We asked most of the same panel we spoke to this year to weigh in last January on a range of questions about 2021, and unlike in 2020, when they failed to predict a global pandemic or mass racial unrest, our gang didn’t fare too badly. Here’s a review:
Where will Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s approval rating stand by January 2022?
Our experts uniformly predicted she would remain “above water,” meaning that her favorability would be higher than her unfavorability. She has — but only barely. In the most recent poll as of press time, Whitmer was at 47.9 percent viewing her favorably, down from 58.7 percent one year earlier. Her unfavorables, at 38.3 percent in September 2020, had climbed to 46.3 percent. Still, 47.9 is higher than 46.3, so we were right.
What will John James do?
The consensus last year was that the only Michigan man ever to lose back-to-back U.S. Senate races would spend 2021 casting about for something else to run for or, perhaps, move into national or state party leadership. That did not happen. James has made no moves toward any 2022 runs and was most recently in the news for launching a political action committee called Mission First, People Always in March 2021 to raise money for conservative candidates. It appears to be a low-key operation, though, with just 186 Twitter followers and nothing new on its website since the launch. Oakland University’s David Dulio probably came closest here when he said, “I could see him just going back to his business career and having had enough of politics for a while.”
Will Detroit Police Chief James Craig still be in charge by 2022?
Two of our folks — Democratic political operative Joe DiSano and podcaster Jer Staes — both thought Duggan might fire Craig if the chief’s resistance to police reform amid the Black Lives Matter movement and/or the soaring crime rate in the city became too politically hot. Others figured he was safe and unlikely to depart. Nobody suggested what actually happened: He retired of his own volition and became the Republican front-runner to take on Whitmer for governor in 2022.
Who will be affected most by congressional redistricting?
The group agreed metro Detroit would suffer, because the census would result in Michigan losing one of its 14 seats in Congress and said seat would come out of southeast Michigan. The state did lose a seat, but the redistricting commission hasn’t finalized any new maps, and litigation over whether the city of Detroit retains two minority-majority districts is still unclear at press time.
Will we hear much from Gary Peters again before 2026?
Everyone thought so, given how he eked out a win over James, by 1.7 percentage points, to earn a second term, after spending his election cycle having to remind everyone who he is because he has one of the U.S. Senate’s lowest profiles. He did enjoy some attention as the chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and he certainly appeared a bit more on cable news than before. If he shows up on the campaign trail for Whitmer and other Democrats in 2022, he’ll seem to have learned his lesson about staying in the news, but at the moment, Michiganders could be forgiven if they’ve gone back to asking, “Gary who?”
Will Mayor Mike Duggan be reelected?
Yup. As predicted, he’s only the second Detroit mayor ever to win three or more terms. That’s why he’s one of this year’s Hour Detroiters.
What does Justin Amash do next?
A year ago, this was actually an interesting question. Amash was the OG Liz Cheney — a lifelong Republican who couldn’t stomach Donald Trump’s takeover of the party. By the time he voted to impeach Trump in December 2019 over his efforts to solicit Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, Amash had left the GOP. Then, he decided not to run for reelection and briefly flirted with a bid for the 2020 presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party. In the end, he just left office quietly. Our panel thought he might end up at a think tank, but there’s no indication that’s the case. A “Coming soon” sign greets visitors to Amash’s website, and his political involvement appears to be limited to tweeting about D.C. dysfunction and questioning the constitutionality of federal vaccine mandates.
Will Line 5 actually be shut down?
Our panelists were dubious, and rightly so. There’s been little movement on the issue, even with a Democratic presidential administration more sympathetic to the desire of close ally Whitmer to stop fuel flowing through the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge, which owns Line 5, got Trudeau in Canada to invoke a 1977 treaty requiring the U.S. to keep the 68-year-old pipeline operating, for now, and enter binational negotiations about its future. An April assessment by the U.S. House found that moving fuel without the pipeline would require 2,100 tankers and 800 railcars, calling into question the environmental benefit of its closure. And there’s one other concern: Shutting down the pipeline would send the Upper Peninsula’s energy prices soaring, at a time of already high costs and inflation.