Michigan Republicans are becoming increasingly frustrated with Jane Abraham, who has still not announced whether she will challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow and attempt to avenge the defeat of her husband, Spencer, in 2000.
It is now three weeks after the June 1 date on which Abraham was expected to announce her campaign plans. “There’s a lot of grumbling that she’s not going to get in now,” said Nate Bailey, spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party. “I don’t know what her intentions are.”
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|Michigan Republicans are frustrated with Jane Abraham, who has not yet announced her intention to run against Sen. Debbie Stabenow, above.|
Being slow to announce is not the only perceived problem. A GOP official in Washington said: “It’s just hard to say what she really brings to the ticket other than her last name, which does not really invoke a lot of excitement based on the last Senate race.”
Abraham’s pollster, Chris Wilson, said Abraham, who had said she would make an announcement about the race by the beginning of this month, is concerned about the effect that a bruising campaign would have on her children — 13-year-old twin daughters and an 8-year-old son.
“It’s become a longer process, more than I think she originally anticipated,” Wilson said.
Wilson suggested Abraham might be hunkering down with her family as she tries to make up her mind, noting in an interview yesterday that he hadn’t spoken with her in two weeks. Abraham could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Spencer Abraham, a former senator from Michigan, lost his reelection bid to Stabenow in one of the major upsets of the 2000 cycle. After the election, he became energy secretary and served during most of President Bush’s first term before resigning.
A major Republican fundraiser in Michigan said that as Dominoes Pizza CEO David Brandon has become more interested in the Senate seat, Abraham has become less interested.
“Jane’s probably come to the realization that she’s going to have a difficult time,” the fundraiser said. “If someone as strong as Brandon came in … he’ll have the heavyweight fundraisers from the state behind him. Most of them are businesspeople.”
Pastor Keith Butler was the first Republican to enter the race. While Butler earlier picked up the endorsement of Michigan’s attorney general, he has failed to garner the backing of many leading Republicans in the state.
Republicans in Michigan and Washington have indicated they are still looking for a strong candidate to take on Stabenow, who was formerly the No. 2 official at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and remains popular. In the first quarter of the year, she raked in a little more than $1 million, bringing her cash on hand to nearly $2.9 million.
Bailey said the state’s nine Republican House members had played an active role in recruiting a Senate candidate. “I think many of them have talked to Jane,” Bailey said. “I think many of them have talked to Dave [Brandon].”
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) said earlier that he would prefer finding a GOP Senate nominee besides Abraham. “My preference right now would be Keith Butler or Brandon,” he said.
Hoekstra’s 2nd District, in western Michigan, will be a crucial battleground in the GOP primary.
Many conservative activists resent Spencer Abraham for, they say, his lackluster campaign performance in 2000. Jane Abraham has stressed that, if she runs, she will be running as her own woman.
Another factor that could be giving Abraham pause is a May 22-26 poll conducted by EPIC/MRA showing Stabenow trouncing her by 59 percent to 30 percent.
A GOP official in Washington voiced skepticism about Abraham’s campaign strategy, described as reaching out to conservatives — particularly in the anti-abortion camp — while trying to build support among women.
As the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that backs anti-abortion Republican female candidates, Abraham has extensive ties to abortion opponents in Michigan and around the country.
Michigan has been packed with high-profile politicians and Washington politicos in recent months, including presidential hopefuls Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman was in the state yesterday.
Republican Party officials and fundraisers agree that if the party is to have any chance of beating Stabenow in 2006, they will need to have a clear consensus candidate by the state GOP’s annual meeting on Mackinack Island, in late September.
“There’s been this kind of awkward backwards pressure for people to get in very, very early,” Bailey said. “Those kinds of decisions have come in the September area, or in the waning months of summer.”
The GOP official in Washington called Brandon and Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, a GOP donor and activist, a “dream ticket.”