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Is it possible a Democrat could win the state Senate district made up on Eaton, Clinton, Shiawassee and a chuck of Ingham counties? According to new polling, the answer is “yes.”
Kelly Rossman- McKinney, known around town as the long-time public relations guru, is up on Republican Rep. Tom Barrett in the race to replace term-limited Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, 50 to 41 percent, based on 300 phone contacts between Sept. 10-14 by Target Insyght. The independent study was commissioned by the Capitol news service MIRS and the lobbying firm Governmental Consulting Services Inc.
The two third-party candidates combined for 5 percent and 4 percent said they were undecided.
The relative sample size is small and the margin of error is 5.7 percent, but the polling shows what Democrats have suspected since Rossman- McKinney got into the race more than a year ago: This seat is winnable, despite its daunting 56.6 percent Republican Party base.
Some would argue the universe of people polled doesn’t represent the likely Election Day mix, but this is what Target Insyght did. They got in touch with 121 Republicans, 133 Democrats and 46 independents. Among Republicans, Barrett is up 89 to 4 percent. Among Democrats, Rossman-McKinney is up 95 to 3 percent.
No surprise there. But among the independents, a critical demographic, she’s up 38 to 20 percent. Also, the August primary numbers would bear out the observation that she’s holding her own.
She received 25,190 primary votes despite not having a primary opponent. Meanwhile, Barrett received 22,127 votes in stomping fellow Rep. Brett Roberts. Combined, the two Republicans received 31,416.
Compare that to 2014, where Democrat Dawn Levey received 10,937 votes to Jones’ 18,426.
An initial reaction might be that Rossman- McKinney is killing it with women as part of this “pink wave,” but the polling shows her up 52 to 36 percent among men and 48 to 45 percent among women.
She may be on TV with ads, but the polling numbers show Rossman-McKinney has a long way to go on the name ID front. A total of 58 percent said they’d never heard of her or have no opinion. She’s viewed favorably by 20 percent of those asked and unfavorably by 22 percent.
Barrett has a 30 percent/25 percent favorable/unfavorable rating with 46 percent not having an opinion on him. But Barrett’s biggest hurdle may be what people think of Republican President Donald Trump.
The polling shows 53 percent in the 24th District believe Trump is doing a “poor” or “fair” job. He’s getting a 41 percent “excellent” of “good” job rating.
Again, this is a Republican district and in a normal year, Barrett should have little problem winning against your standard Democrat. But this isn’t a normal year and Rossman- McKinney, with her more than $100,000 raised, is not a standard candidate.
A couple of weeks ago, she held a press conference announcing support from several Republican women, including the former GOP-nominated Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan, former Clinton County Commissioner Sara Clark Pierson and former Chamber of Commerce executive Nancy McKeague.
Two former Gov. Rick Snyder press secretaries — Geralyn Lasher and Sara Wurfel, who now works at Rossman’s old firm — also are supporting Rossman-McKinney. Before she died recently, former Republican Sen. Patty Birkholz also consulted the Democratic nominee on a run.
She’s also received the support of the traditionally Republican-leaning Small Business Association of Michigan, of which she was a member.
Here’s some other interesting tidbits picked up in the polling data:
— In collecting the data on the 24th Senate District, 127 likely Eaton County voters were asked about the 7th District. Not a lot of statistical analysis can get gleamed from such a small sample size, but it’s interesting that Democrat Gretchen Driskell fared better than incumbent Republican U.S Rep. Tim Walberg 49 to 45 percent.
— Also, 33 people living in Williamston, and four rural Ingham County townships were asked about the 8th Congressional District. There, incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop got 48 percent, Democrat Elisa Slotkin got 48 percent and the remaining respondents either were undecided or picked a third-party candidate.
— What may be more interesting is the separate polling data Target Insyght conducted in the 13th Senate District, which includes historically Republican Rochester, Bishop’s hometown, among other Oakland County suburbs. Among the 79 Rochester/Rochester Hills residents asked, 43 percent said they were voting for Slotkin and 42 percent for Bishop. The remaining were undecided.
— Over in Monroe County, where polling was done in the northern Monroe County-based 17th House District, 52 percent of the 212 polled said they were supporting Walberg, 37 percent Driskell and 10 percent undecided,
(Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS is at firstname.lastname@example.org.)