Michigan's Dem Base Doesn't Know Their Own Gubernatorial Candidate

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Mark Schauer, the former congressman heading up the Michigan Democratic Party’s ticket on the 2014 November ballot, is an unknown commodity even among his party’s base.

A poll released by Detroit News/WDIV-TV on Wednesday shows the Democrat whose hometown is Battle Creek, Mich. — the city that brought American Tony the Tiger and the snap, crackle and pop of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies — elicits little more than “Mark who?” from more than 42 percent of Michigan’s voters.

Only 57 percent recognize his name.

The news isn’t much better for Schauer even among voters who can put his face to a name. Close to 28 percent of those who have heard of him had no impression of Schauer.

How much worse could this get for the candidate who only has five months left to defeat an incumbent governor? Within the Democratic Party base of voters, more than one-third of union households don’t have any idea who Schauer is.

Forty-one percent of Detroit voters, potentially the largest block of Democrats in Michigan, hadn’t heard of him before the pollsters asked about Schauer and one-fourth of Democrats say they would vote for Governor Rick Snyder if the election were held today.

Detroit’s other newspaper, the Free Press, released its own poll May 28 that showed Snyder has a 9 point lead over Schauer, and 4 out of every 10 voters don’t know the Democrat.

Despite the assault Michigan Democrats have launched against Snyder’s character -- setting up a tip line for state employees and vendors to report allegations of corruption, raising questions about a sweetheart deal for the office furniture company run by one of Snyder’s cousins, and saying that the Snyder administration’s economic plan had been a failure -- 54 percent of the voters said they approve of what the Republican has been doing in office.

Schauer has spent his time in May supporting the idea of raising the minimum wage in Michigan to $9.25, as opposed to the $8.15 minimum wage that Republicans in the state legislature had been supporting.

The legislature approved the $9.25 minimum wage May 27 and Snyder signed it into law, something that Schauer declared to be a victory for his campaign.

Schauer released an education reform proposal in April that includes reversing cuts to classroom funding; putting the state on a path to universal preschool; setting standards for maximum class sizes; investing in professional training and development for teachers; expanding career and technical training; and reversing cuts to Michigan’s colleges and universities.

“Investing in education is the key to building a strong economy, and helping our kids compete for high-wage, high-skill jobs,” said Schauer.

Schauer scored some headlines with his selection of former state legislator Lisa Brown as his running mate in April.

But other than that, it has been a quiet campaign, while Snyder has installed emergency managers in troubled cities and school districts, presided over a continued economic recovery in Michigan, and attacked the problem that seems most vexing to voters — crumbling roads.

The bottom line is that Snyder holds what could be an insurmountable lead over Schauer, 45 percent to 35.2 percent. The margin grows to an even wider 13.6 percent among voters who say they are “very likely” to vote in November.

If there is anything close to a ray of sunshine for Dems it is that the Detroit News poll shows 18.1 percent of Michigan’s voters are still undecided.

Still, in order to move the undecided among Michigan voters into his camp, Schauer is first going to have to introduce himself to them.

The Detroit News/WIDV-TV poll results were much better for the Democrat who is running against Terri Lynn Land in the Senate election.

Gary Peters has a slim lead over Land, a former Michigan secretary of state. It is just a whisper of confidence, but a crescendo of support when compared to what Schauer heard from voters in the Detroit News poll.

The Detroit News/WDIV-TV poll shows Peters has a 4.3 percent lead over Land, with a margin of error plus or minus 4 points.

Land’s “Really?” TV ad in which she lampooned the idea that she was waging war on her own gender doesn’t appear to have resonated with women: the poll shows Peters with a 40.1 percent to 32 percent lead over Land among female voters.

The Detroit Free Press/WXYZ-TV poll reinforces the argument that Land is failing to win over female voters. This poll, conducted by EPIC-MRA, shows Peters leading Land 44 percent to 38 percent with a 14 point lead over Land among women.

However, an article published by Grantland on Tuesday gave Michigan Republicans reason to celebrate during the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference on scenic Mackinac Island, at the northern tip of their state’s Lower Peninsula.

While they were taking part in the event’s first full day, Republicans learned that Democrats had tried to replace Gary Peters in the election to fill the seat left vacant by the retirement of Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote, as part of an article on the Miami-Indiana NBA playoff series, that the Michigan Democratic Party approached the Heat’s Shane Battier to run for the U.S. Senate instead of Peters.

“Considering Congressman Peters’ abysmal record on jobs and the economy, it’s no surprise the Michigan Democratic Party tried to cut Congressman Peters and make Shane Battier their starter in the race for U.S. Senate against Terri Lynn Land,” said Heather Swift, the spokeswoman for the Land campaign.

Battier confirmed that Michigan Democrats had talked to him about running for the Senate. But Battier told Lowe he rejected that offer and didn’t even talk to his teammates about it.

“No, no, no,” he said. “The way the games have gone, that just wouldn’t be a possibility.”

Michigan Democrats did not respond to a request for a comment on the Battier story.