Detroit News Comes to Its Senses, Endorses GOP’s John James After Once Supporting His Opponent

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In a reversal of the paper’s 2014 endorsement of Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, The Detroit News has endorsed GOP candidate John James in a senate race that’s tighter than many had anticipated.

James, who would become the second black Republican in the upper chamber if elected, was hailed for his military service as well as his experience in the private sector in the Thursday editorial.

“This is the right moment for John James,” the board wrote in its endorsement of James, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

“He is waging his campaign at a time when America is trying to work through its long history of racial animus. As an African American, a conservative, and a Republican, James would add an important perspective to policy-making aimed at vanquishing racial inequity.”

“Peters is one of 73 white males in the Senate. It’s a demographic that’s well represented,” the editorial board wrote.

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“Clearly, the Senate would benefit from more Black voices as it addresses this national crisis, as would the Republican Party. The GOP can’t survive as a whites-only institution. Nor can the racial divide close if only one party represents the interests of Black Americans.”

While considered the more conservative of Detroit’s two major newspapers, the paper doesn’t make endorsements based on party. It backed Peters in 2014 against Terri Lynn Land, hailing Peters’ bipartisanship while faulting Land for running a poor campaign.

However, the paper said in its endorsement of James that Peters “has been a predictable vote for the Democratic leadership, offering little to set himself apart,” noting “he has backed the Democratic Senate leadership on nearly every key vote in his first term, including opposing three well-qualified Supreme Court nominees. He cannot be counted on to check his party’s worst ambitions.”

Will John James win in Michigan?

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“Michigan would gain increased influence and better representation for its people in the U.S. Senate by electing John James. It would also send to the Senate a natural leader who could well become one of the chamber’s most powerful members,” the paper wrote.

“Leadership is in James’ DNA. He helped lead his family’s successful auto supply business. As an Army Ranger pilot, he led soldiers in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom. And he promises to become a leader of the Senate, while bringing to the body the unique perspective of a Black Republican.”

The editorial board also touted James’ private-sector experience, writing that the candidate “understands the impact COVID-19 has had on the nation’s industrial base, and what it will take to recover.”

“We believe John James has the potential to become an influential senator who, while putting Michigan first, will also speak for a group of Americans who are greatly underrepresented in the Senate.”

The paper endorsed James in his 2018 run against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. That race was never anywhere near as close in terms of polling as the 2020 race was; Stabenow held a 16-point lead in the Real Clear Politics polling average as late as Oct. 23, 2018, and still held an 8.3 point lead on Election Day. (She won by 6.5 points.)

This time, the polls are significantly closer. While briefly in the double digits, Peters’ lead hovered between 7 and 10 percentage points until late August, when it dropped precipitously to below 4 points. It’s currently at 5.2 points and rated a toss-up by Real Clear Politics.

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At least one pollster, however, shows James in a statistical tie with Peters.

The Trafalgar poll, conducted between Oct. 15 and 18 among 1,034 likely Michigan voters, has a margin of error of +/- 2.97 percentage points.

There are a few reasons for the closer polls. Peters isn’t as well-established of a political brand as Stabenow is and 2018 was a banner year for Democrats in midterm races, while 2020 will likely see a more balanced electorate due to Michigan’s importance as a battleground state.

In addition, the Free Beacon cited sources within the community who said “that enthusiasm for Peters’s campaign has been lackluster among [Detroit’s] African-American voters, a key demographic that composes nearly 80 percent of the city’s population.”

James has also been able to keep fundraising close in an expensive race, raising $33 million to Peters’ $35 million.

Whatever the case may be, The News’ endorsement is a lift for James, who hailed the decision.

“It is an honor to have the endorsement of one of Michigan’s most prestigious and well-read publications,” James said in a news release on his campaign’s website.

“Our state and nation are currently at a crossroads, and Michigan has the choice between a combat veteran or a career politician, a war fighter or a gaslighter. It’s time for Michigan to have effective leadership in the Senate where no voice will be left out.”

In an appearance in Michigan on Sunday, according the The Detroit News, Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said the state is “very likely going to make the decision about who is the next president of the United States.” The same could arguably be said about the Senate.

Given the seats that are up for election this year, the Democrats are likely to flip some seats in the upper chamber no matter presidential election goes. However, they’ll almost certainly suffer at least one loss, as well.

In Alabama, Sen. Doug Jones — who’s only there because of sexual assault allegations made against Roy Moore, the controversial GOP nominee to replace Jeff Sessions after he became attorney general — now has to face a Republican opponent who isn’t crippled by claims of sexual misconduct, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville.

In that race, Real Clear Politics rates it “Likely GOP” but only has two qualifying polls. (FiveThirtyEight has qualified more polls, which generally show Tuberville up by double digits.)

Flipping a seat with James in Michigan would mean, assuming this doesn’t quickly turn into a landslide for the left, the Democrats would either have to run the board on the races where they’ve been consistently up — difficult when you consider how tight states like North Carolina and Iowa have been — or pick off one of the more difficult toss-ups like Montana, South Carolina or Texas.

In short, this could be much bigger than just one endorsement, particularly if it moves the electoral needle James’ way.

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