This is an excerpt of a column I wrote for Deadline Detroit.
By Chad Selweski
The most significant political figure in Michigan’s 2018 elections is not on the ballot – President Donald Trump.
The Trump Effect looms large in races across the state, particularly for governor and U.S. Senate, as most Republican candidates cling to the president while Democrats engage in a daily Trump-bashing fest on the campaign trail.
The controversial president is like catnip for Republicans running in the Aug. 7 primary for one simple reason: His popularity among GOP voters in Michigan is nearly off the charts. In one recent statewide poll, 80 percent of Republicans had a favorable opinion of Trump while just 12 percent viewed him unfavorably.
At the same time, among all voters, Trump’s job approval rating in Michigan is substantially under water – 42 percent positive, 55 percent negative.
That dichotomy has led to a political landscape where GOP hopefuls pander to the Trump base to win the upcoming primary. They’ll worry about how to soften their message for the general election later.
In the gubernatorial race, state Attorney General Bill Schuette, the GOP frontrunner, has embraced Trump at every turn. A 30-year political veteran, Schuette’s TV ads continue to feature a video clip of Trump endorsing him at a Macomb County political rally in April.
The AG’s main opponent, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, still faces flak from conservative Republicans for calling on Trump to
exit the 2016 presidential race following the release of an Access Hollywood tape that revealed Trump making crude remarks about women. Calley has said he voted for the president on Election Day.
In the U.S. Senate race, where incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow waits in the wings, the two Republican contenders compete over who can most dramatically portray themselves as a Trump die hard.
Grosse Pointe industrialist Sandy Pensler has erected billboards near the sites of recent Trump visits to Michigan welcoming the president to the state and declaring, “Thanks for Making America Great Again.”
Former Iraq War helicopter pilot John James’ campaign site shows the candidate sharing a military salute with the commander-in-chief, a ” special moment . . .I’ll never forget,” he’s quoted as saying.
Another key race where the Trump Effect is on full display is in the 11th Congressional District in parts of Wayne and Oakland counties. With an open seat up for grabs, the 11th District race ranks as a tossup — and as one of the most closely watched House races in the nation for a potential flip from Republican to Democratic control.
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