Democratic enthusiasm, lack of clear message contributed to Bill Schuette's loss

Editor's note: Vanguard President and CEO TJ Bucholz comments on messaging issues in Bill Schuette's failed gubernatorial campaign.

It wasn't a foregone conclusion that Whitmer would win going into the general election cycle, said John Clark, a political science professor at Western Michigan University.

But Schuette had a much harder time transitioning from the primary to the general than Whitmer did, Clark said, and that coupled with widespread Democratic enthusiasm in the midterms worked against Schuette's chances.

"I just don't think he was able to get much traction once the primary was over," Clark said. "He just didn't seem to be very effective at making the transition from the primary to general."

After facing months of attack ads in the primary, polls showed Schuette with a high unfavorability rating that didn't let up as the election drew closer.

Part of Schuette's problem was a lack of a focused message for voters, said TJ Bucholz of Lansing-based firm Vanguard Public Affairs. Schuette spent considerable time attacking Whitmer's record and comparing her to former Governor Jennifer Granholm without fully developing his own policies, Bucholz said: "He talked about this 'paycheck agenda' but never really brought that to light."

"In a state like Michigan, you know, in an open seat like this, people don't want to hear what you don't like about your opponent, they want to hear about your plan," Bucholz said. "His plan for roads was, 'Trust me, I'll solve it when I'm governor.' She had a plan for how she was going to do that."

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