In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Is Michigan's GOP Gov Ducking His Party's Struggling Senate Candidate?


Land's campaign has lost some steam after an initially strong showing against Democratic candidate Rep. Gary Peters. She trails Peters by an 1.8 percentage points, according to TPM's PollTracker average, a reversal of Land's lead at the start of the year. Snyder, for his part, was widely viewed as a favorite for re-election, but his race against former Rep. Mark Schauer has also tightened. He holds a 2.5 percentage-point lead, per PollTracker, down from a nearly 10-point lead he had a few months ago.

Snyder and Land are categorically different political beasts, Ballenger said, which might help explain the perceived distance between their campaigns. She has been a party insider since college, most recently serving as the Michigan representative for the Republican National Committee. Snyder, however, prides himself on his "one tough nerd" persona and political outsider status -- governor is the first elected office he's held.

They also never served in state government together. Land left her secretary of state post just as Snyder became governor and had actually run for lieutenant governor on a ticket with one of Snyder's 2010 GOP primary opponents, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, who placed fourth out of five candidates.

Within that context, a tightening race for Snyder would give him even "less incentive" to appear alongside Land, Michael Traugott, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, told TPM.

"He's still trying to maintain the impression of a relatively independent Republican, so I'm not really surprised that he hasn't jumped into the Senate campaign," he said. "Especially because of concerns about the strength of her candidacy. He's been quite cautious about trying to organize some kind of unified Republican campaign."

National Journal documented last week the growing GOP concerns about the Land candidacy. She's developed a reputation within the media as a policy-lite candidate who ducks tough questions. Questions have been raised about her campaign financing. A number of in-state political observers, including Ballenger, believe she is effectively banking on a national Republican wave to carry her into the Senate by keeping a low profile, repeating the general GOP talking points and not taking risky policy positions.

That, again, runs counters to the Snyder approach. He seems consciously disinterested in partisan messaging and has so far mostly eschewed traditional campaigning. So Ballenger said that he was unsurprised that the Land campaign seemed more eager to draw connections between the two, while Snyder's people did not want to comment on the campaigns' relationship.

"If you ask the two campaigns, 'How are you getting along, are you going to do things together?,' you can imagine Land and her campaign are going to be forthcoming than Snyder because they're talking about politics," Ballenger said. "Snyder and his people, they're not going to say anything."

"Land obviously realizes, 'I want to give the impression to everybody that the governor and I get along fine.' There's an upside for her," he continued. "For him, I think you could ask: why would Snyder want to associate himself with her?"