WEDNESDAY, Nov. 18 — Former Congressman Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, could have retaken the 8th Congressional District seat this month had he chosen to take on U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, said pollster Steve Mitchell at an election recap forum this afternoon.
Slotkin won reelection by 15,397 votes over underfunded Republican opponent Paul Junge. But had Bishop — who combined with Slotkin to attract a record $28.3 million in spending in 2018 — had gotten in, Mitchell told the Institute of Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State that he had "no doubt" that Bishop would have had the money and profile to win.
Slotkin beat Bishop in 2018 by 13,098 votes in 2018.
As it was, Slotkin spent $6.1 million of her campaign treasurer on the 2020 race against Junge as of mid-October and had another $2.54 million in the bank. Junge was only able to spend $1.33 million by mid-October and had $384,101 left to spend in the campaign's closing days.
But unlike 2018, the party's caucus PACs didn't get involved in the Slotkin-Junge race, limiting the Republicans' ability to expand his name of profile.
While he didn't comment on Mitchell's point, IPPSR Director Matt Grossman told forum attendees that Slotkin overperformed Joe Biden in the 8th Congressional District by 2,043 votes, overperforming the Democratic presidential nominee, particularly in rural areas.
So while President Donald Trump narrowly won the 8th District over Biden, Slotkin won, particularly in rural areas. It's a sign, Grossman said, that she has "developed an independent reputation."
Other highlights from the forum, which will be posted on the IPPSR webpage later this week, include:
— Mitchell proclaimed that just as Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 race, Trump lost the 2020 race.
"Without the coronavirus, Trump would have won by a landslide, both in the popular vote and the Electoral College vote," Mitchell said. "It turned out to be a big problem for him."
Also, had Trump had a better first debate or the second debate had taken place Oct. 13 as previously planned, Mitchell said Trump would have won. By the time the Oct. 22 debate took place, which many observers concede Trump won, too many absentee voters had already turned in their ballot
— The president did improve his support with African Americans in this election, as well, in 2016, Trump lost among Black voters 92% to 6%. This go around, he received 9% support from Black voters and 12% among Black men.
— As a whole, the George Floyd death turned out to be a net negative for Democrats, Mitchell said. Exit polling data showed the "defund the police" message and continuous riots galvanized support behind Trump's "law and order" message once the vocal protests seemed to the public to go too far and for too long.
— Grossman pointed out how unusual it was for the Democrats to win the presidency but lose seats in the U.S. House. He said, traditionally, the party that wins the White House wins congressional seats. In 2020, Republicans netted at least nine seats in the U.S. House.
— Michigan had a record 5.5 million voters participate in the 2020 election, but the turnout did not help Democrats as expected, Grossman said.
Research from the Capitol news service MIRS found that counties with high Republican base totals like Livingston (79.48%), Ottawa (76.76%) and rural counties like Newaygo (76.5%) had better turnout percentages than traditional Democratic counties like Wayne (62.44%), Genesee (65.68%) or Saginaw (66.31%).
(Kyle Melinn of the. Capitol news service MIRS is email@example.com. He writes a column weekly for City Pulse.)