In the Michigan Senate race, Republican nominee John James remains a long shot against Democratic incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow. But he's an especially attractive candidate, and the most recent poll shows him just 9 points behind his overwhelmingly favored opponent.
What's going on here? Some might point to the fierce battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's nomination. But I think the candidate himself is the key here. As a small business owner who illustrates both the history and progress of the American dream, James is also a West Point and Harvard graduate and a combat veteran.
Although he branched into Army aviation as a helicopter pilot, James earned the Ranger infantry tab. Put simply, James is one impressive guy. And while defeating the Democratic incumbent in nominally blue Michigan will be an uphill struggle, James is not nearly as far behind as you'd expect, given the attention his race has gotten.
It's not just the polling data. Outlining growing GOP confidence in his potential, in the last fundraising cycle, James outraised Stabenow by a 2-to-1 ratio. But James' big moment will come on Sunday and Monday, when he faces his opponent in two debates. It's a critical opportunity for a sharp and accomplished candidate to show voters who he is and why he deserves their support.
And it's clear the Stabenow campaign is growing increasingly concerned. Their focus has shifted away from broad appeals to Michigan voters and toward a narrative that the Republican Party wants to penalize Americans with pre-existing health conditions. It's a basic fear strategy, devoid of factual foundation, but one they hope will be enough to shut down James' lead.
And with Kid Rock due to campaign for James next week, the Democrats want to blunt James' rise before he can catalyze it. James finished very strongly in his primary, after trailing his main GOP opponent for most of the race, and he'd like to pull off a similar feat next month.
Maybe I'm wrong, but this is a late race to watch. James has a compelling story and the charisma to tell it. If he can close the gap by a few more points next week, people might start giving this one the attention it deserves.