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.