Can the GOP Gain Seats in States Trump Won? Prelimary Analysis of Debbie Stabenow By Garrett Russitano
This series examines 10 Democratic Senators who are up for election in states Donald Trump won. Thus far, we’ve analyzed Senators Joe Donnelly (IN), Jon Tester (MT), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Bill Nelson (FL) Claire McCaskill (MO), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV), Bob Casey (PA), and Sherrod Brown (OH). This piece concludes the series with an examination of Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, a state that Donald Trump won by just 3 tenths of a percent.
Debbie Stabenow, a former social worker, was elected to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners while still in graduate school. She was subsequently elected to both houses of the Michigan State Legislature (1979-90, 1991-94), the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996, and in 2000, became the first woman elected to the United States Senate in Michigan.
Stabenow's voting record indicates a Democrat who can usually be counted on to support her party’s line. She has voted with Trump a mere 29 percent of the time, supporting him on a handful of Cabinet appointments.
Stabenow handily defeated her opponents in 2012 and 2006; by as much as 20 points. 48 percent of her constituents approve of her performance, only 34 percent disapprove. More people in Michigan disapprove of President Trump than approve.
Representative Fred Upton, Michigan’s senior Republican in Congress, is the most likely contender for Stabenow’s seat. Although he has yet to formally announce, Upton has openly courted donors at events hosted by Governor Rick Snyder and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Other possibilities for the GOP include former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young, as well as businessmen John James and Sandy Pensler. Detroit entertainer Robert Ritchie, aka “Kid Rock” has set up an exploratory committee, and according to Zogby Analytics, has more support than every other GOP candidate combined. Ritchie is considered a wild card and polls strongly with Trump supporters.
With conventional GOP candidates facing brutal primaries in several states, a populist candidate cannot be completely discounted. Moreover, the primary can be expected to move GOP candidates to the right, which based on Trump's polling, could be damaging in the general against Stabenow.
The Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball identify Michigan as “likely Democratic.” Senator Stabenow enjoys steady popularity, incumbency advantage, and a national electoral landscape tiring of Republican inaction.
This story was updated at 9:09pm, October 13, 2017.
Garrett Russitano is a research assistant for The Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research.