Question 1): With a little more than two weeks left before the Nov. 8 election, MIRS newsletter reports that underfunded Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor DIXON is within two percentage points of incumbent Gov. Gretchen WHITMER, according to a Mitchell Research & Communications survey commissioned by MIRS. The Oct. 19 survey of 541 respondents found Whitmer up 49% to 47%, which is within the poll’s margin of error of +/- 4.21%. The final 3% are undecided. The crosstabs are here.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Dana NESSEL is up on Republican nominee Matt DePERNO by a slim 46% to 43%, the survey says. Secretary of State Jocelyn BENSON has a stronger 49%-to-40% lead over Republican challenger Kristina KARAMO. And support for Proposal 3 is hemorrhaging — it’s now 50% “Yes” to 47% “No,” whereas just a month ago polls showed “Yes on 3” leading by at least 30 points.
The poll was conducted using automated Interactive Voice Response methodology, calling landlines and by text messaging voters’ cell phones and sending them to a SurveyMonkey page.
The Governor appears to have consolidated the Democratic vote; she’s leading that demographic by 92% to 6%. But Republicans are finally getting behind Dixon — 89% to 6%. The independents are going with Whitmer, 49% to 45%.
Asked “Which of two issues — inflation/the economy or abortion — is most important in determining (your) vote for governor and the Legislature?” 51% say “inflation and the economy” and 41% say “abortion.” Among independents, 56% say inflation/the economy, and 39% say abortion.
On Proposal 3, the question was, “If the election were held today, how would you vote on Michigan Proposal 3, which would amend the constitution in Michigan to establish the right to abortion?” The response was 50% yes, 47% no, and the remaining 3% undecided.
Prior to this question, the respondent pool was set with 40% strongly pro-choice voters, 13% somewhat pro-choice voters, 14% somewhat pro-life voters and 26% strongly pro-life voters. The final 6% were undecided.
There are reasons to be skeptical about polls. Do the people pollsters contact nowadays represent average voters? Do average Americans answer phone calls from unfamiliar numbers? What’s more, many Republicans in particular refuse to respond to surveys and routinely lie to pollsters, who are frustrated by this development. There’s also that 2016 factor, when nearly no one thought Donald TRUMP had a chance in Michigan, but he won, anyway. Pollsters in Michigan and nationally were also way off in 2020, watching the Blue Wave that they had predicted turn into a Dead Sea for Democrats, with Republicans picking up seats in Congress.
So, can we believe the latest Mitchell poll, or others preceding it that showed the gubernatorial race tightening dramatically since the first Whitmer-Dixon debate on October 13?
Answer 1): These races all seem to be tightening, because two other polls — by Trafalgar and CBS — showed similar results in the past week. After a strong debate performance and a statewide TV buy, Dixon apparently has closed the gap, which is remarkable considering that she’s been outspent more than 10-1 by the governor and her acolytes. Yes, Whitmer also did well in the debate, but she is facing a very bad economic environment that includes the highest inflation in more than 40 years. Both candidates are disciplined and strong campaigners, but Whitmer is also running with an unpopular Democratic president in the White House. With little more than two weeks to go before Nov. 8, no one is a clear winner yet, except probably Benson. Whitmer is banking heavily on the abortion issue, but this latest Mitchell survey shows that may not be the winner she thought it was. TV and online ads up-and-down the ballot tell where the headwinds are blowing against Democrats, with key words like tax cuts, spending, and firming up education and the economy predominating. Crime is likely coming next, and maybe even immigration.
We also can’t forget that, in all these polls, support for Whitmer has never been able to get much above 50% if it even reaches that level. Despite the tens of millions of dollars spent on behalf of her campaign, antipathy toward Whitmer in at least a quarter of the electorate is intense, more than it ever was toward previous Michigan Democratic governors like James Blanchard and Jennifer Granholm. Voters may have opposed those two on policy and specific issues, but the “fear and loathing” wasn’t present as it is towards Whitmer. Among previous Republican governors, only John Engler inspired the kind of antipathy that rivals what is now felt toward the current governor, lingering from the first two years of her tenure. People may not ever have warmed to Rick Snyder, but the personal animus now felt toward “Big Gretch” wasn’t there. Bill Milliken? By comparison, he’s the closest we’ve had in the last half-century to a bi-partisan saint.
Question 2). A few weeks ago, Sen. Tom BARRETT (R-Charlotte) hit U.S. Rep. Elissa SLOTKIN (D-Holly) for leasing a residency in Lansing from lobbyist Jerry Hollister, a medical manufacturing firm executive. Barrett questioned the nature of her relationship with Hollister. This past week-end, an MIGOP aide issued a press release under the headline: “Desperate times for Elissa Slotkin call for desperate measures. She’s bringing in one of the ultimate Washington swamp creatures in (U.S. Rep.) Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who has a long history of not only voting with Joe Biden 100% of the time, but has a checkered history of putting lobbyists first instead of his constituents, and flouting disclosure laws.” Some observers say this is flimsy campaign fodder and therefore a sign that the Barrett campaign is desperate. Are they right?
Answer 2): Maybe. The race for the new, marginal 7th Congressional District seat in Congress is reportedly the most expensive in the nation this year, with a heavy advantage for Slotkin in campaign cash. Barrett’s campaign is looking for anything it can find to call Slotkin’s judgment into question. It might seem desperate, but with a seat that has this much opportunity for both parties, attacks like this aren’t surprising. When it comes to issues in a political campaign, everything is in play. It could be argued that the optics for Slotkin aren’t good. To have moved from her home in Oakland County into the house of what is essentially a government relations official of a significant corporation in her district is an unforced error. This is the first time Rep. Slotkin’s personal judgment has suffered a dent, especially after building her brand as a CIA intelligence officer who specializes in details. Her staff should have found her somewhere else to live. Yet, it’s hard to imagine this tempest-in-a-teapot could be a decisive factor in the outcome of the race. What Barrett really needs to press is whether Slotkin is the “moderate, bipartisan” MC she claims to be, or whether she merely talks the talk — and projects it in millions of dollars in TV ads —- but fails to walk the walk in Washington, D.C., where she has voted with an unpopular President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi a very high percentage of the time. In fact, Barrett might claim that she is nowhere near the “independent” she claims to be. Therein lies any chance Barrett has for victory.