The Other Primary

With much of the attention on Tuesday understandably focused on the defeat of three incumbents, another important primary went largely unnoticed nationally.  Michigan Republicans nominated Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard to take on unpopular incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow in November.  He defeated Rev. Keith Butler, who garnered the support of many who considered Bouchard too liberal for the job.  Even so, the two candidates agreed on most issues, and the campaign, though spirited, was not belligerent.

Now, Bouchard will turn his attention to defeating Stabenow, the unpopular incumbent who must run below the name of even more unpopular Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who now trails Republican Dick DeVos.  Bouchard will serve as the perfect foil for the incumbent.  He sifted through debris at ground zero.  She voted against the Use of Force Resolution for Iraq.  He wants to strenthen border security, in part by building a fence.  She has put out the welcome mat (probably so that the illegal immigrants can vote for her in Detroit).  Bouchard supports tax relief.  Stabenow is blocking it.

For now, the Michigan race remains second-tier.  An important factor will be how much of a post-primary bounce Bouchard manages to pull out.  If Bouchard is not within 10, or at least holding Stabenow under 50% in the next round of polling, he will have a very difficult time convincing anyone to spend time or money on his campaign.

He will also need to tie himself to Gubernatorial nominee DeVos as tightly as possible.  A Bouchard win will likely require a DeVos victory of at least five points.  It must be an “us vs. them”, not “Bouchard v. Stabenow” campaign for Bouchard to have success.

Bouchard will also need Republicans in other states to start pulling their weight to free up some money for him.  Sen. Stabenow has one of the largest war chests in the Senate.  Bouchard will not be able to match her dollar for dollar, but does need to start raking in the dough if he is to have any hope of pulling off the upset.  That will be a formidable task with several Republican incumbents sucking up many of the available dollars.  (Incidentally, is there a single person reading this who thinks that the money that the NRSC is spending on Lincoln Chafee’s special task force would not be better spent in Michigan?)

While Michigan continues to look the part of another Dole recruiting failure, on the issues, Bouchard will put up a fight.  Whether that will be enough remains to be seen.  For now, the incumbent is sittin’ pretty.  If she stumbles over the next few months, though, we have the type of candidate who can capitalize.

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