Sabato's Crystal Ball

Michigan Races

House Outlook for 2008

Will the GOP Swing the Pendulum Back?

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Michigan (07)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


May 28, 2008 Update:

The stage is pretty much set for a showdown between Rep. Tim Walberg and Democratic state senator Mark Schauer. Although Schauer technically still has to face 2006 Democratic nominee Sharon Renier in a September primary, he has $750,000 cash on hand to her $45, all but assuring himself the lead role this fall. Schauer has even outshone Walberg with regards to fundraising, as the incumbent Republican has just $600,000 in his coffers. This is shaping up to be a blockbuster showdown that will keep Wolverine State voters on the edge of their seats until the curtain falls in November.


Background

Last cycle, Representative Tim Walberg was the poster-child for the conservative Club for Growth by knocking off the more moderate Rep. Joe Schwartz in a heated primary. This year, however, the Club must play defense as Walberg’s razor-thin general election victory has lured a bevy of potential challengers.

Foremost among the announced candidates is state senate minority leader Mark Schauer whose entrance cleared an otherwise crowded field. Considering the 2006 Democratic nominee, Sharon Renier, spent only $56K to come within four percent of Walberg, Schauer’s fundraising has been impressive. His $355K in the fourth quarter, strong for any challenger, doubles the feeble $153K of the incumbent. While Schauer is likely the Democrat’s best possible candidate, he will have to struggle against the conservative tilt of the district. Perhaps the biggest x-factor in the race is ex-Rep Joe Schwartz who has yet to signal his intentions to run as a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, but with passing time, his entrance grows more unlikely.

Candidates

Mark Schauer – Democrat – state senator
Website

Tim Walberg (I) – Republican – current Congressman
Website

Sharon Renier – Democrat – 2006 Democratic nominee
Website

Michigan (09)

Outlook: Leans Republican


May 28, 2008 Update:

This race got even more interesting in March, when former doctor and assisted-suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian announced he would throw his hat into the ring as an Independent. Although Kevorkian has no realistic chance of winning, he could still have an effect on what is shaping up to be a very competitive race. Democrats have chosen former state senator and lottery commissioner Gary Peters as their candidate to take on Republican Rep. Joe Knollenberg who won an eighth term in 2006 with just a six percent margin, despite outspending his opponent nearly 10 to 1.

Knollenberg spent over $3 million last cycle and seems prepared to repeat that pace if necessary, already having raised $1.3 million. Although Peters isn’t quite at that level, his $650,000 shows he means business. Even though the race just picked up a celebrity candidate, Kevorkian, for once, is unlikely to be the center of attention for long.


Background

In 2006, Democrat Nancy Skinner surprised political observers by coming within 15,000 votes of defeating seven-term congressman Joe Knollenberg. This year, Skinner will have another shot, provided she can overcome a tough primary against former lottery commissioner Gary Peters who has the endorsement of the DCCC and the national establishment.

Knollenberg, however, is taking the challenge more seriously this time. He is among the most prolific Republican fundraisers, raising more than $1.45 million in 2007 and expecting to spend at least $4 million on the race, all told. For Democrats to pull the upset, they must avoid a costly primary, and keep pace with Knollenberg’s impressive fundraising. Both goals present big question marks over the coming months.

Candidates

Gary Peters – Democrat – state Lottery Commissioner, former state senator
Website

Joe Knollenberg (I) – Republican – current Congressman
Website

Jack Kevorkian – Independent – assisted-suicide advocate