Tuesday over aggressive upstart Republican John JAMES. See the final results here.
MIRS called the race at 11:25 p.m. after returns showed Stabenow beating James consistently across the state. With roughly 90 percent of the precincts reporting, Stabenow won 52 to 46 percent.
“I want to thank the people of Michigan for your continued trust and support. It is my honor to suit up everyday to fight for our families and our state. I am very proud we ran a positive campaign that focused on Michigan,” Stabenow said.
In his concession speech, James thanked his suporters and pledged that a new generation of leaders are emerging, “I promise. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going anywhere. This is just the beginning.”
In a race that never was in doubt, Stabenow, 68, used her $17.4 million political war chest to crush James, a political war veteran, under the weight of inevitability. With the U.S. Senate Republicans focused on keeping control of the upper chamber by backing their incumbents, James’ race fell off the radar at the federal level.
Still, James’ comparatively strong campaign has propelled his name into the conversation for Michigan Republican Party (MRP) chair with Ron WEISER likely out after this year.
James rallied late in the campaign, eventually raising around $10 million and campaigning with musical artists Kid ROCK and Ted NUGENT. The 37-year-old’s campaign injected the Republican ticket with an enthusiasm lacking elsewhere, which allowed him to propel himself past gubernatorial nominee Bill SCHUETTE in late polling.
Like GOP ’12 Senate nominee Pete HOEKSTRA and GOP ’06 Senate nominee Mike BOUCHARD before him, James wasn’t able to able to make his attacks about Stabenow’s 43 years of public service stick with voters. Rather, Stabenow used James’ own “2,000 percent” support of President Donald TRUMP as basically the only critique of the challenger she needed.
“Here’s my question: If John James is vowing to fight 2,000% for Donald Trump, what’s left to fight for Michigan?” Stabenow wrote in one of her fundraising emails, a sentiment she hit James with at both of their debates (See “Theme Of Second Senate Debate, ‘Inexperienced’ Versus ‘Ineffective,'” 10/15/18).
James tried to reframe himself after a bitter Republican primary with Sandy PENSLER as someone who would work with anyone to benefit Michigan. He claimed he would stand up to the President when need be.
“Vote the person, not the party,” James said during the Economic Club debate. “Do not judge me by the ‘R’ by my name.”
But Stabenow was able to complete the circle on the benefit of her legislative experience by arguing that she has proven her ability to work both sides of the aisle. She pointed to 50 state public acts with her name on them and 118 of her bills that were rolled into mammoth, multi-section packages at the federal level (See “How ‘That Broad’ Became Michigan’s Trailblazing Political Matriarch,” 9/18/18).
Riding the “blue wave” and “pink wave” enjoyed by female Democrats across the country, Stabenow was able to surf through this election by connecting herself to positives Michigan has to offer — the Great Lakes, strong Michigan-made products and its agricultural commodities.
As the matriarch of Democratic politics, Stabenow has assumed former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin’s role as the elder statesperson. For average voters, she’s become the comfortable sweater in Michigan politics — the skilled politician who is not at risk of screwing up or making a fool of herself.
She boasts strong constituent relations and stands up against Republicans when their policies run sideways of a majority of the people.
James, a Ranger-qualified aviation officer who earned a Combat Action badge and two air medals for his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom, seemed to energize the conservative Republican base in a way Schuette never did.
The president of his family’s Detroit-area logistics company, the James Group International, James articulated a message on Fox News and in front of Republican stalwarts that motivated him from a deep double-digit hole in August to within 6 points, according to Mitchell Research and Communications (See “90% Opposed To Trump Are Voting D, 90% Who Favor Trump Voting R,” 10/26/18).