Skip to comments.Butler's Chances (Charlie Cook bullish on black conservative's Senate run in Michigan)
Posted on 05/04/2005 9:23:04 AM PDT by AuH2ORepublican
OFF TO THE RACES Butler's Chances Black Minister From Detroit May Prove To Be A GOP Exception
By Charlie Cook Tuesday, May 3, 2005
Central to the job of a political analyst is to assess the partisanship and voting patterns of a state or congressional district, the strengths and weaknesses of the incumbent if one is running and of the other candidates in the field, the availability of resources and any other circumstances that might become important in the contest, and then weigh the importance of each of these factors.
After almost three decades of watching congressional elections, I have developed a sense of what works and what doesn't work, when exceptions to patterns occur, and why.
Thus, after watching it happen countless times, I have become skeptical of black Republican candidates whose campaign strategies are premised on the hope of attracting traditionally Democratic black votes into the GOP column. My experience has been that when black Republicans have won major offices, it was largely with white support. Former Massachusetts Sen. Edward Brooke and former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts are good examples of this.
Given this skepticism, I admit that I scoffed when I first heard that Keith Butler, a black minister from Detroit, was seeking the Republican Senate nomination in Michigan to oppose Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. But, as better known and more established Republicans like Reps. Candice Miller and Mike Rogers decided not to jump into the fray, I started hearing more about Butler.
Butler has not sewn up the nomination and Republicans continue their recruiting efforts, but he might prove to be one of those exceptions to the rule.
In 1978, fresh out of the Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, Okla., Butler started holding Sunday church services in a spare room in a community center in Detroit. The church then moved to two different storefronts and an auditorium at a local college before buying its own building.
Today, Butler's Word of Faith International Christian Center Church sits on a 110-acre campus in the Detroit suburb of Southfield and has 21,000 members and an annual budget of $30 million.
Butler made his only run for public office so far in 1989, when he was elected to an at-large seat on the Detroit City Council as a Republican.
He served one term, focusing on government reform and tax cuts, but opted not to seek re-election. Butler has stayed active in politics as an adviser to state and local Republican candidates and GOP presidential campaigns.
His resume and political skills notwithstanding, what got my attention was the number of experienced and astute Republicans who have aligned themselves with Butler's campaign.
John Brabender, whose company Brabender-Cox has become one of the hottest Republican media firms, has signed on to do the advertising, and Alex Gage, of TargetPoint Consulting and an adviser to Bush-Cheney '04, will handle polling.
Lance Tarrance, who along with Richard Wirthlin and the late Robert Teeter reigned supreme among GOP strategists in the 1970s and 1980s, has joined the campaign team as a strategist and adviser, bringing his background in expanding the Republican Party's reach into working-class white voters. And any question whether social and religious conservatives might not embrace Butler's candidacy were lessened by the active involvement in the campaign of the Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the California-based Traditional Values Coalition.
I sat down with Butler in mid-April and came away suspecting that he could give Stabenow, a freshman, a run for the money.
Stabenow was elected in 2000, beating Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham, 49-48 percent. While taking out an incumbent senator is rarely easy, Abraham had spent the first two-thirds of his term focused on Washington and spending time with his family. While he launched a full-court re-election press during the last two years leading up to the election, he could not undo the damage caused by being largely absent from the state for the first four years.
Stabenow waged a problematic campaign that missed its share of opportunities to break the race open and win by a larger margin.
Instead, she eked out a 67,000-vote win with more than 3 million ballots cast, even as former Vice President Al Gore scored a more comfortable 5-point margin over George W. Bush.
Michigan certainly tilts Democratic -- witness Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's 3-point win over Bush last year -- but the state can be competitive, especially for statewide office.
Another factor that might play to Butler's advantage is that recent polls indicate Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's once sky-high popularity has fallen substantially, and she appears to have big political problems in heavily black Detroit. The possibility that Democrats might come out of Detroit with diminished margins before heading into more Republican suburbs, small town and rural areas would pose a severe challenge to both Granholm and Stabenow.
The point of all of this is not to say that Butler will beat Stabenow next year, or even that he will be the GOP nominee. The point is that Butler might prove to be a much more serious challenger to Stabenow than a more traditional Republican candidate.
*Keith Butler Ping*
Charlie Cook likes black conservative Keith Butler's chances in Michigan Senate race.
And the idea of bouncing Stabenow out on her incompetent fanny appeals to me a great deal. Let it be so.
Thanks for the ping! It could be a very interesting situation if Keith Butler and Michael Steele were both elected to the Senate in '06. Butler is probably more of a longshot, but I like what Cook said.
Anyone interested in learning more might want to check out Butler's website: http://www.keithabutler.com/
It's a question of whether Butler can raise the money necessary to be competitive.
Unfortunately, right now...I'd have to give Stabenow the edge.
But I'm absolutely willing to be proven wrong! I won't mind a bit!
I was kinda thinking the same thing. His non-traditional approach may well catch fire.
I still don't know enough about him to be sure. How's his fundraising going so far?
I found him first. :-P
Okay, you can keep him. He's expensive to feed.
I admit that Stabenow is still the favorite at this point. Still, Butler may have enough novelty to win over some free press, which he could use to his advantage. Also, I've read somewhere that Butler has personal wealth of his own.
I look forward to future Keith Butler pings.
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