Poll shows Sen. Gary Peters with slim lead over GOP rival in Michigan

Poll shows Sen. Gary Peters with slim lead over GOP rival in Michigan
© Aaron Schwartz
Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersGOP challenger outraises Michigan's Sen. Peters in first quarter The Hill's Campaign Report: Wisconsin votes despite coronavirus pandemic Senate Democrats propose ,000 hazard-pay plan for essential workers MORE (D-Mich.) is running narrowly ahead of his Republican rival in what is likely to be one of the critical battleground states in next year’s election.
The poll, conducted by the Michigan-based Marketing Resource Group, a firm with ties to Republicans, shows Peters leading businessman and Iraq War veteran John James (R) by a slim 43 percent to 40 percent margin.
Republicans are cautiously optimistic that James will put a new state on a Senate map that otherwise favors Democrats. James, who has never held public office, lost a 2018 bid against Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowCoronavirus crisis scrambles 2020 political calculus Coronavirus stimulus talks hit setback as crisis deepens Democrats call for stimulus to boost Social Security benefits by 0 a month MORE (D) by a 52 percent to 46 percent margin.
James may have a better chance against Peters, who is seeking his second term in office. Peters is less well-known among Michiganders than his senior colleague; while 75 percent of state voters polled said they were aware of Peters, only 35 percent knew enough about him to say whether they felt positively, 20 percent, or negatively, 15 percent.
“John James’s campaign against Sen. Stabenow in 2018 appears to have propelled him into a virtual tie with Sen. Peters in 2020,” said Tom Shields, MRG’s senior adviser. 
James’s last campaign also served to introduce him to donors. James raised $3 million in the third quarter of the year and ended September with $3.8 million in the bank. Peters raised less, $2.4 million, but he has a significant cash edge, with $6.3 million on hand.
The poll shows a tighter race than a Target Insyght survey last month, which showed Peters leading by a 53 percent to 37 percent margin. 
Both Democrats and Republicans have made clear they see Michigan as a state critical to their paths to 270 electoral votes next year. President TrumpDonald John TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill MORE in 2016 became the first Republican to win the state since George H.W. Bush in 1988, but he won it by a margin of just under 11,000 votes.
The MRG poll suggests Trump may have trouble carrying the state a second time. Only 44 percent of Michigan voters surveyed approve of the job he’s doing as president, and 50 percent disapprove. Forty-seven percent say they see Trump in a very negative light.
The MRG poll surveyed 600 likely Michigan voters Oct. 7-10. The poll carried a margin of error of 4 percentage points.