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Michigan's Land struggles in the spotlight

Michigan's Terri Lynn Land, the Republicans' U.S. Senate nominee, made her first big appearance at a policy conference yesterday. It really didn't go well.
Terri Lynn Land during a Michigan Political Leadership Program in Livonia, Mich, March 6, 2014.
Terri Lynn Land during a Michigan Political Leadership Program in Livonia, Mich, March 6, 2014.
It's always easy to tell which up-and-coming candidates the Republican Party gets most excited about. Conservative magazines help create buzz and Beltway chatter; Fox News gives them a platform; and party press releases keep the focus on the brightest stars.
But as Dave Weigel noted yesterday, GOP officials no longer seem to be talking up Michigan's Terri Lynn Land, the Republicans' U.S. Senate nominee in a competitive open-seat contest. Given how close Senate control is likely to be, and NRSC's high hopes for 2014, it's hard not to wonder what happened to the party's enthusiasm for Land.
Roll Call's Stu Rothenberg noted a couple of weeks ago that he's had "doubts" about whether the Michigan Republican is a credible candidate, adding, "Those doubts were recently heightened when one person who has met her said Land 'is so not ready for prime time that it's amazing.'"
Yesterday, the Detroit Free Press' Kathleen Gray reported that Land is creating new skeptics about her standing as a U.S. Senate candidate all the time.

U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, a Republican from Byron Center, got her first taste of full-throttle media scrutiny Wednesday after a forum at the Mackinac Policy Conference. And it wasn't pretty.

The candidate initially hoped to avoid a Q&A with reporters, but eventually hosted a scrum -- before her staff whisked her away two-and-a-half minutes after the questions started. Land looked "slightly panicked and clearly uncomfortable" at times.
As for the substantive responses, Land wouldn't say whether she supported the U.S. rescue of the auto industry -- the Michigan Republican said she thinks it's "great that the autos are doing well," adding, "I support the autos" -- and when the discussion turned to net neutrality, Land didn't seem to understand the policy question.
"I think the Internet should be free," Land said. "It is a great source of information. I'm on Twitter and a fan of Twitter. I think that's a very important part of this. It's a way to actually interact with the community."
While Rep. Gary Peters (D) proved to be fluent on major policy matters during the policy conference, Land "read from notecards." She's the same candidate who hasn't been able to explain her position on climate change or Medicaid expansion.
This isn't to say Land can't win. Many voters probably won't hear about her difficulties with policy basics, and polls show her within about five points of the lead.
That said, the more Land makes her pitch to Michigan, the fewer people she seems to impress.