GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan Democrats have enlisted women to wage war on Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land.
The party — hoping Rep. Gary Peters is enough of a candidate for the Democrats to hang on to the Senate seat held by Sen. Carl Levin since 1978 — is using a series of videos showing women describing their dissatisfaction with former secretary of state Land, who has been accused of waging war on her own gender.
These videos are just one part of $8 million in advertising being shot at Michigan voters by the campaigns of Land, Peters and the outside groups supporting them. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has promised to spend up to $400,000 to support Land — one of several races in which the Chamber will be spending campaign money. The American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund — an environmental group — has been running TV ads in western Michigan in support of Peters.
Democrats, Republicans, outside groups and the candidates’ campaigns could spend a total of $50 million on this race by November.
The Michigan Democrats’ video campaign is a counterattack to the Land campaign’s TV and internet ad that showed the GOP Senate candidate sipping a cup of coffee wondering aloud how anyone could possibly accuse her of waging war on women.
“Congressman Gary Peters and his buddies want you to believe I’m waging a war on women. Really?” she says in the ad. “I’m Terri Lynn Land and I approve this message because as a women I think I might know a little bit more about women than Gary Peters.”
Florine Mark, president, CEO and founder of Weight Watchers, featured in one of the Democratic Party’s videos, speaks in support of Peters. Other Democratic Party videos feature unnamed women criticizing Land’s record on abortion rights and pay equity.
Right to Life of Michigan alleges one of the women — who says she is worried about protecting her daughter’s rights — actually owns three abortion clinics in the Detroit area.
Michigan Democrats did not respond to a request for a comment on the allegation.
Michigan Democrats are counting on the 20-point gender gap that Gallup described as the widest in U.S. political history following the 2012 presidential election to save the Levin Senate seat that has been blue since Jimmy Carter was president.
Michigan Republicans are hoping their candidate will bridge the gap and win an election that most polls say is too close to call. The HuffPost poll tracking model that is updated whenever a new poll is released showed Peters with 42.8 percent of the vote to Land’s 39.1 percent on May 20.
“The bottom line is that Michigan women will not support a candidate – male or female – who, like Land, doesn’t believe in paycheck fairness, would cut access to mammograms, ban common forms of contraception like the pill, and make healthcare more expensive for women,” said Joshua Pugh, the communications director of the Michigan Democratic Party.
“Land should know better than to think that Michigan women won’t weigh the candidates on the issues. This ad completely backfired — as a woman who is out of touch on women’s issues, Ms. Land just lost any benefit of the doubt,” Pugh said.
Conservative George Will would beg to disagree. In April 2014 he wrote that although the GOP does have a problem getting women to vote for Republicans, Land could be the best bridge over the gender gap.
“In some recent polls she has a small lead in what may remain a close race. She has less to fear than Republicans used to have from Detroit’s Democratic vote. The city’s population has plunged from 1.8 million to 700,000, and today’s Democratic mayor wields a much diminished political machine while an emergency manager is in place,” Will wrote.
“Only 3 percent of Michiganders live in the Upper Peninsula, but in a close race they could provide the margin of victory for Land. The UP’s conservatism can be distilled in six words: ‘I’m up here. Don’t bother me.’”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee believes the Michigan Senate race is one of the critical campaigns being fought in the midterm elections and they are standing by their woman.
“Democrats have signaled that they intend to scare and divide by focusing on this so-called ‘war on women,’” said Brook Hougesen, press secretary of the NRSC. “Terri Lynn Land is someone the Democrats are afraid of because she is reaching out and connecting.”
The idea that women will vote for women, even if they are Republican women, will be put to the test in the 2014 midterm elections.
“We knew early on that the ‘war on women’ charge was going to be a big part of the Democratic playbook. It’s natural that strong female Republican candidates are well equipped to call out the absurdity of the Democratic men who claim to know and understand women better than actual women,” NRSC communications director Brad Dayspring told The Hill May 8. “Good candidates rise to the top, and we have some great women candidates.”
Land is not the only woman that Democrats will have to worry about in November. Sen. Susan Collins is expected to win re-election in Maine. The list of Republican women running for the Senate also includes primary winners Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) in West Virginia and Monica Wehby in Oregon.
And then there is Joni Ernst, a Republican in Iowa who is running an ad showing her riding a Harley and shooting a copy of Obamacare.
It was a relatively mild follow-up to her first ad in which Ernst told of how she grew up castrating hogs on her family’s farm and explaining how that would help her cut pork from federal spending.