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More voters splitting ticket between Republican Snyder and Democrat Peters?

 We’ve been talking for months now on It’s Just Politics about the fact that Election 2014 is really going to be about which party does a better job of getting out its core voters, especially whether Democrats can get their voters to the polls on November 4th.

Though there are more Democrats in Michigan, Republicans do a better job of turning out in mid-term elections, when a President is not at the top of the ballot.

That’s why, although Michigan is a blue-state, we have a Republican Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General (all positions that are elected in non-presidential years, when Democrats tend to stay home).

That explains why we’re seeing a competitive race for governor, although some recent polls show Republican Governor Rick Snyder opening a wider lead (some polls, not all).

Meantime, almost every poll shows Democrat Gary Peters opening a wider lead over Republican nominee Terri Lynn Land for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat.

Why the split-ticket at the top of the ballot?

The conventional wisdom is that Terri Lynn Land has simply run a bad campaign. Until recently, she largely avoided interacting with the media, held very few large public events, and basically relied on ads to deliver a message that never quite gelled.

Her one substantive policy proposal is to return the responsibility for raising road money to the states; an approach that was largely panned by the business community (not good for a Republican candidate).

Land has also been late in explaining where she stands on the 2009 auto bailout.

The bailout might seem like ancient history, but it’s still considered the measure of a candidate’s loyalty to the auto industry. Approval is essential to a statewide candidate in Michigan.

Shifting funders

All of this helps explain why a lot of independent spending to support the Land campaign in Michigan has evaporated. Especially as South Dakota and Kansas (just to name a couple) appear to be more competitive races with control of the United States Senate hanging in the balance.

We should note, however, funders pulling out of the Land campaign could also affect Gary Peters. It could mean bad news for his campaign if Democratic funders decide the race is pretty much wrapped up and turn their attention – and dollars – to other races.

Down-ballot races

Of course, it’s also possible that this is all a clever ruse and the Land campaign is on the cusp of a resurgence that will peak at exactly the right moment on November 4th. But a lot of Republicans are pretty concerned that’s not the case, and that they could not only lose the U.S. Senate race, but that without a competitive Senate race, that could tamp down Republican enthusiasm, and that could affect other down-ballot races.

Not just the governor’s race between Rick Snyder -- no darling of the Republicans’ conservative base -- and Mark Schauer. There are other statewide races for secretary of state, attorney general, Michigan Supreme Court, to name a few. GOP poobahs are also concerned about some state House races in Oakland County where some Republican incumbents could be in jeopardy.

And, if you look at history – that shouldn’t be the case. Couple that with the fact that in the mid-term elections of a president’s second term, the party out of the White House tends to win-big, and you’re looking at a Republican party that knows it needs to be doing better in Michigan and a Democratic Party that knows it has to get-out-the-vote.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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