Terri Lynn Land is gaining ground in her campaign to replace Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) – and the Republican from Grand Rapids may have President Obama to thank for it.
Rep. Gary Peters’ (D-Mich.) lead over Land has been cut from five percent – 43 percent to 38 percent – in the July 25 Mitchell Research & Communications poll to just one percent in the latest poll, 45 percent to 44 percent. It was conducted the night of the Michigan primary election, Aug. 5.
The Harper Polling survey that was also conducted the night of the Michigan primary shows the race for Senate in Michigan has moved into a virtual tie with Peters leading the race by only one percent, 45-44 percent.
The automated Mitchell Research survey of 626 likely voters, with a margin of error of five percent, was also conducted two weeks into a major media buy by Land that included the hardest-hitting, most focused ads of her campaign.
Voters in Michigan are no longer being subjected to bland theme ads in which Land says she can get Congress to work together just like she taught her children to play together better in the backyard, or wonders with coffee cup in hand how a man could (really?) know more about women than she.
Now, Land is going after Peters on immigration reform, outsourcing American jobs, a nuclear Iran, and U.S. trade policy. Not only is her campaign launching its own attack ads, they are also offering, for the first time, some real policy statements from the candidate.
“It’s clear that the increase in media spending by Land over the past two weeks is impacting the race again,” Steve Mitchell, the chairman of Mitchell Research & Communications, Inc., said.
“As Election Day get closer, voters are recognizing that she is the candidate with a plan to secure the border, stop outsourcing, and put Michigan first,” said Heather Swift, spokeswoman for the Land campaign.
Land has been hitting Peters hard on the issue of immigration, accusing him of being “two-faced.”
Her campaign started running a new ad the morning after the Mitchell survey was taken. “Playing Both Sides” includes two clips of Peters talking about immigration.
“Certainly enforcement is very important,” Peters says in the first soundbite. In the second, he says, “Immigration reform is not about more enforcement.”
The narrator then hammers the point home in the last lines of the ad by saying, “Gary Peters plays both sides of the issue, putting Washington politics ahead of what’s best for America and best for Michigan.”
Land included immigration reform in her “Michigan First” plan that was released Aug. 6.
She called for the enforcement of immigration laws that are already on the books, making the immigration system more efficient, increasing the number of high-tech visas that are issued, and sealing off the border to Mexico.
“As the granddaughter of Dutch immigrants, I understand how important legal immigration is to a strong America,” said Land. “But President Obama and Congressman Gary Peters have failed to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders, resulting in lost Michigan jobs. I support the rule of law and believe it is essential that we step up enforcement and make our immigration system fair.”
Land believes the U.S.-Mexico border could be effectively sealed with a combination of fencing, more Border Patrol agents and new, high-tech monitoring devices.
The plan does not include an amnesty provision. Instead, the Land campaign writes, “Those who blatantly ignore our laws should not be rewarded, while those who follow the law are forced to wait in line to enter our country – this only invites more lawlessness.”
The ad blitz is only going to get louder. The Hill reported the National Republican Senatorial Committee has placed a $1.5 million ad buy in Michigan’s two biggest markets, Detroit and Grand Rapids, on behalf of Land.
Those ads were slated to run the last week of August.
However, Peters’ biggest problem may have nothing to do with Land or any of her fellow Republicans.
Peters’ biggest problem come November could have everything to do with the president.
Obama took the 2012 presidential election in Michigan, 54 percent to Mitt Romney’s 44 percent. Obama crushed John McCain in Michigan, winning the 2008 vote in the state by 17 points.
The last time a Republican won a president election in the state was 1988 when George H.W. Bush did it. He beat Michael Dukakis by an eight-point margin.
But times have changed. Michigan is no longer a state where Democrats can get much traction by simply riding in President Obama’s jet stream.
The Harper Polling survey of people who say they are likely to vote in Michigan’s general election shows most are not happy with Obama’s performance in office.
President Obama’s job approval (41 percent approve, 52 percent disapprove) in Michigan tracks closely with the national average.
It is even worse among voters who describe themselves as independents. The Harbor Polling survey showed nearly two-thirds of independent voters disapprove of the way the president is handling his job.
On top of that, Peters and Obama have political science and history working against them.
“Typically, the party in control of the White House loses seats in the Senate in the election six years into the presidency,” Mitchell said.
The Harper Polling survey also shows that Land leads among independent voters, two-thirds of whom don’t like the job Obama has done in the White House, 43 percent to 39 percent with 18 percent undecided.
Obama aside, Land still has a problem with women voters and Peters has a problem with men.
The Harper Polling survey shows Peters leads in the female demographic 49 percent to 39 percent, while Land leads 49-41 percent among men.
However, the Mitchell Research survey also showed Land has solidified her GOP base more than Peters has solidified his Democratic base. Peters leads by five percent with independents.
Even with his lock-step support of most White House administration policy, at least until his campaign got serious, Peters has less than unanimous Democratic Party support. Eighty-seven percent of the registered Democrats were promising to vote for him.
And, while the National Journal claimed in an Aug. 6 article that Republicans were losing faith in their candidate for Senate in Michigan, the Harper Polling survey empirically denies that.
It shows Land has 93 percent Republican support.
Swift said the Land campaign can feel a momentum change.
“The more Michigan voters find out about Gary Peters, the less they like him.”