Lena Epstein’s unusual pre-primary attack ad may have revealed her fear of facing a female Democratic opponent in the November General Election.
Epstein, a leading Republican candidate for Michigan’s 11th Congressional District seat, launched a television ad attacking Democrat Tim Greimel. The ad criticised Greimel for being “anti-Trump” and pro-choice. Epstein’s campaign has emphasized her loyalty to Trump and her embrace of typical Republican themes of cutting taxes, opposing immigrants, and requiring women to carry their pregnancy to term.
The attack ad came before either party had determined who will be the nominee for the General Election. Epstein, with a largely self-funded campaign, holds the lead among five Republican candidates. But Greimel shares the lead among Democrats with Haley Stevens, and three other Democratic candidates trail in a competitive contest.
Why would Epstein attack a Democratic opponent before that opponent is named? One possible explanation is to persuade Democrats to cast a sympathy vote for the opponent Epstein attacked.
By explicitly attacking Greimel, Epstein – and Republican strategists – hope that Democrats will leap to Greimel’s defense by casting their vote for him. In a tight Democratic race, that may be enough to push Greimel ahead of his closest opponent, Haley Stevens.
Epstein would rather avoid a contest against Haley Stevens because:
(1) Stevens would be a tough opponent against any Republican candidate, especially Epstein. Stevens has solid credentials in her work with the auto rescue effort and beyond. She also has proven to be a solid campaigner, working all parts of the far-flung communities in the district.
(2) 2018 is proving to be a winning year for women candidates across the country, and a difficult year for candidates who carry the “baggage” of legislative incumbency. The popular rejection of sitting members of Congress and state legislatures has made incumbency more of a liability than a strength.
Haley Stevens is a woman and a newcomer, while Greimel is a male and a sitting legislator. From Epstein’s viewpoint, Stevens is harder to beat – so the Republican would rather not face Stevens.
A third reason for Republicans boosting Greimel’s candidacy – they can reasonably hope that disappointed Democrats will stay home and not support the Democratic nominee if their female candidate loses the primary race. They’ve seen that before, it could happen again.
Given all this, it is not a surprise that the Republican strategy would be to manipulate the outcome of the Democratic primary. Banking on the belief that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Epstein’s attack on Greimel is an attempt to draw Democrats to his side – and away from Stevens.
Epstein’s attack ad reveals how much Republicans fear Haley Stevens. Odds are, they are right to be afraid.