The next decisive battles for the soul of the country will take place in Michigan and Ohio, again
One big reason Republicans want to wait three years before actually passing an Obamacare replacement is that they have a real chance of putting together a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate come 2018. That and they no motherpupping idea how to replace Obamacare.
To make this wet dream come true, the GOP will have to take out two of the best incumbents in the upper house — Debbie Stabenow and Sherrod Brown.
And that’s the plan.
A new group that may be lead by Trump’s Anne Sullivan — Kellyanne Conway — is planning on targeting 10 “vulnerable” senators, including Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow, pressuring them to support the new president’s appointments and agenda.
“The Trump group could potentially target each senator by mobilizing followers to call their offices or target the lawmakers on Twitter, Facebook and other social-media platforms,” the Washington Post reports. “Hand-picked leaders in each of the counties Trump won across the country could also apply more direct pressure by calling state or district offices.”
All of this is just building up a case and movement for the 2018 elections.
Michigan hasn’t sent a Republican to the U.S. Senate since 1994. Trump’s narrow victory in the state should give them some new hope, though he was blown over the finish line with the help of the cool breeze of 5 percent of state voters picking a third-party candidate or not voting in the presidential race at all.
So Senator Stabenow begins 2017 on a balance beam.
She can’t write off the 2,279,543 Michiganders who voted for Trump yet she also has to represent her 2,268,839 constituents who voted for Clinton, whom she backed and aligned with on nearly every issue.
The success of the strategy she chooses will tell us a lot about Democrats’ hopes for competing in the state in 2020 or whether a better path to 270 lies in more diverse states like Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia.
As we learned in our interview with Rep. Debbie Dingell last month, state Democrats will likely feel obliged to work with Trump on at least one issue — trade. Even the United Automobile Workers have backed Trump’s call to renegotiate NAFTA, despit it’s being obvious that the new president’s agenda includes decimating what’s left of the labor movement.
On the day after the election, Senator Stabenow told CNN that she would work with Trump if he would embrace her Bring Jobs Home Act. And if Trump’s grandstanding on outsourcing is backed by some decent legislation, she’ll likely back it — possibly even bigly.
“But if he wants to just divide people in our country or keep the system rigged for the wealthy and the well-connected, count us out,” she told NPR.
Given Trump’s win, Stabenow will likely not be blessed with a hapless opponent, as Senator Gary Peters was with Terri Lynn Land in 2014.
“You’ll know Stabenow isn’t a top-tier target if Republicans end up with placeholder-type nominees like former House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) or Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive), who Michigan voters couldn’t pick out of a police lineup,” Eclectablogger Susan J. Demas wrote.
If Stabenow is able to shake off a strong opponent, we’ll be able to focus on Ohio, which could end up being the most interesting and expensive race in the nation.
When Josh Mandel lost to Senator Sherrod Brown by 6 points in 2012, he never stopped running. It’s not even 2017 but Ohio’s boyish State Treasurer is already declared his intention take on Brown again in a 2018 rematch.
The Senate Conservative Fund and Marco Rubio have already endorsed him and he’ll likely be backed by the more than $30 million in outside spending he had on his side last time. But he’ll still be Josh Mandel — a transparently opportunistic boilerplate conservative who opposed the auto rescue and backs big cuts to future Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries, like you.
If Mandel survives the primary, he’ll face an incumbent with an authentic appeal to workers and progressives that makes him the Democrat most likely to survive an off-year election in a Midwestern state that’s trending red.
The seat is crucial for the GOP’s plans but defeating that seat’s occupant may be even more crucial for the party, which is why you may see a much more adept Republican than Mandel — possibly even Ohio governor John Kasich, whom conservatives may be trying to box out with their early Mandel endorsements — enter the race.
Because if Brown can win Ohio two years after Democrats lost the state by 8 percent, he’d be a helluva position to take on Donald Trump in 2020.
[Photo of Senator Stabenow by the great Anne Savage.]