Mackinac Conference Emerges as National Battleground

Senator Rand Paul is the latest presidential candidate to announce he will attend Michigan’s Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference next month, MLive reports.

Just days after the second Republican debate on CNN, Paul will join at least five other candidates on Mackinac Island: Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, Ohio governor John Kasich, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Senator Ted Cruz and former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

The biennial conference has become a key forum for contenders for the Republican nomination every fourth fall leading up to the early primaries and caucuses. Three of the last four nominees attended during the presidential election cycle.

Mackinac will provide one of the first non-debate opportunities for candidate to distinguish themselves amongst the field. Walker, Paul and Cruz, for example, had some of the least time to speak during the first debate, so this event, with fewer candidates in attendance and – so far – no Donald Trump, will give them a chance to provide more details of their plans and vision.

Jeb Bush and John Kasich will face off as two resume-touting, wonkish governors with the reputation of being moderates. It also provides an opportunity for Scott Walker to differentiate himself from the others further, as he is generally thought to be the more conservative governor.

It could also be the place for Walker generally to find his footing, along with the CNN debate. Leading up to the Fox News debate, he was in a battle for second with Jeb Bush, according to the RCP average. He has since lost 6 points – more than 40% of his support – since his unexceptional debate performance.

Paul – who has made a big impression in Michigan in the past – and Cruz received moderate increases in their numbers from the first debate and will aim to continue to connect with voters.

Finally, the conference will also be another chance for Carly Fiorina to bring her professionalism and well-preparedness to impress conservatives. She missed the first prime-time Fox News debate due to low polling numbers, but impressed in the pre-debate forum and experienced an uptick in the polls.

However, as reported on Conservative Intel, CNN’s own debate criteria could keep her off the second big stage as well. If so, it will be one of her first times on stage among other top ten candidates and she will be looking to make a huge splash at Mackinac.

Michigan is a large and crucial swing state – and one in which Hillary Clinton is currently in trouble. The Republican candidates who attend must do their best to take advantage of this stage.