Of the 16 state primaries scheduled for August the New York Times on Sunday, July 31, chose to showcase one, Michigan, on its front page: “DeVos Family, Bucking Trump, Roils Michigan.”
The defining reason for such prominence is two-fold, first, Betsy DeVos, former Secretary of Education in the Trump cabinet, has publicly endorsed Tudor Dixon, her pick for Republican candidate — without Trump’s approval — to unseat Democratic incumbent Gretchen Whitmer. The second, less obvious reason is that Whitmer, among national state Governor candidates up for re-election in November, not only has national exposure, but her approval ratings currently surpass those of President Biden. (1)
America enters post-Trump, post-Biden electioneering, where all politics is to paraphrase former House Speaker, Tip O’Neill, local and national. Not a duality, but a ‘complimentary.’
One asset makes Betsy De Vos popular in Michigan: her purse. (2) Not with all Republican Michiganders, but rather with America’s post-Trump Republican donors. (3) Hence, the public announcement of her endorsement of Dixon.
With a hasty media build-up, DeVos, who had considered running for Governor herself in 2021, but who demurred, saying “there are more qualified candidates,” is endorsing Dixon from a crowded field of Republican contenders laced with scandals- one dropped out due to racist and sexist allegations; two are under investigation by the FBI for voter list fraud; a fourth has been arrested on misdemeanor charges for participating in the January 6 Assault on the Capitol. These Republican pre-primary sobriquets are not just ‘Michigan;’ these are surfacing in multiple state primaries.
Betsy’s ‘more qualified than me’ pick, is a “former conservative media personality.” She is young, white, pretty and says all the ‘right’ things:
“Dixon called herself “the visionary and clear policy leader in the Republican field,” saying she would “rebuild and grow the economy, stop the indoctrination of our school children, … [and] apply common-sense reforms to Michigan’s elections.” (4)
On her monogrammed stationery DeVos challenged Trump to join her, effectively buying him off. Never one to miss an opportunity to lending his name to a right-wing funding momentum in process, Trump acceded.
In Michigan’s Gubernatorial race, Trump will do things Betsy’s way.
Anti-Abortion Ad Buy
Another state buy-off is supporting the anti-abortion forces challenging a Michigan Reproductive Rights ballot initiative. Since the recent Dobbs Supreme Court decision, Michigan’s 1931 law criminalizing abortion is in play. Gov. Whitmer filed a lawsuit on the grounds that the 1931 law violates Michigan’s equal rights clause in the state Constitution. To counter her effort in endorsing a ballot initiative codifying Michigan’s abortion rights, the Republican National Committee announced an $8.9 million TV ad buy.
That’s a lot of TV time on local Michigan stations.
Whitmer’s is pitching her advocacy of women’s abortion rights, tying it to her success as candidate for Governor.
Says Michigan’s anti-abortion voters,’ now we have a shot at a trifecta: both state houses and the Governor’s office.’
Another donor selling point: double your money.
Whitmer’s tenure as Governor, a fraught four years including Trump-targeting and a kidnap attempt, has been replete with warnings. Her warnings reverberate nationally.
Repeat: Whitmer’s approval is higher than Biden’s. (5)
Where Biden preaches unity, Whitmer warns, conferring on her audience the dignity of shouldering risk. She doesn’t promise; she warns. First things first. The roads. The PPE. Now Michigan’s 1929 Anti-Abortion Law.
Whitmer is a veteran, a Governor of resistance.
Arriving in Michigan are the big Republican money and the predictable generous TV smears. In comes the infighting, the squabbling for dollars. In comes the presumptive letter to Trump.
In comes the intimidation. And a possible trifecta.
That’s a big vote.
1- A July Detroit Free Press poll showed that Whitmer had a 55% approval rating with Democrats, 61% approval with Independents. See Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein, “DeVos Family, Bucking Trump, Roils Michigan,” NYTimes, July 31. Also mentioned in their article is the possibility that due to redistricting, Michigan Democrats may flip the Michigan Senate.
2- One institution Betsy DeVos tried to buy off was the Detroit Public Schools. Her attempt failed miserably. See https://rodneyclough.medium.com/trouble-in-michigan-bf54bef07124
3- DeVos who was advised to abort her 25th. amendment challenge to President Trump’s authority in December 2020, quit the Trump camp. In deference to the former President, she has not challenged his picks for Attorney General and Secretary of State, as well as several legislature candidates, all 2020 Election deniers.
5- NYTimes, op cit.