John James | Twitter

John James shouldn’t be afraid to align himself with Trump and the Repub­lican Party.

A potential up and coming Repub­lican star, John James has almost all the tools to win Michigan’s Senate seat. The Repub­lican can­didate is a young, artic­ulate, black con­ser­v­ative running against Demo­c­ratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow. James has the dynamic profile Stabenow lacks: He’s a veteran and an accom­plished busi­nessman. All he lacks are poll numbers and a killer instinct.  

Real Clear Pol­itics polling shows Stabenow enjoying an average 16-point lead over James in the Michigan race.

But that lead has been dwin­dling: Mitchell Research’s mid-Sep­tember poll had Stabenow leading by 13 points. Its mid-October poll has Stabenow up by only nine. On Monday, the Tar­rance Group released a new poll showing James down by seven. And in the last fundraising cycle, James out­raised Stabenow by a 2‑to‑1 ratio.

James has a com­pelling biog­raphy, having grad­uated from West Point and going on to become a Ranger-qual­ified avi­ation officer. He served in the Iraq War, earning a Combat Action Badge and two Air Medals while logging more than 750 flight hours in theater, leading two Apache pla­toons.

After his service James returned to his family business, James Group Inter­na­tional, a supply-chain logistics company in Detroit. As pres­ident, James has led the company from $35 million to $137 million in revenue, cre­ating more than 100 jobs in Michigan since 2012.

James has also earned advanced business degrees from Penn State Uni­versity and the Uni­versity of Michigan.

His qual­i­fi­ca­tions are pristine. And he has Pres­ident Trump’s ringing endorsement: James “is SPECTACULAR!” Trump tweeted last summer. “Rarely have I seen a can­didate with such great potential.”

Trump’s endorsement should go a long way in Michigan, whose voters favored Trump in 2016, marking the first time since 1988 Michigan went red.

Yet, in an Oct. 14 debate with Stabenow, James sought to dis­tance himself from the pres­ident. And this will cost him.

Throughout the debate, James kept empha­sizing that his agenda does not match Trump’s or the Repub­lican Party’s. “Vote person, not party,” James said. “Don’t judge me by the ‘R’ next to my name.”

How should an ener­gized GOP base under­stand this statement? The Repub­lican Party today has embraced lower taxes, pro-life values, border security, “America-first” foreign engage­ments, fair and rec­i­p­rocal trade, con­ser­v­ative judges, law and order, the pre­sumption of inno­cence, reg­u­latory reform, and more. Repub­lican voters support Repub­lican can­di­dates because they assume that the can­di­dates will hold to these prin­ciples. James ought to embrace this agenda, not move away from it. And he ought to leave no doubt in voters’ minds that he has no sym­pathy for the mob-rule tactics of today’s Demo­c­ratic Party.

“I’ll work with the pres­ident when it ben­efits Michigan and against him when it goes against Michigan,” James said.

Who expects to hear any­thing else from their elected rep­re­sen­tative?

Trump was the first Repub­lican to win Michigan in nearly 30 years. Why would James want to dis­tance himself from the base that delivered a his­toric Repub­lican upset a mere two years ago?

James, like many others in the con­ser­v­ative movement, seems to have “learned nothing and for­gotten nothing.” And it goes to show that if the GOP estab­lishment had to go back to 2016, they’d lose to Trump all over again.

James is a solid con­ser­v­ative can­didate and a good voice to rep­resent the state of Michigan. But he must reject the role of “gra­cious loser” allotted to him by the Democrats, dig in his heels, and fight for his party and its platform.

As he points out, Stabenow has been in public office for 43 years. James is looking for his first shot at public office. It’s time for a change, and Michigan voters ought to choose James come election day. But first he must help himself.

Gar­rison Grisedale is a senior studying pol­itics.