Brandon may be out of Mich. Senate race

Domino’s Pizza CEO David Brandon is likely to announce as early as today that he will not run for the seat held by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a leading Michigan Republican said.

The move is certain to disappoint many Republicans who had hoped a “self-funder” such as Brandon would be the GOP nominee. Republicans say it will cost at least $20 million to win.

Brandon’s announcement also clears the way for the Rev. Keith Butler, a former Detroit city councilman, to win the Republican nomination.

Butler has spent the past several months cobbling together the support of state lawmakers, party officials and thousands of grassroots activists from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula. He is likely to be anointed the party’s consensus candidate unofficially at the state GOP’s meeting on Mackinac Island next month.

“He won’t run,” Chuck Yob, Michigan’s Republican national committeeman, said of Brandon, calling money the No. 1 stumbling block. Many Republicans have noted that Brandon would have to forgo a huge paycheck as a corporate executive to be in the Senate.

Yob also said that 2006 may not be the right year for Brandon to make his first bid for federal office. “I’m not so sure that running against an incumbent is what he thinks is perfect timing,” he said.

A state GOP official said Brandon, like other potential GOP contenders, has had to weigh whether he’s willing to spend much time away from his family, in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Yob added that, in a conversation Friday with Brandon, he had asked Brandon to let him know what his final Senate plans were by today, when Yob leaves for a Republican National Committee meeting in Pittsburgh.

Yob said he wanted to know who the Republicans’ likely Senate nominee would be before he met in Pittsburgh with Blaise Hazelwood, the political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

Other Republicans, including House members, Capitol Hill aides and party officials, said that Republicans are growing weary of Brandon’s dangling his name in front of the media but not committing to a race. They added that Brandon has waited too long to enter the race to sidestep a competitive primary.

In the past several weeks, Butler has picked up endorsements from former vice-presidential nominee Jack Kemp, former Rep. J.C. Watts (Okla.), state Attorney General Mike Cox and former lieutenant governor and gubernatorial candidate Dick Posthumus, all Republicans.

Few Republicans voiced surprise at Yob’s comments.

One Michigan Republican close to Brandon warned against ruling him out prematurely. Brandon, he said, had commissioned a poll two weeks ago to test the waters.

“This is the way David operates,” the Republican said. “I’ve known David for 20 years. David’s a very private person. … His circle of friends is very small.”

Brandon did not return a phone call yesterday seeking comment.

He is expected to speak this week with state GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis. Anuzis, in an interview Monday, said he was unaware of Brandon’s plans.

While the Senate race has been uppermost in many GOP politicos’ minds, the party also has been preparing for its Mackinac meeting, which will include between 2,000 and 3,000 activists.

The meeting is drawing several Republican presidential hopefuls — Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), who won the 2000 Michigan GOP primary, Sam Brownback (Kan.) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.). Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.) has declined so that he can take his son to college, Anuzis said. Sen. George Allen (Va.) and Govs. Haley Barbour (Miss.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.) have yet to respond.