Question 1): Former state Rep. Shane Hernandez (R-Port Huron) prevailed Saturday (Aug. 27) at a raucous Michigan Republican Party convention at the Lansing Center, where delegates voted to make him the party’s nominee for Lieutenant Governor. The paper ballot vote capped a wild conclave and whirlwind two weeks for Hernandez, who lost a Congressional bid in 2020 but has now returned to political life because GOP gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon tapped him as her running mate to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist this fall. Republican grassroots activists angling for more influence in a prospective Dixon administration contested Hernandez’s nomination but were not able to secure enough votes to keep him off the ballot and replace him with their top choice — recently retired pastor Ralph Rebandt of Farmington Hills. Still, the activists were able to frazzle the GOP convention, voting to oust a slate of Macomb County delegates and replace it with delegates of their own choosing. The activists also convinced state party leadership to ditch a planned “voice vote” to ram Hernandez through as the LG nominee. When the dust settled, however, roughly 80 percent of convention delegates voted “yes” on Hernandez, affirming his nomination and preventing an extended floor fight that could have ensued if he failed to top 50 percent. So, how significant was what happened at this convention, and will it make any difference to the state’s voters between now and the Nov. 8 general election?
Answer): What happened in Lansing on 8/27 was significant only in that 1) It confirmed that Dixon made the right call in picking Hernandez, who might have been the only LG choice who could have survived the ‘grassroots’ challenge without further damage to the state GOP’s tarnished image; 2) Proved once again that what happens at state party conventions is important only to insiders in the major party organizations, partisan elected officials, and the news media — the remaining 98% of the public doesn’t pay attention or doesn’t care; and 3) Republicans emerged from their chaotic session relatively unified, with the other constitutional officer nominees and GOP education board and Supreme Court candidates all on board with each other and prepared to do battle with Democrats this fall. Attorney General nominee Matt DePerno helped by nominating Hernandez for LG. Hard to believe, but a couple of surveys show that DePerno and Republican Secretary of State nominee Kristina Karamo have as good a chance to knock off the sitting Democratic AG and SoS as Dixon does Whitmer. That’s because Dana Nessel and Jocelyn Benson are the most seriously flawed incumbents in at least seven decades; odds are they’ll probably survive on 11/8, but the next four years don’t promise a pretty picture.
Question 2): Should Tudor Dixon try to counter the $6 million ad campaign the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) is running that uses her statements on abortion to define her as ‘extreme’ — or should she ignore it and just focus on issues that tilt more in her favor?
Answer 2): Abortion is such a big issue right now that Dixon almost has to offer some kind of response. Her approval ratings are deeply under water after she endured three weeks of a $4 million assault by Democrats on her image and reputation while she and her party remained silent following the 8/2 primary. It may only get worse unless she can muster the financial resources to mount a counter attack, and that doesn’t seem likely. That said, with whatever campaign cash she can muster, she could launch ads that ignore the governor’s attacks on her ‘extreme’ pro-life position and instead accuse Whitmer of being the true ‘extremist’ because of the governor’s support of the abortion rights proposal that will be on the 11/8 ballot. Dixon should also go on offense, as forcefully as she can afford to, on what should be a referendum on Whitmer’s four-year record in office. Does Michigan really want another four years of Whitmer? That should be the issue. As an incumbent with national standing, Whitmer is taking advantage of her current vast financial advantage by attempting to disqualify Dixon as an acceptable change of pace. Right now, after Democrats have spent millions already, two polls show Whitmer with only a slim four- or five-point lead, although several other surveys have her up double digits. Dixon has to keep chipping away at that, as John Engler did in 1990 against an incumbent Democratic governor with far fewer negatives on his record than Whitmer does today. It worked.
Question 3): Michigan’s 1931 anti-abortion law has now been officially set aside until after the election. Which side does that help more, the Democrats or the Republicans, and why?
Answer 3): On balance, Republicans, because it reduces news coverage of the various hearings and legal filings on the issue. If there was actual enforcement of the 1931 law ongoing between now and November, that would have been bad for the GOP, which is saddled with a losing hand in the court of public opinion. Setting aside the question of the constitutionality of the 1931 law until after the election means that both sides can continue to use the ballot initiative as motivation for their base supporters to vote in November. Of course, one practical effect of leaving the question up to the voters means the spotlight will intensify on the Michigan Supreme Court races this fall and may mean an unusual amount of money will be spent on the lower half of the ballot.
Question 4): From a public relations perspective, what grade would you give the Tudor Dixon campaign for how it handled the announcement of former Rep. Shane HERNANDEZ being its selection for Lieutenant Governor?
Answer 4): Yes, the Dixon campaign accomplished its main goal of selecting a lieutenant governor, which is to do no harm. The Republicans added someone to the ticket with impressive legislative experience, which the political and media-opinion establishment was clamoring for, and someone who passes the grassroots conservative test, which Hernandez does. That said, delaying the announcement until late on a Friday afternoon, just an hour before the deadline, is almost public relations malpractice. There was basically no rollout at all, and it raised some questions as to whether Hernandez was really that eager to be Dixon’s running mate. Had Dixon been rejected by higher-profile LG possibilities whom she preferred? Did she try to reach out to her GOP primary opponents to gain their support prior to the announcement? Evidently, not Ralph Rebandt, although in the final analysis that didn’t make any difference.
Question 5): Who would be the prototype Michigan Republicans would want to see as their U.S. Senate candidate in 2024?
Answer 5): The Republicans’ problem is their usual one in Michigan: The best candidates they could nominate probably couldn’t get through a GOP primary — think Fred Upton or even Candice Miller, if she were interested. Possibilities like Peter Meijer, Mike Bishop or Tom Leonard have been tarnished by recent defeats. John James might escape such stigma if he manages to get elected to Congress this fall. Maybe someone like U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain or even Shane Hernandez, if he acquits himself well this fall, even if he and Tudor Dixon lose. Fact is, there just aren’t that many Republican possibilities who possess solid conservative credentials, a strong grasp on key issues shaping the state, the ability to raise money and enough name ID and political experience to win in purple Michigan. If GOP primary voters decide what they care about most is someone who can best ape Donald Trump, they’re probably doomed. Of course, all this assumes Debbie Stabenow is running again, and she’s hinted she likely will. If she doesn’t, it will be back to a scenario like 2014, when the GOP had a good chance to take over the retiring Carl Levin’s U.S. Senate seat but totally blew it.
Mark M Koroi says
One observer at the convention indicated that the significance was that 90% of state convention delegates backed Mark Forton in his quest to seat his credentialed delegates.
The “walk of shame” was imposed upon the Eric Castiglia delegates who left the convention chambers after being decertified following the historic vote.
Ron Weiser may have challengers to his chairmanship next convention.
Forton, a proud pro-Trump fanatic, is now being viewed as a David and Goliath victor in defeating Weiser’s backed candidate Eric Castiglia.
Castiglia will continue to lead the newly-minted “Republican Party of Macomb County” despite his humiliating loss in both the Macomb County Circuit Court delivered by Judge Matthew Sabaugh and the later convention on Saturday. Castiglia just sent out an e-mail this morning touting his “Victory Center” promoting phone-banking, free pizza, and door-to-door support for volunteers GOP nominees.
Forton, the retired auto worker, will continue to lead the “official” Macomb County Republican Party organization as chairman.
This is not new; in 2010, TeaParty activists won control of a majority of executive committee seats of the Macomb County Republican Party – and many traditional GOP activists formed the “Northern Macomb Party Republicans” and let the Tea Party fervor to run its course.
Bob Mauseth says
Sad that 4 years now counts as impressive legislative experience.
John C Stewart says
Tim Skubick,” Off The Record” host of more than 50 years stated on Statewide TV 2 weeks ago, “The Michigan Republican Party is back in the Dark Ages of previous issues. ” I rest my case