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What political pundits are watching in election year 2018

Lindsey Scullen
Michigan Radio


The many elections of 2018 could stir up a big political year in Michigan.

Issues & Ale, an event series from Michigan Radio, hit HopCatin Royal Oak Monday night to discuss the political balls up in the air this year – and why they could spell excitement to come.

The night's panelists included the following:

  • Matt Marsden, a Republican political consultant with RevSix Data Systems
  • Rick Pluta, a reporter with the Michigan Public Radio Network, and co-host of It’s Just Politics on Michigan Radio
  • Zoe Clark, Michigan Radio’s program director and co-host of It’s Just Politics
  • Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio’s political commentator

As host, Lessenberry kicked off the night with some questions for the panel.
LESSENBERRY: “What is the one thing you’re watching most out of this election year?”

“I mean, I think you can’t not talk about 2016 and what it’s meant for Michigan and for the country,” Clark said.

Credit Lindsey Scullen / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Monday night's Issues & Ale event was held at HopCat in Royal Oak.

As hard as it may be to believe, she said, this November will mark two years since election 2016. She said some indications show it’s possible we’ll see a wave toward the Democrats in response to that election.

Pluta agreed.

Among other things, he said it will be interesting to see “whether or not the Democrats solve their turnout problem in this particular cycle.”

As for Marsden, he said he’s most watching the number of retirements in the United States Congress due to “the disaffection with Trump.”

He said he’ll be watching to see if these retirements significantly impact the makeup of the House and Senate.

Marsden also said he’ll be watching the Women’s March movement, and the impact it might have on turnout this election year.

“Can that movement continue?” he said. “Can they continue that momentum?”

“To me those are the most fascinating things,” Marsden said, “because if they can sustain that, they will have sustained that momentum for two years, which, politically speaking, is not the easiest thing to do.”

LESSENBERRY: “What to you is the most interesting race this year, of all the races?”

Marsden said he’ll be focusing on both Congressman Mike Bishop’s seat and Congressman Dave Trott’s seat.

Credit Lindsey Scullen / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Audience members filled HopCat Royal Oak's second floor room.

“I think that Matt’s picks are pretty intriguing,” Pluta said, “because the Trott seat will be an indication of what happens when there’s a vacancy and it’s a straight up, you know, kind of party-to-party competition. Mike Bishop will be an indication of whether or not incumbents around the country are in trouble.”

Pluta said he’s also, of course, interested in the governor's race.

“It’s interesting on a couple of levels, because it’s almost like the Rick Snyder version of Republicanism versus the Donald Trump version of Republicans writ large,” he said. “But it is also going to be something of, when you look at the players within the campaigns …  a proxy fight of Kasich versus Trump in 2020.”

Clark said she’ll be watching “one of the most under-covered races” – for Senator Debbie Stabenow’s seat.  

“Republicans yet again, for another cycle, seem to ... be throwing up a candidate who they’re not putting a lot of money into yet,” Clark said.

If a Republican wins the governorship and Stabenow wins her U.S. Senate seat again, Clark said she’ll be interested in looking at that margin.

“Because in Michigan we send Democrats now to D.C. statewide, and yet, over the past two election cycles, we’ve kept Republicans here in the state,” she said. “And so, if there’s a difference there … what does that say?”

Lessenberry said he’ll be watching the Voters Not Politicians referendum most.

“They’re not certified yet … and even if they’re certified, will this get on the ballot?” he said. “Because there will be court challenges.”

He said if the initiative does make it onto the ballot, it will pass.

“We had a similar one in Ohio,” he said. “It passed with 71%.”

For the complete Issues & Ale conversation, listen above.

For information on other Issues & Ale events, click here.