Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel has nearly doubled her lead over Republican challenger Matt DePerno, holding a 12-percentage point edge five weeks out from the Nov. 8 elections, according to a new statewide poll.
Both Nessel and Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson made gains from pre-Labor Day poll in a new survey of 600 likely general election voters conducted Sept. 26-29 by Glengariff Group, with Benson widening her lead over Republican challenger Kristina Karamo to 17 percentage points.
The poll indicates Nessel now leads DePerno 42.5% to 30.4%, up from Nessel’s 40%-34% lead in early September; while Benson leads Karamo 46.6% to 29.2%, up from the 43% to 32% spread last month.
The poll commissioned by The Detroit News and WDIV (Channel 4) had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points. The poll sample included 39% of voters who identify as Democrats, 39% of voters who identify as Republicans and 19% who say they’re political independents.
DePerno and Karamo’s numbers remain low when it comes to name recognition — even among their base voters — and that’s a pressing problem, pollster Richard Czuba said.
The majority of voters who identify as “strong Republicans” polled said they’ve never heard of either of their party’s nominees for attorney general and secretary of state.
“It begs the question: ‘What the hell have these Republican candidates been doing?’ Because their own voters don’t know them, don’t recognize them,” Czuba said.
Benson and Nessel have a huge fundraising advantage over their opponents, with Nessel’s cash on hand last week coming in at about 10 times the total posted by DePerno, and Benson’s campaign bank account totaling about 17 times the money Karamo has available.
Without money, the Republican candidates can’t run the TV ads and mailers they need to increase their name identification and compete with the Democratic incumbents in those offices, Czuba said.
“You can’t expect voters to vote for you if they’ve never heard from you. So when exactly do these campaigns begin?” Czuba said. “These races could be very close if Republicans put in the work to make sure their own voters know who they are.”
Benson’s campaign said the numbers reflect the Detroit Democrat’s ability to build a “broad base of support” for her second term.
“When working men and women realize they can rely on Jocelyn Benson to make it easier to do business with the Secretary of State’s Office and to protect their voice and their vote, the choice is plentifully clear,” said Liz Boyd, a spokeswoman for the campaigns.
Nessel’s campaign in a Monday statement touted her as the “people’s lawyer” and DePerno as an anti-abortion election-denier with a “sketchy professional history.”
“As voters learn more about who Matt DePerno is, they are finding out that his radical views are out of step with the values of Michiganders,” Nessel campaign spokeswoman Sarah Stevenson said.
Karamo’s campaign did not return a request for comment. DePerno’s campaign did not provide a statement prior to deadline.
DePerno, Karamo struggle with base
Perhaps more striking than Nessel or Benson’s leads, is polling that reflects vast disparities between name identification among each of the candidate’s base voters.
Among the voters who identified themselves as strong Republicans, nearly 71% said they had never heard of DePerno. Among strong Democrats, about 40% said they had never heard of Nessel.
About 74% of strong Republican voters said they had never heard of Karamo, according to the poll. About 42% of strong Democratic voters have never heard of Benson.
Time is running out for DePerno and Karamo to right the ship and get their names in front of voters ahead of the election, Czuba said.
“If all Deperno and Karamo want to do is get their base in, they still have four weeks, four and half weeks to actually go and win those votes,” Czuba said. “But that’s not how you win in Michigan. You have to secure your own base and then go out and get independent voters.”
Overall, Nessel had 58% name identification, with 22% favorable, 18% unfavorable, 18% with no opinion and 40% had never heard of her. DePerno on the other hand had 26% name identification, with 5% favorable, 9% unfavorable, 12.5% with no opinion and 71% had never heard of DePerno.
Among independents, Nessel holds a 13-point lead over DePerno, 30% to 17%, but about 32% remain undecided.
Benson’s name ID rests at about 59%, while Karamo’s is at about 28%.
Of those who recognized Benson’s name, 26% were favorable, 12% unfavorable, 20% had no opinion and 40% had no opinion of her. Of those who recognized Karamo’s name, 4% were favorable, 8% unfavorable, 16% had no opinion and 70% overall had never heard of her.
Benson leads among independents by about 21 percentage points, 37% to 16%, with 28% still undecided.
About 58% were considered “non-college,” meaning they hadn’t received an education past high school or obtained some sort of vocational training or completed some college classes; 41% were considered college graduates.