By Jim EllisMay 18, 2021 — As it is becoming clear that retiring Detroit Police Chief James Craig (R) is preparing to challenge Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) next year, Target Insyght, polling for the Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS), tested the potential general election pairing in a recent study. The results portend another tight Wolverine State campaign.
The TI poll (May 9-11; 800 registered Michigan voters, live interview) finds Gov. Whitmer leading Chief Craig by a six-point, 48-42 percent, spread. More importantly, the survey identified key areas of weakness for the governor, ones that could potentially allow a GOP contender to construct a reasonable path to victory. Chief Craig has not yet announced his candidacy but is expected to do so once he officially retires from the police force on June 1.
Where Chief Craig may have a significant advantage in such a race is his potential ability to draw more votes from the African American community particularly in heavily Democratic Detroit.
While President Biden averaged 79.1 percent of the vote in Congressional Districts 13 and 14 that encompass the city, the Target Insyght poll finds Gov. Whitmer pulling only 64 percent among black voters, while the outgoing police chief attracts 36 percent. In Detroit, 78.3 percent of the population is African American according to the latest publicly available Census Bureau estimates (July 2019).
Gov. Whitmer’s bigger weakness, however, lies in the area of jobs and rebuilding the state’s economy. According to this issue segmentation, voters would favor Chief Craig over Gov. Whitmer by a whopping 63-30 percent margin.
John James, the African American Republican who has run highly competitive campaigns in the last two consecutive Michigan Senate races, was also tested but he doesn’t perform as well as Chief Craig in a general election pairing. While the governor tops Chief Craig by six points, as mentioned above, James trails by 10 percentage points, 49-39 percent.
In the Republican primary, however, it is James who would have a clear advantage. If he and Chief Craig oppose each other for the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination, the former man would begin the race with a 36-21 percent advantage in the primary according to this particular survey.