It's a move that could potentially tip the scales in the knife-edged 7th Congressional District race. Former GOP Rep. Joe Schwarz, defeated by Tim Walberg in 2006, has endorsed Walberg's challenger, Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer.
Schwarz is a highly-respected doctor from Battle Creek, who appealed mostly to moderates in the 7th. Such was his appeal that there was quite a loud rumbling from some in the Democratic Party urging him to switch parties and run as a Dem against Walberg this year.
Schwarz is from the Bill Milliken/Paul DeWeese/John Stewart/Ken Sikkema wing of the Republican Party - a centrist faction that has been decreasing in number in recent years. It's also a group that hasn't been afraid to buck its own party - Milliken backed Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2006, Stewart changed his party registration and is now a Democrat, Sikkema backed a tax increase as part of a solution to the recent state budget mess and DeWeese is already a Schauer backer.
But the biggest endorsement left in this race was from Schwarz. He's the sort of politician whose endorsement still matters, where folks sit up and say "well if Joe says so, then..." And until now, he had been expected to remain quiet. The only comparison I can make on a national level would be someone like Colin Powell or Sandra Day O'Connor coming out for Barack Obama.
It's too soon to see if this race will move from it's current Capitol Journal rating of "toss-up" back to "lean challenger", and I'll think about that more during the upcoming week as the reverberations of this move are felt.
Needless to say, it should spice up an already sizzling contest.