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Wednesday, June 5,2013

Nobody really thinks Rogers will run for Senate

by Kyle Melinn
The “Mike Rogers for U.S. Senate?” rumor wasn’t circulating long before the Democrats in Washington picked up the phone and started gauging interest in possible 8th Congressional District candidates.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum and Ingham County Clerk Eric Schertzing were among those who piqued the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s interest several weeks ago.

But the excitement has since cooled since nobody really believes Rogers is going to take the plunge. He’s soaking up his time in the spotlight and giving the idea the attention it deserves.

Yet, Rogers is acting like the guy who’s putting off a decision he doesn’t want to make. He doesn’t want to say no, but he knows, ultimately, he will.

Sure, taking over for retiring U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, has natural political allure, but, frankly, he’s got a great thing going in the U.S. House, and he knows it.

The former FBI agent chairs the House Intelligence Committee, one of the few panels where the chairman is not term-limited, meaning Rogers could theoretically stay there for as long as mid-Michigan voters keep electing him and congressional Republicans keep a majority.

With a Democrat in the White House and the Ds running the show in the Senate, Rogers is the Republicans’ point person on international affairs, war, Middle East turmoil, etc. Check cable news or “Meet the Press” if you’re not convinced.

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson told “City Pulse Newsmakers” a few weeks ago he sees the 8th Congressional as being competitive, but with a 54 percent Republican base, it becomes a less likely pick-up with an incumbent in the chair, and he knows that.

Rogers hasn’t had a competitive race since his razor-thin victory over Dianne Byrum in 2000. And since he’s created a perception of political moderation, a future of consistent competitive races isn’t realistic.

Why give up basically a sure thing for something that is very much not a sure thing?

Republicans have only won two U.S. Senate races in Michigan in the last 40 years (one-termer Spence Abraham, 1995-2001, and two-termer Robert  P. Griffin, 1966-1979).

All the while, the Democrats’ anointed candidate, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Twp., seemingly never stopped fundraising after winning re-election in November. He raised $370,916 in the first quarter of 2013, more than twice the bank Rogers pulled in during the same period.

Assuming Rogers wins the GOP primary shouldn’t be taken for granted either. Ron Paulesque U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Twp., is not a team player and could pull off a primary victory if he gets into the mix, which seemed a little bit more of a possibility this week with Amash holding Southeast Michigan fundraisers in the near future. (Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land announced her candidacy this week, but she’s not seen as affecting Rogers’ decision.)

But let’s assume Rogers wins the primary and then wins the General Election. Rogers would have no seniority and likely be in the minority. 

The Dems have a six-seat advantage going into 2014. FiveThirtyEight genius Nate Silver has only four of these seats as toss-ups. Republicans would need to unseat four Democratic incumbents and then score a couple wins in Silver’s “Lean Democrat” category. 

Back in February, before Levin announced he’d hang it up in ‘14, Silver only gave Republicans a 15 percent shot of winning.

When he passed on the 2010 governor’s race, Rogers noted the timing wasn’t right. Is the timing right now? Sure, he would face a non-incumbent Democrat in a gubernatorial year (which helps Republicans), but is the timing right for Rogers personally?

Are the grasses greener on the other side of the Capitol, where his influence would be significantly diluted?

Asked about his U.S. Senate timeline at the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce conference on Mackinac Island, Rogers said, “We’re getting there.”

The 2014 election is “getting there,” too. The Federal Elections Commission reminded Rogers of that in April when it said that he needed to set up a new House account for his new political donations, set up a U.S. Senate account or be in violation of federal campaign law.

The due date for a decision was May 20. On May 16, “Rogers For Congress” was established. 

This doesn’t mean Rogers couldn’t set up a U.S. Senate account tomorrow, but it does show what happened when push came to shove and a decision had to be made.

The truth is, Rogers doesn’t need to make a decision until next May’s filing deadline. If he wants to give himself a realistic shot of winning, he needs to get in before the Republicans’ leadership conference in the fall so the party’s big swingers know where they’re dumping their money and activists can decide how much of their energy they’re putting into the race. 

But when that decision comes back as “no thanks,” donīt be surprised. I certainly won’t be.

(Kyle Melinn is the editor of MIRS. He can be reached at melinn@lansingcitypulse.com).

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