May 3, 2005


Butler's Chances: Black Minister From Detroit May Prove To Be A GOP Exception (Charlie Cook, May 3, 2005, National Journal)

[I] admit that I scoffed when I first heard that Keith Butler, a black minister from Detroit, was seeking the Republican Senate nomination in Michigan to oppose Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. But, as better known and more established Republicans like Reps. Candice Miller and Mike Rogers decided not to jump into the fray, I started hearing more about Butler. [...]

I sat down with Butler in mid-April and came away suspecting that he could give Stabenow, a freshman, a run for the money.

Stabenow was elected in 2000, beating Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham, 49-48 percent. While taking out an incumbent senator is rarely easy, Abraham had spent the first two-thirds of his term focused on Washington and spending time with his family. While he launched a full-court re-election press during the last two years leading up to the election, he could not undo the damage caused by being largely absent from the state for the first four years.

Stabenow waged a problematic campaign that missed its share of opportunities to break the race open and win by a larger margin.

Instead, she eked out a 67,000-vote win with more than 3 million ballots cast, even as former Vice President Al Gore scored a more comfortable 5-point margin over George W. Bush.

Michigan certainly tilts Democratic -- witness Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's 3-point win over Bush last year -- but the state can be competitive, especially for statewide office.

Another factor that might play to Butler's advantage is that recent polls indicate Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's once sky-high popularity has fallen substantially, and she appears to have big political problems in heavily black Detroit. The possibility that Democrats might come out of Detroit with diminished margins before heading into more Republican suburbs, small town and rural areas would pose a severe challenge to both Granholm and Stabenow.

The point of all of this is not to say that Butler will beat Stabenow next year, or even that he will be the GOP nominee. The point is that Butler might prove to be a much more serious challenger to Stabenow than a more traditional Republican candidate.

One nice thing for The Reverend Mr. Butler is that the party's aspirants for the '08 presidential nomination can reap huge benefits by helping him out and MI is prime territory for the national Party generally--a blue state that shouldn't be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 3, 2005 9:53 AM


Too much of the state is on the take from the UAW welfare state for it to be any better than marginally blue, but I have a couple of contacts in MI who have heard Butler recently, didn't know much about him before, but came away fired up.

Posted by: Dan at May 3, 2005 10:08 AM

Yes, but the auto industry will be gone soon.

Posted by: oj at May 3, 2005 10:11 AM

--Michigan certainly tilts Democratic -- witness Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's 3-point win over Bush last year -- but the state can be competitive, especially for statewide office.---

Of course it does. Detroit tilts, but as GM goes, so does Detroit.

Posted by: Sandy P. at May 3, 2005 11:23 AM

oj. Too true.

My husband is a retired CPA with a small tax preparation practice in a Florida retirement community. We were amazed by the kind of pensions, health insurance and other perks, including new cars at cost, ordinary blue collar workers from the auto industry are getting. It's hardly surprising the auto industry is dying.

Chalk up another kill for the unions.

Posted by: erp at May 3, 2005 11:59 AM

When I first began following the Senate races closely (beginning in 2000) Cook was held up as the political pundit/handicapper. But I found him to be just another inside the beltway conenvential wisdom type. The fact that he sounds incredulous at a black GOPer seeking a senate seat with a strong religous background shows he's a bit out of touch.

Posted by: AWW at May 3, 2005 1:31 PM

Dan has it pegged, the UAW machine, combined with the Teacher's unions and Conyers' stranglehold on Detroit's black political machine and a state full of women who vote for women just because they're women means Stabenow is re-elected unless she does something stupid like vote for gun control. As fear of terrorism fades so will the hope of the GOP in Florida. Candice Miller might have a shot, but they're saving her for a run against Governor Barbie. IF GM goes away (and it won't be in two years), the UAW sheep become welfare sheep bitter at the incumbent president who didn't save their jobs, which makes them even more determined to vote Republican.

God I hope I'mwrong.

Posted by: MarkD at May 3, 2005 7:04 PM