Democratic Rep. Gary Peters has been consistently ahead in polling over the past few months, gaining so much as a 15 percent lead over Republican challenger Terri Lynn Land at the end of October.
And if polling wasn’t enough, President Obama making his first and only campaign appearance on behalf of a Senate candidate this past weekend was also a telltale sign that Peters had the seat in the bag.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the race for the Senate seat in Michigan, vacated by retiring Sen. Carl Levin, has been decisively called for Peters.
Although voters in Michigan haven’t elected a Republican to the Senate in more than 20 years, early polling—and Land’s cash advantage—showed the race was very much in play in earlier months. After all, as a two-time secretary of state who was elected statewide by considerable margins, Land was a solid candidate.
So where/how did things fall apart for her? The Atlantic weighs in:
Bolstered by such spending and Obama’s sagging popularity, Republican candidates have remained competitive in other blue states. If they’ve missed an opportunity in Michigan, most blame Land, whose candidacy has ranged from awkward to bizarre. Two early missteps stand out. First, for her first ad, she faced the camera and said, “Congressman Gary Peters and his buddies want you to believe I’m waging a war on women. Really? Think about that for a moment.” Then there are 12 seconds of silence as Land sips from a coffee mug, shakes her head, and looks at her watch. Republican pollster Frank Luntz called it the worst ad of the year.
A few weeks later, when Land faced the press at a Chamber of Commerce conference, she froze up in the face of questions. Pushing away the microphones aimed in her direction, she said, “I can’t do this,” and fled. It’s a single substanceless gaffe from several months ago, but it has come to symbolize Land’s campaign, in part because she hasn’t given the media much else to report. Since that appearance, she has largely avoided the press and the public, relying instead on a heavy volume of television ads to get her message out. Unusually for a campaign underdog, Land has turned down several opportunities to debate Peters. “If you are a U.S. Senate candidate from Michigan, you should be able to stand in front of a crowd of citizens from this state and answer questions that are on their minds,” Peters told me. “She’s been unwilling to do that.”
Local observers note that Peters isn’t exactly Mr. Charisma, but Land’s missteps have given him an easy time.
Indeed, even in their endorsement of her, Crain’s Detroit Business acknowledged that Land’s campaign had far too many attack ads, far too little substance, and that she was just not the best on the stump. And as for her public appearances and availability to the press, she was dubbed the invisible Senate candidate who ran a Wizard of Oz-style campaign.