Exclusive: Whitmer not interested in being on 2020 Democratic ticket

Gretchen Whitmer

Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer told the Advance on Monday that she has no interest in running for president or vice president in 2020.

The East Lansing Democrat, who served 14 years in the Michigan Legislature, was the top vote-getter in Michigan on Nov. 6. She defeated GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette by 9 points.

Given Whitmer’s strong performance in both the August Democratic primary and the general election, it’s only a matter of time before national pundits begin mentioning her in the 2020 chatter.

Donald Trump | Michael Vadon, Creative Commons

Michigan was a decisive state for now-President Donald Trump in 2016. His narrow win over Democrat Hillary Clinton shocked political observers and helped put the Republican over the top in the Electoral College. The state is expected to be hotly contested in 2020.

In an exclusive interview Monday morning, Whitmer ruled out being on the ‘20 ticket and said she is not supporting anyone for president right now.

Here is the Advance’s exchange with Whitmer:

Michigan Advance: So I know you’re going to say that you’re focused on doing the job that voters elected you to do, but has …

Whitmer: I love your start, yes. [laughs]

Michigan Advance: … But has anyone approached you about being a potential presidential or vice presidential candidate in 2020, given your 2018 performance and the importance of Michigan in the Electoral College?

Whitmer: Not with any seriousness.

Michigan Advance: Is it anything that you are interested in?

Whitmer: No.

Michigan Advance: Are you supporting anyone for president at this point?

Whitmer: Not yet, no.

The Advance also asked Whitmer if she thought Trump could carry Michigan again in two years. She noted she met with the president at the White House last week as part of a group of governors-elect, as the Advance reported.

“Well, I think it’s very possible he could win Michigan again,” Whitmer said. “I was at the White House last week and he asked what’s important to us and I talked about infrastructure. I told him I ran on ‘fixing the damn roads.’ He said he wants to get an infrastructure plan done.

Gretchen Whitmer at the White House, Dec. 13, 2018 | Twitter

“I told him about what the Great Lakes means to our way of life and our economy and he vowed to continue funding and building the separation for Asian carp and stay focused on the Soo Locks. So if he keeps doing those things, I would imagine that’s going to resonate with some voters here.”

Whitmer added that Trump’s economic agenda could cut against him in Michigan in the next election, however.

“His trade policies and tariffs have had a devastating impact on agriculture and advanced manufacturing,” she said, “and so it’s going to be complicated for him.”

The Advance asked Whitmer what Democrats need to do to win in 2020.

“I believe Democrats have to stay tethered to the dinner table issues like I did all throughout my campaign,” she said. “I focused on the skills gap, water, roads, fundamentals, health care for people. And when we do that, which is what people are worried about every day in their lives, I think that we can show we’ve got an agenda that really protects people and solves problems and makes us competitive and makes us a state of opportunity.”

Lavora Barnes

As the Advance reported first on Monday, Whitmer also endorsed Michigan Democratic Party Chief Operating Officer Lavora Barnes to lead the party next year.

The Advance will have additional reporting of the wide-ranging interview, including Whitmer’s thoughts on the GOP-led Legislature’s “power grab” bills, sexism on the campaign trail and the Flint water crisis.

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Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.

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