Michigan Republicans head to the polls on Tuesday to select Pete Hoekstra or Clark Durant as Democratic senator Debbie Stabenow's GOP challenger. Hoekstra, a former congressman, was far ahead of Durant in the most recent public poll, which was conducted the last week of July. But the same independent poll showed that Tea Partier Durant could actually pose a stronger challenge to Stabenow:
Durant has the ability to shave votes away from Stabenow in most of those [Democratic] bases. We attribute this to Durant's experience as the founder of Cornerstone Schools; a private faith based and charter school system in Detroit and Redford. This provides Durant with a platform to build upon in Southeastern Michigan, African-American voters and Urban Communities. Durant has cut into Stabenow's lead when compared to the Stabenow-Hoekstra matchup....
Our findings do suggest that Durant will present a more difficult match up for Senator Stabenow than Hoekstra, primarily due to the potential coalition of support he can generate in Democratic bases that Hoekstra cannot. Hoekstra also seems to suffer from an enthusiastic gap among Republican voters and Tea Party supporters when comparing the potential general election matchups.
The topline numbers show Durant and Hoekstra polling about the same in head-to-head match-ups with Stabenow. But Hoekstra is far more well known than Durant among the Michigan electorate, and Durant's ability to cut into Stabenow's core constituencies means he may be a more competitive candidate.
Durant has been hammering Hoekstra for the past week in TV ads and during a candidate debate as a Washington insider who voted for the Wall Street bailout. “If you’re going to defeat someone in politics, you have to offer a clear choice," Durant said in an interview earlier this year. "And like Debbie [Stabenow], Pete [Hoekstra] has voted for all of these increases in spending and debt—he’s tied into thousands of earmarks and the bridge to nowhere. So is Debbie,” says Durant. “Pete voted for the Wall Street bailout, and the people in Michigan do not think that is a very good idea—rewarding the irresponsible behavior of bankers with their money. Pete voted for that. Even Debbie didn’t vote for that.”
Durant heads into Tuesday's primary the underdog, but his campaign argues that he's been surging during the final week of the primary and is positioned to pull off an upset.