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He’s been back from Washington a time or two in recent weeks.
He’s been asked the same question, “Will you run again for Congress” many more times than that. As of today, there’s no definitive “yes” or “no.”
It’s Mike Bishop, a Republican from Rochester. He's the former two-term House member, who was broomed out of office in 2018 by 13,098 votes at the hands of now U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, as part of last year’s Blue and Pink waves.
Last month, he became the co-president of iPSE-US, the Association of Independent Workers, in Washington. It’s a national association for freelancers, consultants and self-employed workers. There, he manages the group’s legal affairs and works with the executive leadership team to grow business opportunities.
It’s certainly not the professional move you’d expect from someone looking to regain his congressional seat in Michigan’s 8th District, but who knows?
“My philosophy is to never say never and keep the options open,” Bishop said. “I think the district wasn’t meant to have gone the way it did. I think given the right candidate, there’s a likelihood it will flip back.”
Is Bishop the person who would and is willing to flip it back?
Certain factors are working against it right now. For starters, the National Republican Campaign Committee hasn’t signaled that retaking the 8th Congressional District is a priority it’s willing to spend big bucks on in 2020.
Bishop, Republicans and their supporters were outspent $17.1 million to $10.9 million by Slotkin and Democratic supporters in 2018 based on the money tracked by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Bishop suspects that Dem number was closer to $35 million. Observers classified it as the nation’s fifth most expensive congressional race last year.
Taking out Slotkin across two media markets — Lansing and the expensive Detroit market — won’t be cheap. But since the NRCC hasn’t made it clear whether they’re running to retain seats, such as those of U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, in the 6th and U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, I-Cascade Twp., in the 3rd or looking to score wins in the 8th and 11th, Bishop isn’t sticking his neck out there.
In the meantime, the state-elected folks aren’t excited to get in. Former Sen. Joe Hune just took a new job with Blue Cross. Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, isn’t interested. Rep. Hank Vaupel, R-Fowlerville, isn’t thrilled about the prospect either.
Running as a Republican in 2020 means running with President Donald Trump, and unless his numbers in the 8th District turn around, that’s an anchor around the ankles for someone trying to pick up suburbanite Oakland County votes.
Just ask Bishop, who’s still trying to figure out how he lost his hometown of Rochester, where he was born and raised. More times than he’s willing to count, a discouraged Bishop would go from door to door to find the homeowner didn’t want to talk about Congressman Mike Bishop. They wanted to vent about Donald Trump.
“I wanted to ask, ‘Do you want to talk about what I’ve done in Washington, D.C.?” Bishop said. “They didn’t.”
Apparently, a pair of Oakland County business executives are tossing around the idea of running, but Slotkin isn’t making anyone’s decision easy.
She didn’t support U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi for speaker. She didn’t vote to impeach Trump. She’s moderate on the Mexican border and immigration. Her tragic health care story about her now late mother is extremely moving and gives her street cred on the issue.
In a Democratic conference in which far-left liberals like U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, are stealing the headlines, Slotkin is staying out of the food fight, taking middle-of-the-road positions on popular issues and making lots of appearances in her district.
Slotkin raised $730,000 in the second quarter and has more than $1 million in cash on hand. Compared to last year, that isn’t a ton of money, but it’s more than any other potential congressional candidate Michigan has. It also sets some major limits on what type of serious candidate Republicans could rally around.
She or he must come to the table either with lots of support, significant name ID or lots of cash. Preferably all three.
That’s why a reluctant Bishop could end up being the Republicans’ nominee again in the 8th, even though he’d probably prefer to chill out in Rochester Hills with his wife and kids.
If the GOP needs him, if the NRCC is willing to back him with significant resources and trusted consultants can show him a path to victory, Bishop could get back in. Absent those three factors, the betting money is that he doesn’t.
(Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS is at firstname.lastname@example.org.)