By Zachary Gorchow
Executive Editor and Publisher
Posted: January 28, 2014 12:36 PM
Republican Governor Rick Snyder has had a strong few months politically, and it has made it difficult for his Democratic challenger, Mark Schauer, to get traction, especially with nine months to go until Election Day and most voters not paying attention.
Mr. Snyder pulled out to a lead in the polls in the fall, after months of being in a dead heat with Mr. Schauer, about the same time as his campaign – and even though he has not said he is running for re-election, there is no doubt he is campaigning – aired $1 million in ads touting his record. The governor also is getting good marks, so far, from voters for how he is handling the Detroit financial crisis and that could be a factor in the polls as well.
Meanwhile, Mr. Snyder has a big early campaign cash advantage on Mr. Schauer, whose decision to apply for state matching funds for the primary phase of the campaign (and the associated $2 million spending cap through August 5) prompted talk by Republicans that Democratic interests might shy away from helping him, fearing investing in an underdog candidate. If that came to pass, then Mr. Schauer certainly would be in trouble.
Well, that’s not coming to pass.
As Gongwer News Service reported, the Democratic Governors Association is making a major buy on Mr. Schauer’s behalf. It will total $1 million, and the ad features Mr. Schauer touting his resume and criticizing Mr. Snyder’s education record. Clearly, national Democrats are backing up their talk that they want to win this race.
The timing is significant. Mr. Snyder is set to air an ad this Sunday during Super Bowl XLVIII and has purchased some additional time on cable as well. With the governor already leading, allowing him another wave of unanswered advertising could have pushed his numbers up to a dangerous level for Democrats.
So this ad splurge will counter Mr. Snyder’s ads. Just as importantly, it will get Mr. Schauer’s name, face and story out to at least the Detroit and west Michigan markets (it is not yet clear if the DGA’s buy is statewide). Mr. Schauer’s biggest problem in the polls to this point has been his low statewide name identification.
A December poll from Public Policy Polling put Mr. Schauer’s favorability number at 15 percent and unfavorable number at 21 percent, meaning almost two-thirds of voters either didn’t recognize his name or didn’t know enough about him to form an opinion.
But if these ads are a major development in the race, then the round of polling that will come in the immediate aftermath will be even bigger. Mr. Schauer would get a perception boost for his case that he can beat Mr. Snyder if the numbers move at least somewhat in his direction and he gets a bump in his favorability rating.
If the ad has no effect, Mr. Schauer’s case will take a hit.