Whitmer’s race moves from ‘toss up’ to ‘lean Democrat’

The non-partisan election handicapper Cook Political Report moved the Michigan governor’s race from “toss-up” to “lean Democrat” almost a week before the GOP chooses its nominee to take on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

The Republican primary has been chaotic with five candidates, including two of the frontrunners, being removed from the ballot after the state Bureau of Elections found their petitions to get on the ballot included false signatures. 

Ryan Kelley, who then emerged as the leading candidate remaining in the race, was arrested for allegedly being present on the grounds of the Capitol during the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. Kelley pleaded not guilty to four misdemeanor charges earlier this month but his poll numbers have since fallen. 

Jessica Taylor, Cook’s Senate and governors editor, said in her analysis of the move that the Republican primary has been a “three-ring circus” while Whitmer has accumulated impressive fundraising numbers and a high approval rating despite President Biden’s unpopularity. 

Taylor said Cook rarely would shift a race’s rating right before a primary, but Whitmer’s advantage is clear and she would have an advantage regardless of her opponennt..

A Detroit News poll from earlier this month showed Whitmer ahead of multiple potential GOP competitors by double digits. The RealClearPolitics polling average shows former news anchor Tudor Dixon as leading the Republican primary. 

Whitmer rose to national prominence but became a polarizing figure during the COVID-19 pandemic, when she implemented strict measures to limit the spread of the virus and became a leading voice advocating for such steps.

The Michigan governor’s race has emerged as a rare bright spot for Democrats amid an otherwise gloomy midterm landscape.