What (Not Counting The No-Fault Deal) Is The Biggest Surprise of 2019 So Far?

Editor's Note: Believe it or not, more than half of 2019 is already in the history books. What’s more, the past six months have been anything but ho-hum. The agreement to revamp Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system was a major development that few would have bet on happening beforehand. So, crossing that off the list of entrants, what “other” unexpected occurrence stands out as the most surprising? MIRS asked a panel of political pundits for their opinions on that question. MIRS also asked a bit of a teaser on the budget and road funding just to make sure those somewhat consequential items don’t get forgotten. In addition, we added a couple of questions concerning the future of U.S. Rep. Justin AMASH (I-Cascade) and the West Michigan district he currently represents.

Q – Now that we’re six months into 2019, what (aside from the no-fault insurance deal) do you consider to be the biggest surprise in state politics?”

“For me, Attorney General Dana NESSEL coming out of the gate strong as she has politically and policy wise was something I did not necessarily expect,” said T.J. BUCHOLZ president of Vanguard Public Affairs. “Clearly, she’s making her mark among Democrats who had initial doubts about her tenure as AG, especially progressives who value her positions to protect both members of the LGBTQ community and the water quality of the Great Lakes, something enviros certainly admire.” “She’s become the standard bearer for the left of her party at the moment and in the era we live in, that’s something that can’t be easily dismissed,” Bucholz added. “I think Republicans are attacking her harder in fundraising emails than they are the Governor. I think that speaks to the danger she poses to their conservative, right wing agenda.”

Would you be surprised if the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the GOP-controlled legislature reach a budget and road-funding agreement by Sept. 1?

Bucholz says it won’t surprise him a bit to see the talks grind on well beyond Labor Day. “I think an agreement will come very late in the game with the GOP trying to jam the Governor into taking a bad deal that will try and get her to compromise her stated priorities,” Bucholz said. “Republicans would prefer - for example - to turn the teacher pension fund into a 401k system and the Governor is stating she’s unwilling to make that move. How those priorities stay intact in the budget negotiation process is the million-dollar question. I think, at the end of the day, the Governor has a steel spine and I wouldn’t take her to the wall on the issues she says are important to her administration. She has a breaking point on her patience, and I think she’s already up against it now.”

Q – What’s likely to be next for Justin Amash? Will he run as a Libertarian for his current Congressional seat? Will he try to be the Libertarian presidential candidate nationally? Will he decide to never run for elective office again? Or. . . what else might he do?

Bucholz sees Amash as a top tier Libertarian. “Amash will run as a Libertarian moving forward for the rest of his career,” Bucholz said. “He basically severed any remainder of a relationship with the GOP with his Fourth of July announcement and will work hard to become the titular head of the Libertarian Party nationally. He definitely runs for President in 2020. And that’s a gamble that could pay off for him - he has good name ID in his district and the profile he might amass by distancing himself from President Donald TRUMP could resonate among voters.” “I don’t think this move is that big of a risk for him,” Bucholz added. “At the end of the day, he could end up leading a movement in this country for conservatives that don’t care for Trump. If he loses, opportunities abound for him. I think it’s interesting politics, to say the least.” Forsmark foresees him running for President.

Q – Now that Amash has brought so much attention Michigan’s 3rd Congressional district, will President Trump end up making an endorsement in the district’s GOP primary race?

Bucholz said Trump may or may not endorse – and either way the story behind what takes place could be fascinating. “The GOP will put a good candidate up in the Michigan 3rd - I’d put my chips on the Peter MEIJER square at the moment, but whoever the GOP candidate is will also need to grapple with a Trump endorsement,” Bucholz said. “The President loathes Amash at this point and will endorse a hair dryer if it helps guarantee a GOP hold on the seat. And that’s the tricky part here - Republicans are going to need to carefully gauge how Trump resonates in the 3rd - it may not be beneficial for a potential candidate. The answer to that question will dictate the political response. I’m not sure Dems can carry the seat in the next cycle, but these political machinations have made a ho-hum seat very interesting nationally and has turned into a canary in a coal mine moment for the President, who is struggling in polling here in Michigan.”

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