For a state that was crucial to Donald Trump winning the presidency four years ago, Michigan is not only a key battleground state for the White House, it’s vital to Democrats’ attempts to wrestle back control of the upper chamber.
“There is a great deal of energy on both sides because of what’s at stake here,” Peters said in an interview with CNN this week in Traverse City.
“It’s incredibly important,” he said. “We have to have a majority in the Senate for our president Biden to be successful.”
GOP strategist Jamie Roe, whose firm Grand River Strategies has done work for James’ campaign, told CNN that “there is a huge opportunity for the Republican party here in Michigan to flip a seat.”
James declined an interview with CNN, but the Republican candidate on Fox News Thursday argued that Peters “would be less than a speed bump against the leftist move toward anarchy and socialism.”
In campaign ads, James has attacked Peters on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and called him an ineffective lawmaker, while Peters has touted his bipartisan credentials and environmental record.
Michigan was one of three states that delivered Trump the White House in 2016, but two years later, Democrats appeared to have rebuilt the “blue wall” by winning the Senate and governor races and flipping two Trump-won US House districts in the 2018 midterms.
Democrats need to pick up four seats to gain control of the US Senate if Trump wins reelection. But if Biden secures the presidency, his party would need to win three seats since his vice president, Kamala Harris, would be a tiebreaker vote in the Senate.
For Democrats, losing a second seat could complicate the party’s path to take control of the Senate.
“There is no path for a Democratic Senate majority without Gary Peters returning to the United States Senate,” former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, Brandon Dillon, told CNN.
The fight to hold onto the seat has made it one of the most expensive races this cycle, with Peters and his allies spending more than $56 million dollars on ads so far compared to $45 million dollars by James and outside groups backing his campaign.
Michigan voters, who have already started casting their ballots, are well aware of the stakes.
“Having a blue Senate and blue Congress over the next four years is going to dictate all the legislation that our family cares about,” Freddie Courson, a Democratic voter in Michigan, told CNN.
Michigan GOP voter Jeff English told CNN that this is “hugely important to Republicans. If they don’t win the Senate, nothing will get done.”
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to reflect that Roe’s firm has done work for James.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.