Against early expectations, it's looking like Michigan will be one of the major Senate battlegrounds in 2014.
Former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land posted her second consecutive strong fundraising quarter on Tuesday, when her campaign reported raising nearly $1.7 million in the fourth quarter alone. Since June, she has raised more than $3.7 million.
That's an impressive haul for any challenger, even if about half of it has come from her own finances. But it's especially noteworthy sum for Land, who many Republicans once regarded as lightweight contender with little chance of winning a blue state race. The party attempted to recruit a slew of other candidates for the race, including Reps. Dave Camp and Mike Rogers, even after Land entered the race. When they passed, many observers concluded Democrats—who have rallied behind Rep. Gary Peters as their presumptive nominee—were a safe bet to retain the seat held by retiring Sen. Carl Levin.
Those predictions have been turned on their head. Land's fundraising and the deteriorating political environment for Democrats have combined to make the race competitive. Her emergence is also a key development for national Republicans, offering them a pathway to retake the Senate without having to win exclusively in seven red state seats currently represented by Democrats.
Danger still lurks for the GOP: Democrats mock Land for thus far declining to participate in any public events, and she already stumbled once last year when she suggested Obamacare shouldn't be repealed outright. Her campaign had to hastily issue a correction, emphasizing that she supports repealing the health care law in its entirety. The reason many Republicans doubted her from the beginning could ultimately prove her undoing in a closely scrutinized race.
But for now, Land's money alone guarantees she's a serious candidate.