Grand Rapids, MI: John James, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Michigan, is looking to pull off a come-from-behind upset over incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.
Mr. James, a 37-year-old West Point graduate and decorated veteran from Operation Iraqi Freedom, has narrowed his deficit from the high-teens to a 6-point race with just 8 days left before the 2018 midterm elections.
(Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakingly identified Mr. James as 41. He is 37, not 41).
Closing that gap against the three-term senior senator from Michigan is no doubt a heavy lift. But Mr. James was brimming with confidence in front of a crowd of 2000-plus at the DeltaPlex Arena in Grand Rapids Monday night.
He had good reason to be, with support from a couple GOP heavyweights. The Lincoln Day event was hosted by the Kent County GOP, at which they presented Peter F. Secchia with the Honoring Lifetime Achievement Award.
Senator David Perdue, R-Ga., introduced Mr. James to a raucous ovation that included chants of “John James” and “Let’s Fly”, a play on the candidate’s rallying cry of “Let’s Fly Michigan.” Mr. James was backed up by Vice President Mike Pence, whom he introduced following a strong 25 minute campaign speech with the conviction of delivery rarely heard from 1st time politician.
Even to the casual observer, Mr. James has immense potential on the political scene, regardless the outcome of this, his first campaign. Besides being photogenic at the GQ level, he has podium presence well beyond his years and the poise to casually chat with a couple dozen plus selfie seekers after the event was well over.
Make no mistake, this was not a Trump Rally, but clearly the White House and Republican strategists at the national level view this race, as a potential upset special beyond the five democrat held Senate seats already in their crosshairs that include Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana and Montana.
Michigan hasn’t elected a Republican senator since Spencer Abraham served only one term from 1994 to 2000.
Ironically, he lost his reelection campaign in 2000 to — you guessed it — Debbie Stabenow, after having a 10-point lead in the polls during mid October that year. Yes, political upsets do happen in Michigan, just ask President Trump.
He won the state by 12,000 votes in 2016, the first Republican presidential candidate to carry The Great Lake State since 1988.
UPDATE: After revisiting the state of the race, which includes recent public and private polling shows Mr. James quickly closing the gap, the PPD U.S. Senate Election Projection Model revised its projection in the The Wolverine State. The projection is now Leans Democrat, down from Likely Democrat.
Worth noting, candidates strength — a variable used by the projection model including articulation, ideology, fundraising prowess etc — has always been a strong variable for Mr. James. But candidates have to get their message out to capitalize on some of those strengths. For Mr. James, late is definitely better than never. Win or lose, we and others should expect him to be a prominent future voice for the Republican Party.