New poll shows Dem nominee Mark Schauer closing Gov. Rick Snyder’s lead

Mark Schauer, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor of Michigan is, surprising the political chattering class as a new bipartisan poll shows him in a statistical dead heat with Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. Snyder leads Schauer 42 percent to 39 percent with a margin of error of plus/minus four percentage points.

That means the race for governor, contrary to some perception of it being a less than exciting race, is going to be high energy and a tough battle for Republicans and Democrats.

The longstanding bipartisan public relations firm Lambert, Edwards & Associates, which in the past released polls favorable to the governor, commissioned this latest poll conducted by Denno Research, a Democratic polling firm. The statewide survey of 600 likely voters on K-12 education spending, found that 53 percent agree with the Democratic charge that Snyder has defunded education. In the poll 18 percent agree that Snyder has increased funding and 24 percent remained unsure.

With this latest polling bringing good news for Democrats about their gubernatorial candidate, the labor group AFL-CIO Michigan Chapter has already announced that it is endorsing Schauer for governor.

“Mark Schauer is a fierce advocate for the middle class who fought to save Michigan auto jobs while in Congress,” said Michigan AFL-CIO President Karla Swift. “Mark is ready to fight for students and sen­iors as governor. This is in sharp contrast to Rick Snyder, who cut school funding and taxed seniors in order to give tax cuts to corporations, even if they ship jobs overseas.”

If the results of the poll carry any significance it perhaps shows that Schauer’s frequent television commercials bringing him to the living rooms of voters are getting some attention.

When he announced his candidacy last year, there was concern that Democrats would struggle with a candidate who has little name recognition.

“It’s an honor to have the support of Michigan’s working families. I am committed to building an economy that works for the middle class, not just the wealthy and the well-connected,” Schauer said. “As governor, I’ll make education a top economic priority to help our kids compete for high-wage, high skill jobs, and I’ll fight to get rid of the job-killing Snyder Retirement Tax.”

But Kyle Robertson, Synder’s campaign manager, dismissed the credibility of the polling results saying that all previous polls have shown the governor leading Schauer significantly.

“Doubling one party’s partisan advantage between one poll and the next will change the numbers. It diminishes the credibility of the numbers with such a wild swing in partisan advantage, especially when the mean average of all of the public polls shows Gov. Snyder with a +6.7% lead,” Robertson said. “In every recent reputable poll, the governor’s lead is widening because he is focused on the issues Michigan families care about and that is why Michigan is coming back.”

Zack Pohl, Schauer’s communication director, said the poll shows that the governor “is out of touch, and his policies aren’t working for the middle class. People understand that Snyder cut education and taxed sen­iors’ retirement to pay for a huge $1.8 billion corporate tax break.”

Pohl said they are gearing up for a battle over the airwaves, which campaign veterans have indicated will be crucial in the governor’s race.

“We fully expect Sny­der and his special interest backers to start attacking Mark on TV over the coming weeks and months. But the bottom line is, people aren’t buying what this governor is selling,” Pohl said. “We expect Mark will continue to gain momentum because the people of Michigan want an economy that works for the middle class again, and that’s exactly what Mark will focus on as governor.”

Since Democrats annnounced Schauer as their candidate for governor to avoid a replay of a bitter nomination fight that almost fractured the party in the last campaign, Republican leaders have pounced on Schauer.

For instance Bobby Schostak, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, called the Democratic flagbearer a failed politician who couldn’t get re-elected to Congress.

“Former Rep. Schauer’s unappealing policies of increased spending and higher taxes caused him to lose his Congressional seat and will not resonate with Michigan voters,” Schostak said. “A failed career politician, former Rep. Schauer contributed to Michigan’s ‘lost decade’ in both the State House and Senate, proving he does not have the right agenda for Michigan.”

Paul Welday, a Republican strategist, said it’s too early in the race to predict and cautioned Democrats about getting their hopes high.

“First, the electorate is in a flux and it is still anyone’s race as voters are still trying to figure out who these candidates are and what they stand for,” Welday said. “The poll has Snyder up which is tighter than some of the recent previous polls, but the trend here is strong.”

Welday said Schauer has a big hill to climb.

“Without the benefit of the crosstabs, my guess is voters generally think Michigan is on the right track and couple that with a GOP wave nationally, I don’t see where Schauer pulls it off. Barring, of course, some dramatic event which is always possible,” Welday said.

Schauer’s communication director Pohl strongly disagrees.

“As we’ve said before, for a Republican in a blue state like Michigan to be this far below 50 percent shows that he’s in serious trouble,” Pohl said. “Snyder’s widely-panned Super Bowl ad was an expensive flop. He spent $400,000 on a single ad in Detroit claiming ‘education funding is up,’ but voters aren’t buying it.”

In the same poll, according to Lamber, Edwards and Associates, many voters gave Snyder a negative rating on the job and over half saying he doesn’t understand them. On the other hand, the majority of voters surveyed say they don’t know Schauer well enough to give an opinion, and his supporters say the TV ads have been helpful.

Email bthompson@michronicle.com.

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