As the race for Michigan governor gets underway heading into the Aug. 2, 2022 Michigan primary election, who will come out on top of the Republican party to take the nomination? And how will former President Donald Trump’s endorsement influence who gets to be on the ticket come November?
One Detroit contributors Stephen Henderson, host of “American Black Journal,” and Nolan Finley, editorial page editor at The Detroit News, sit down for a conversation about where the five candidates remaining in the Republican party stand leading to the 2022 Michigan primary election and what issues will impact the campaign for governor.
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“It’s basically a deadlocked race,” Finley said about a recent Detroit News poll that shows candidate Tudor Dixon ahead with 19%, but only marginally compared to the other four candidates.
From abortion rights to economic inflation, they discuss how the Republican candidates are addressing these issues ahead of November. Plus, Finley weighs in on Trump’s diminishing approval rating in Michigan and how he might contend with other possible Republican presidential candidates, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, if he announces he’s running in the 2024 election.
Nolan Finley: Well, Steve, I couldn’t blame you if you haven’t noticed. But there is a Republican gubernatorial campaign underway in Michigan. It’s struggled to find its feet. We’ve talked before about the troubles and actually getting on the ballot. We’re still left with five candidates. And they’re still trying to put this thing together with just two and a half weeks left before the August 2nd balloting. No sign that any of them have a true statewide organization, which is an unusual thing. Not much money is being spent and getting out the vote efforts.
Although just this week, we have seen some flyers and some text messages, emails go back out to absentee ballots. But it got off to a really late start. Only one candidate, Kevin Rinke, has real money and he seems to be spending most of it to tear down Tudor Dixon. My view of this is it’s a race just waiting for Donald Trump to enter.
Stephen Henderson: Well, he’s already there. And that’s part of the problem.
Nolan Finley: He hasn’t anointed a candidate, yet.
Stephen Henderson: He hasn’t said who he likes. But everybody in the race seems to believe that the way to win is to cozy up just enough to the former president to get votes. I think some of them are maybe rightfully afraid of what kind of consequence that would pay in the fall. But they all seem very aware that this is still the heavy in the party and that in the primary in particular, the litmus test is two things.
One is, what do you think happened in the last presidential election in 2020? Do you think Joe Biden actually won? And then the question is, do you support Donald Trump? Which becomes, I think, harder and harder to do as we watch the noose tighten around him and his inner circle in these hearings in Washington. We still haven’t heard from Merrick Garland at the Justice Department, but anybody who knows Merrick Garland and the kind of prosecutor he was.
For instance, with the Oklahoma City bombers and some other high-profile cases, you can’t believe that he’s not going to do anything there. I mean, it is a treacherous kind of path to have to walk. Nobody has been able to come out and say, here’s who I am and what I’m really about and this is why I want to be governor.
Nolan Finley: And that’s true, but it’s a necessary route for them to take. If you look at our poll this week, basically a deadlock race to Tudor Dixon was leading with 19. But everybody else in the race except for Ralph Rebandt is at 12 to 15. So basically, it’s within the margin of error. You got to believe Trump’s coming in now. We’re taping this in advance but by the time it airs. Donald Trump may have already made his pick. But whoever that is, Donald Trump is going to be able to say he decided the Michigan race.
You know, his ego, that’s a big thing for him. But the poll also had some warning signs for Donald Trump as I write my column today. His approval rating among Michigan Republicans still strong at 76%, but it’s dropped eight points in the last two months. I assume, because of the high coverage of the January six hearing and in a head-to-head matchup. And this is what astonished me in this poll. In a head-to-head matchup with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump is up only 45 to 42, within the margin of error.
It shows a real weakening of what we assumed was solid support in Michigan for the former president. You got to believe me, I mean, Ron DeSantis doesn’t enjoy near the name I.D., name recognition as Donald Trump and we wouldn’t have thought the popularity but there it is.
Stephen Henderson: If you’re a Republican, you need this to happen. I mean, there is almost no chance that Donald Trump, if he decided to run in 2024 and got the nomination, would be able to win the presidency. He would do further damage to the party.
Nolan Finley: 2016 is gonna be calling to give you a wake-up call.
Stephen Henderson: Yeah, a lot’s happened since then. And he’s not the same guy he was in 2016. We know a lot more about him and voters have twice rejected him for president. There’s nothing that suggests more people would vote for Donald Trump than already have in 2024.
And he’s not able to get a majority of the votes either time. The other thing that’s really interesting to me about this Republican primary is what role in the fall the abortion issue will play for Republicans. This is if you’re a Republican, that’s your worst nightmare is having abortion on the ballot, because the polls show overwhelmingly that people support a woman’s right to choose.
The Supreme Court did Democrats something of a favor by forcing that issue. Any Republican who comes out of this primary, I think is going to have a harder time with that than they might have had with the Trump issue in the primary.
Nolan Finley: And the Republican campaigns are downplaying that. They’re saying all that matters is inflation. And I believe inflation is the driving issue. But I also believe abortion will turn out large numbers of Democratic women, particularly in the younger demographics. Who might have said, “Good God, I’m not voting this year. I’m so fed up. I’m so disgusted.”
I think abortion is a motivator. It always has been in this state, and I agree. I think it makes it tough for Republicans unless inflation keeps getting worse and worse. It is an issue that takes your mind off a lot of things.
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