Stabenow's Likely GOP Opponent? Pete Hoekstra
Few Republicans would argue former Rep. Pete Hoesktra ran a well-oiled primary campaign. But barring a major upset, he is on the cusp of winning the GOP nomination in Michigan Tuesday.
It once seemed like there was an opening for a serious Hoekstra alternative in the race to take on Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. But conservatives didn't consolidate early behind any alternative candidate.
Clark Durant, the founder of Detroit's Cornerstone Schools, has lately emerged as the conservative favorite -- but he hasn't gained enough the traction to threaten Hoekstra.
Inside Michigan Politics editor Bill Ballenger succinctly summed up Durant's odds of pulling off the upset: "He's got two chances: slim and none."
The race got off to a pretty quiet start, with Hoekstra as the frontrunner. After nine terms in Congress and an unsuccessful statewide run in 2010 (a failed primary campaign for governor), Hoektra was the only candidate with name recognition.
But for his first ad, he chose to run an attention-grabbing spot during the Super Bowl, which earned him the wrong kind of publicity. The spot, which featured an actress of Asian descent speaking broken English, was widely panned as offensive. After having spent heavily on the ad, Hoesktra pulled it down to quell the controversy -- getting the campaign off to a bad start.
Durant has emerged recently as the alternative to Hoekstra: Gary Glenn, another GOP candidate, dropped out and endorsed Durant in July (though his name will still appear on the primary ballot. Another Republican, Randy Hekman, is also on the ballot). A pro-Durant super PAC emerged and dropped over $200,000 on anti-Hoekstra ads. Durant has been attacking Hoesktra in his own ads. And he started accumulating some endorsements: Steve Forbes, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen.Tom Coburn, R-Okla., as well as the Detroit Free Press.
Durant has tried to frame himself as a "rebel" outsider, and Hoekstra as another Washington politician who wouldn't be all that different than Stabenow as a senator.