Editor's note: Vanguard Senior Vice President Jen Eyer joins a panel of political pundits to discuss fundraising and spending practices in the gubernatorial election.
Q. Gretchen Whitmer's campaign is currently attracting and spending significantly more money than Bill Schuette's campaign. What significance, if any, do such advantages suggest at this stage of the gubernatorial race?
Jen EYER, senior vice president of Vanguard Public Affairs, said Whitmer's funding spurt shows that she's being widely perceived as the likely winner.
"The large influx of donations into the Whitmer campaign in the final weeks is a clear indication that people believe she's going to win, and they want to get on the winning team before Election Day," Eyer said. "This influx ensures Whitmer can finish the campaign strong and firing on all four cylinders, while Schuette sputters to the finish line. For example, it's been reported that Schuette's campaign headquarters in Detroit has been empty and abandoned since at least last Wednesday. That's a sign of an ailing, anemic campaign."
Q. The Republicans have markedly increased their spending on two State Senate candidates –Rep. Laura COX (R-Livonia) in the 7th District and Sen. Margaret O'BRIEN (R-Portage) in the 20th. Could this be a sign that the GOP has reason to believe it is in danger of losing control of the Senate?
"Yes, the GOP knows that incumbent seats previously considered safe are now up for grabs, as voters are turning away from the party that wants to take away their healthcare," Eyer observed. "They're having to divert spending from less certain races now in order to shore up these incumbents, and that's a great thing for Democrats."
Q. A longstanding rule of thumb used to be that campaigns should open with positive messaging, go negative during the middle of the race and then return to positive messaging in the final weeks. Is there any evidence that anyone uses this strategy anymore?
Eyer asserted that it's difficult to be "warm and fuzzy" when it’s raining fire and brimstone.
"I think that (ending with a positive message) is still the conventional wisdom," Eyer said. "But in today's political climate, with so much toxic, inflammatory rhetoric being spewed daily by the president, and on right-wing radio, TV and websites, candidates and their advisors feel less tethered to such political norms than they did in the past."
Q. Are the candidate debate formats for Michigan's statewide offices accomplishing anything in terms of providing information to the voters? What could be done to make such debates more informative?
According to Eyer, better formats are needed and debating rules should be enforced.
"Make them actual debates, instead of an exercise in who can pivot to their talking points the fastest," Eyer said. "Use a real debate format, and have moderators enforce the rules. Call out candidates who refuse to answer the question and keep robotically repeating the same three phrases, like Schuette did in both debates against Whitmer . . . Have real debate coaches score the candidates afterward on who followed the format and made the best points, regardless of ideology."
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