If former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Brighton) decides to run for Michigan’s open U.S. Senate seat next year and he gets through what could be a contentious GOP primary, what happens next? He would be likely to find himself matched up with U.S. Rep. Elissa SLOTKIN (D-Holly) in an expensive general election contest with national implications. A Rogers-Slotkin faceoff might be the most exciting U.S. Senate race in the country. It might be the most mesmerizing U.S. Senate race in Michigan, ever. One of the key questions, of course, would be “What issue or issues would each side choose to use?”
Question 1):. If the match-up in Michigan’s 2024 U.S. Senate race ends up being Republican Mike Rogers vs Democrat Elissa Slotkin, what would Rogers want to be the top issue (or issues) in the race?
Answer 1): A Slotkin-Rogers match-up has the prospect of being the most intelligent debate ever on foreign policy by two Michigan general election nominees for the U.S. Senate. However, it won’t turn out that way because both candidates know Americans don’t really care that much about foreign policy. The focus as usual will be on domestic issues, and Rogers would concentrate on anything he can find that Slotkin has voted on in the past five years that is controversial and use it against her.
That could range from the massive federal deficit to which Slotkin has contributed with her votes on spending, to her positions on social/cultural issues that Rogers could try to depict as ‘extreme.’ Mike Rogers has one big advantage in that he hasn’t served in Congress for nine years (next year, 10) and thus doesn’t have any track record on all the hot-button stuff that Slotkin has had to vote on for three terms.
That said, important factors are likely outside of Rogers’s (and Slotkin’s) control, like Joe Biden’s approval numbers if he’s the Democratic nominee, or Donald Trump’s unpopularity with a large segment of the electorate if he’s the Republican standardbearer. And how big a factor will be issues like immigration, which doesn’t affect Michigan as much as it does other parts of the nation? And will inflation be off the table as an issue by the fall of 2024?
Question 2): If the match-up is Rogers vs Slotkin, what would Slotkin want to be the top issue (or issues) in the race?
Answer 2): Few know it, but Slotkin is on record (and audio) praising Rogers back in 2018 shortly after she announced she would challenge U.S. Rep. Mike BISHOP, Rogers’s successor in the old 8th CD. Paraphrasing Slotkin, she said in effect: ‘Oh, I would never challenge Mike Rogers. In my experience with him, he has been fine. But Mike Bishop is a whole ‘nuther thing.’ Remember, Slotkin had served in the Pentagon under both Presidents George W. BUSH and Barack OBAMA, while Rogers was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. They had dealings with each other. Slotkin and Rogers are both considered hawks, which may prove interesting on the issue of U.S. involvement in Ukraine depending on what happens between now and next year at this time with the Russian invasion.
Slotkin needs to take credit for the avalanche of federal money that has cascaded into Michigan since COVID hit in 2020. Yes, it’s having a real-world impact on Michigan infrastructure, schools and local communities, but Slotkin will also have to distance herself from an unpopular incumbent President who was in large part responsible for getting those federal dollars shepherded through Congress. That will be a real test of her ability to continue her claims of being ‘bipartisan,’ which she has used in her three Congressional campaigns.
Otherwise, Slotkin will probably concentrate on an issue like health care, which she used against Bishop based on her mother’s experience with cancer and inability to get insurance coverage. Also, she’ll play the abortion card, the only question being how aggressively. By the way, how did Mike Rogers vote on Obamacare, and how did he talk about it afterwards? He was in the House at the time, and Slotkin wasn’t.
Question 3): How concerned should Michigan Republicans be that entrepreneur J.C. HUIZENGA, who in the past has primarily backed Republican candidates, contributed $20,000 to the Michigan House Democratic Fund in the first quarter of 2023?
Answer 3): Having a major party donor contribute so heavily to your opposition is never a good sign, but it’s doubtful most Michigan Republicans will be that concerned unless Huizenga is a pilot fish. Businessmen have a history of hedging their political bets by contributing to candidates from both of the major political parties. Huizenga knows that Republicans have dominated state government for most of the past three decades, sometimes with ‘Trifectas,’ but now he sees that Democrats have their own Trifecta for the first time in four decades. Huizenga also could be sending a message that he doesn’t like the direction of the present-day Michigan GOP, specifically of its MAGA wing. Do we know that he’s stopped giving money to Republicans completely? It’s early in the 2023-24 cycle. What will he do next year? It may depend on who’s running for what.
Question 4); Is it likely that the line-up of speakers for the Michigan GOP’s upcoming Biennial ‘Leadership Conference’ on Mackinac Island will have a negative impact on turnout for the event? Speakers include Dinesh D’SOUZA, maker of the movie “2000 Mules,” and election deniers like charismatic Arizona Republican 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, who ultimately lost.
Answer 4): Every two years going back nearly seven decades, the Michigan Republican Party has depended on luring its members to Mackinac Island (and the Grand Hotel, which is expensive) on a scintillating array of speakers, many of them top elected officeholders with national reputations. The shocking thing is that there appear to be no such speakers this year.
This should be the ideal time for many — if not all — of the 2024 presidential aspirants to beat a path to the Island. That’s what has happened many times over the years, including as recently as 2016. Not this year, at least so far. What has been announced are conservative ideologues (including D’Souza and Lake) who have never been elected to anything. They may be great speakers, but they won’t draw a crowd, particularly one that’s not as well-heeled as past attendees. The roster of speakers appears to be an attempt to entice the most hardcore MAGA conspiracy theorists to attend the event, but many of these folks won’t be able to afford the participation costs.