Failed “Trump-Lite” Senate Candidate John James Faces Steep Uphill Climb in Michigan

Disarray” among Republicans and Trump deeply underwater with Michigan voters while Gary Peters has been “preparing early” to win a second term

After losing by a significant margin in 2018, questions raised about how Republican Senate candidate John James will do any better in 2020

Fresh off a 6.5-point statewide loss last year, failed GOP candidate John James decided to launch another campaign for Senate yesterday — an announcement that was rightly met with skepticism.

This week, there was “disarray” among Republicans following reports that President Trump’s re-election campaign went so far as to compose a memo describing how James running for Senate would hurt the president’s 2020 prospects. And reports have noted the difficult political environment for Republicans in Michigan this cycle and Senator Peters’ experience winning tough races in tough years as he prepares early to win another term. After his last loss, James was also caught trying to scrub his social media accounts of hundreds of posts – undermining his campaign message on day one and demonstrating exactly why Michiganders have no reason to trust him.

Read more:

  • POLITICO: “James’s decision comes in the face of opposition from the Trump campaign. In recent weeks, Trump campaign officials told the National Republican Senatorial Committee that a James Senate bid would amp up Democratic engagement, investment, and turnout in Michigan — and hence hurt the president’s prospects in the state. At one point, the reelection campaign composed a memo describing how a James Senate bid would impact Trump.”
  • Washington Post (The Trailer): “…Peters starts with advantages. James’s own description of his race gets at one of them: Unlike 2018, when he ran as a Trump ally in the primary and pivoted toward the center, he’ll be tied closely to the president in 2020. The vice president and Donald Trump Jr. stumped for James in 2018, but the president only tweeted his support, something Democrats saw as a tell; James wasn’t getting an 11th-hour appearance with the president because the president himself was not an asset at the time. The James 2.0 candidacy will be threading a ‘change’ argument through a campaign to reelect a president who’s not very popular in Michigan… [The Peters campaign] also emphasized today that he was a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve, hinting at how it would respond to any Republican focus on James’s military service.”
  • MLive: “It’s not clear that James would be able to bring Trump new voters, said Michigan political analyst and former Republican state legislator Bill Ballenger. ‘James is a Trump Republican, he touts his connection to Trump,’ Ballenger said. ‘If you don’t like Trump and you’re an independent or moderate Republican, in Southeast Michigan or anywhere, why would you be so motivated to vote for Trump-lite when you’re not going to get out and vote for the real thing?’”
  • Detroit News: “Three years after he became the first Republican to win the state since 1988, fewer than 36% percent of Michigan voters say they would vote to re-elect Trump, compared with more than 51% who said they plan to vote for someone new… ‘What we saw in Michigan in 2016 wasn’t this giant surge of Trump voters — it was an absolute apathy on behalf of independents and leaning Democrats to vote,’ [pollster Richard Czuba] said. ‘We’re seeing the exact opposite heading into 2020.’”
  • Morning Consult: “Since Trump took office, his net approval in Michigan has decreased by 20 percentage points.”
  • @ChadLivengood: “You almost beat Debbie Stabenow, a three-term incumbent,” @foxandfriends co-host Brian Kilmeade tells @JohnJamesMI in congratulating him on running for the U.S. Senate again. Almost? James lost to @SenStabenow by 275,660 votes or 6.5 percentage points.”
  • National Journal: “James starts out as an underdog to Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, who should benefit from the top of the ticket in a state that has voted Republican in the presidential race just once (2016) since 1988.”
  • POLITICO: “Peters campaign has been preparing early for a battleground race, and was ready for James to run. In a memo earlier this week, campaign manager Dan Farough highlighted Peters’ previous victories in difficult electoral climates, including his double-digit win in 2014, a year when Republicans gained 9 Senate seats. Peters raised $1.9 million in the first quarter of this year and has $3 million in cash on hand at the end of March.”
  • @dwallbank: “Peters won by like 13 points six years ago and John James just lost a statewide race. So knowing all that, what’s the plan to make up the gaps?”
  • Daily Kos: James is “very much in for a difficult race… the senator has experience winning tough contests… And that’s ultimately why Peters remains the favorite: He can win even if Trump does well. James, on the other hand, needs another strong Trump performance to have a shot at unseating the incumbent. But if Michigan once again goes blue, then it will be extremely difficult for James, who said during his last campaign that he backed the administration ‘2,000%,’ to keep from getting swamped.”


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