In 2016, Trump won Michigan by less than 1% of the vote in his path to the White House. While the DNC was predicting a slam dunk for Hillary Clinton, RNC polling showed that Trump could win the state by 25,000 votes. This convinced Trump to entertain a Election Day eve rally in Grand Rapids while the Democrats were counting their electoral votes before a ballot had been cast. Although the Democrats will likely not get caught with their pants down in Michigan, should Trump lose the state, it will not be for lack of an all-out effort in 2020.
Under Michigan law, the heads of the two major parties have to submit the names of candidates for inclusion on the primary ballot. According to GOP state party chairman Laura Cox, there was only one name: Donald Trump. In what was a ringing endorsement of solidarity behind the President, Cox echoed the language of Trump. Of course, others could make the ballot in the Michigan primary, but it appears the state GOP leadership is unified behind Trump.
Republican group America Rising Squared has started a Michigan chapter called Michigan Rising Action. The nonprofit is manned by a squad of volunteers who follow Democrats and record their every word and action as part of concerted opposition research. In particular, they have not only the eventual presidential candidate in their sites, but also freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and senator Gary Peters.
The Trump campaign has also tapped state GOP co-chair Terry Bowman to be on the advisory board of “Workers for Trump.” This is a grassroots network of blue collar workers. With both parties trying to organize blue collar workers, this group has been more organized than the time-worn tactics of organized labor and their slavery to the Democrats.
Most importantly, Trump himself has made appearances in the state. Likewise, some Democrats have also. Even more important than this is the recruitment of John James for another senatorial run against Democrat incumbent Gary Peters.
The entrance of James into the fray has some Republican strategists bullish on flipping this Senate seat. Two recent polls, including one by a consortium that includes a Democratic pollster, show the race basically tied. And although James lost to Debbie Stabenow two years ago, it was the closest race in her political career. James has a great resume and great presence on the campaign trail. He actually outraised Peters in a few quarters. And even a Democrat pollster puts the race at less than 1%.
If James prevails, he will have done something no Republican has done in 67 years in Michigan- defeat an incumbent Democrat senator. Republicans have been attacking Peters for his relative lack of name recognition in the state. At one point, they erected a billboard in Dearborn deliberately misspelling his name.
James was and currently is a Trump supporter. On the one hand, you have Trump taking Michigan by the slimmest of margins. Trump won the state by about 11,000 votes of over 2.8 million cast. However, there were 75,000 votes where people voted down-ballot, but not for President. Even though Trump prevailed, two years later what appears to be apathy at the top of the ticket was turned on its head as Michigan saw record turnout in a non-Presidential year. Taken together, it makes it difficult to read the tea leaves in the state. Polls continue to show that Trump’s approval ratings lag in the Rust Belt, including Michigan. In short, both sides will fight intensely for Michigan’s electoral votes and the question then becomes, should Trump fail to prevail, whether this drags down John James also. And speaking of James, should he defeat Peters, it would make him the second black Republican Senator. If Trump can convince those 75,000 apathetic voters in 2016 that he is the better choice than the Democrat candidate, it may make the difference.
And finally, as concerns Michigan, there is the case of Justin Amash. Claiming he read the entire Mueller Report, he was the only “Republican” to declare that Trump had engaged in “impeachable conduct.” Yes- Amash was a founding member of the Freedom Caucus in the House. The Freedom Caucus liked to revel in taking on the GOP establishment. They were the bane of former House Speaker John Boehner. Now Trump is seen, by some, as the establishment, and some Michigan mainstream news outlets have rushed to the defense of Amash. What they and Amash fail to understand is that most of, if not all, of those founding members of the Freedom Caucus are firmly in the Trump camp… except Amash.
Instead, Amash is simply revealed as the conservative charlatan he really is. Said Amash, in typical NeverTrump fashion: “I’m just a principled person who follows the Constitution, and I’m doing what I believe.” Following the Constitution is not buying into Democrat talking points when it comes to Trump and the Mueller report. It is not a conservative “principled” stand against a President who has, despite the best effort of Amash and the NeverTrump minions, governed and acted like the most conservative President since Ronald Reagan.
Trump is not a smooth communicator like Reagan and he is certainly no capitulator like George W. Bush. The new Republican party under Donald Trump is one that is willing to fight for conservatism, not throw the towel in and run for “bipartisan” cover. If Amash can be duped by the Mueller Report, then he has no place in the GOP. He has cashed in any so-called conservative credibility. The Republican Party in Michigan, let alone nationally, is all the better that Amash is out of the picture. May the door hit him on his ass on his way to political obscurity. Then again, there is always a voice for him and his like on MSNBC.
Recently, the state senate majority leader Mike Shirkey referred to the Democratic governor, Whitmer, as “batshit crazy” during a speech. Of course, he apologized and characterized his comments as “disrespectful and unnecessary.” But, that does not make a Democrat that less “batshit crazy.” Welcome to the new GOP under Trump- not afraid to say what is on the minds of many people.