Michigan Senate - Pensler vs. Stabenow
For much of its history, Michigan was one of the most Republican states in the union. In 1920, it gave Democrat John Cox 22 percent of the vote; in 1924 it gave John W. Davis 13 percent; and in 1928 it gave Al Smith 29 percent of the vote. But in the wake of the sit-down strikes of the 1930s and the high levels of unionization that followed, Michigan quickly became competitive. The state became split between "outstate" Michigan, which retained its Republican heritage, and Detroit, which was solidly Democratic. When the Detroit suburbs, like most northern suburbs, swung toward the Democrats in the 1990s, they took the state with them. Michigan has been reliably Democratic at the presidential level since the 1992 elections.
But in 2010, Michigan swung toward the Republicans. Political novice Rick Snyder defeated Democrat Virg Bernero for governor by a stunning 19-point margin, while Republicans racked up impressive majorities in the state legislature. Snyder was re-elected in 2014, and the Republican hold on the legislature continues.
Against this background, one would suspect that Democrat Debbie Stabenow would draw a quality challenger, especially after Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to carry the state since 1988. Stabenow has never been the most popular senator in the state; she narrowly defeated Republican Spencer Abraham in the generally good Democratic year of 2000, and won by 15 and 20 points against underwhelming Republicans in the good Democratic years of 2006 and 2012. But Republicans have yet to come up with a solid challenger, and given the national environment, this seat looks like it will stay in Democratic hands.