Former Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer's announcement that he would make a run for the state's Senate seat was met with a less than enthusiastic response from the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm.
Thanks, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said. But no thanks.
"Peter Meijer isn’t viable in a primary election, and there's worry that if Meijer were nominated, the base would not be enthused in the general election,” NRSC Executive Director Jason Thielman said in a statement to POLITICO.
Meijer is a centrist with a well-known name and bio who has stated independence from Donald Trump. Thielman's statement represents a strikingly candid and aggressive shot across the bow to a candidate who, in prior eras, might have been cheered by national Republicans in his pursuit of a perpetual swing state.
But not this cycle.
NRSC strategists urged Meijer, best known for losing a House primary after his 2021 vote to impeach Trump, to reconsider launching a campaign. Their fear: Meijer will split the moderate vote with another centrist candidate, such as former Rep. Mike Rogers, opening a path for a nominee who is not well-suited to win in the state.
Republicans haven’t captured a Senate seat in Michigan since 1994.
Meijer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Senate campaign arm has charged forcefully into primary races this cycle after watching controversial nominees botch winnable races in the midterms. Chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.) has tried to shape the fields in key states — sometimes with Trump’s help — by encouraging certain candidates to stay out and offering endorsements to those he wants to run.
In Michigan, the NRSC recruited Rogers, a former House Intelligence Committee chair who has at times been critical of Trump. But he hasn’t served in Congress since 2015, before the Trump era.
Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig is running as a staunch Trump ally. Craig has been plagued by staffing issues since launching his run in October and when he ran for governor in 2022 he failed to make the ballot. The Craig campaign views Meijer's entrance as a positive development because he will now face two candidates who have criticized Trump and who could split the anti-Trump vote, according to a person close to the campaign.
Meijer, the scion of the family who owns the eponymous Midwest grocery chain, has great personal wealth and allies who could fund a super PAC. He won a West Michigan House seat in 2020. He lost the GOP primary two years to the Trump-backed John Gibbs. Democratic Rep. Hillary Scholten flipped the district in the fall.
Internal Republican polling from this cycle and last cycle has shown Meijer’s numbers are consistently far better with Democrats than Republicans after his vote to impeach, according to a person familiar with the data who was granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it.
Democrats have coalesced quickly behind Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), though she also has some primary competition.
Michigan is not a top-tier target for Republicans looking to take back the Senate. They are most eagerly eyeing the Trump-won states of Ohio, Montana and West Virginia. But recruiters are working to line up credible candidates in more difficult states to widen their path to 51 seats. Their hope is that states like Nevada, Michigan and Arizona could come firmly into play.