The stars are aligning for one of the most consequential elections in the nation's history, and Michigan could well be ground zero.
:::cue "Also sprach Zarathustra," aka the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey":::
As the year dawns, powerful forces will be at work to secure or deny a second term for President Donald Trump. And Michigan has a U.S. Senate seat in play, with incumbent Sen. Gary Peters facing a serious challenge from Republican John James.
All of it adds up to 11 months during which Michigan will be in the national political spotlight. Or, to put it another way: If you haven't yet been to a Trump rally, you'll get your chance in 2020.
The Free Press rolled out a feature today pointing all this out. What's at stake? A lot:
Those elections will help shape decisions over access to health care, climate change, tax policy, the economy, immigration and U.S. relations with foreign powers, including Iran and North Korea. The people elected will manage or exacerbate a growing federal deficit. They will confirm Supreme Court justices who will decide questions about abortion, gun ownership, freedom of speech and expression. They will decide whether supermajorities will continue to be needed to pass legislation in the Senate. They will make policies affecting poor families, college students, automakers and business owners.
They could decide how to react to an economic slowdown if, as some experts believe, one is on the way. And they could be asked to respond to a foreign war or a nuclear threat to the U.S. or its allies.
Meanwhile, in The News, a new poll shows Peters leading James in the Senate race, but not by much:
Peters, who is finishing his first term, is ahead of James 44% to 40% in a Glengariff Group poll of 600 likely Michigan voters that was provided to The Detroit News. About 16% of voters are undecided in a race that is expected to receive national attention since Peters is one of two senators running in states that President Donald Trump won in 2016.
The close race is "fairly typical for a first-term senator running for re-election," said Richard Czuba, pollster and founder of Lansing-based Glengariff Group.
"It's always the most difficult re-election that a U.S. senator tends to get," Czuba said. "This is not unexpected."
The tightness of the margin led the Peters camp to send out a fundraising email yesterday with a now-or-never tone:
Friend, this is bad: Despite unprecedented support for our campaign in Michigan, my opponent just announced he has broken fundraising records and outraised us for the second straight reporting period. This is all thanks to Donald Trump funneling MILLIONS into Michigan to defeat me and buy this seat to expand Mitch McConnell’s majority in the Senate.
They know that Democrats have ZERO chance of taking back the Senate if we lose in Michigan. And now, a recent poll shows me statistically tied with my right-wing opponent.
Other aspects of that Glengariff poll are worth noting. One shows that Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg at the Democratic candidates with the best chance of beating Trump in November. Biden leads the incumbent by 7 percentage points, 50 to 43 percent, and Bloomberg has a 6-point lead on Trump, 47 to 41 percent.
Of course, most fundraising strikes such a tone. But the overall point is sound: With the Senate up for grabs and a president willing to scorch the earth in pursuit of a second term, this will be an interesting place.