The definitive, incomplete guide to 2020 hopefuls’ Michigan campaign stops

Clockwise: Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Beto O'Rourke

It’s technically possible that you haven’t heard this, but now-President Donald Trump won Michigan’s 16 electoral votes in the 2016 presidential election.

Donald Trump | Wikimedia Commons

According to Slate’s now-seemingly defunct Election Brag Tracker, the president reminded Americans of his electoral victory almost 100 times between his inauguration and the late summer of 2018, and he certainly hasn’t slowed down since then, including an extended riff on the pet subject during his March Grand Rapids campaign stop.

Vice President Mike Pence, for his part, resisted the urge to thump his chest while appearing in Southeast Michigan last month to stress traditional pro-business Republican economic policies and lobby for the swift ratification of the United States Mexico Canada Agreement.

But Trump clearly takes a special glee in having thoroughly dismantled Democrats’ “blue wall” of electoral support through Midwestern states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where the fallout from that agreement’s predecessor in NAFTA may have tipped the electoral balance in his favor.

Vice President Mike Pence talks about trade at Motor City Solutions in Taylor, April 24, 2019 | Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen, Flickr

His potential 2020 rivals have taken the cue — especially here in Michigan, where U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) this weekend became the 10th presidential contender since just the beginning of the year to barnstorm the state. As the Advance noted, the road to the White House runs through Michigan (so far).

Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary won’t be until March 10, weeks after the Iowa-New Hampshire-South Carolina triptych that could all but end the contest before it begins. But candidates visiting Michigan almost a full year in advance know that proving their viability here and across the region — call it “electability” — will be a key part of the calculus used by voters nationwide in making their decision.

The Advance has covered almost all of these visits so far, and we’re compiling them here in an effort to keep you up to date.

Candidates are listed in descending order of their place in the RealClearPolitics polling average, as of this story’s publication.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan | Michael Gerstein

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) appeared in Warren in mid-March to sing a populist tune familiar to those who followed the 2016 primary, in which he narrowly won Michigan’s delegates over eventual nominee Hillary Clinton.

Instead of just railing at the establishment defined broadly this time, however, he melded his traditional argument with an anti-Trump argument for a polyglot national identity, saying, “The underlying principles of our government will not be based on racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia or religious bigotry. Those are un-American sentiments — and together we are going to end that mentality.”

Sanders also campaigned in Coopersville on the west side of the state.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris addresses the Detroit NAACP dinner | Andrew Roth

Harris’ two-day trip through Wayne County this week came amid a massive surge in the polls for new candidate (and current frontrunner) Joe Biden, who hasn’t made it out to the Mitten. She’s trying to combat that by showing off her strong relationship with traditional Democratic activist groups like teachers and arguing her own definition of “electability.”

“The conversation too often suggests certain voters will only vote for certain candidates regardless of whether their ideas will lift up all our families,” Harris said at the Detroit NAACP annual Fight for Freedom Fund dinner in Detroit. “It’s shortsighted. It’s wrong. And voters deserve better.”

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) appeared in the Detroit area himself in mid-March, pitching himself to various unions throughout the region as their strongest champion, and, yes, standing on some furniture in the process.

Beto O’Rourke in Ferndale, March 18, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

O’Rourke’s campaign has lost some momentum as of late, but according to the RCP average, he still remains within a few points’ range of fellow mid-tier candidates like Harris and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has yet to appear in Michigan.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) spoke last week to the National Organization of Black County Officials (NOBCO) Economic Development Conference, bringing his unconventional pitch for the “power of love” to a mostly receptive audience of fellow Black politicians.

Booker tailored his typical stump speech to that audience, telling them “You all are the kind of leaders — you see people every day; you look them in the eye, feel their heart, shake their hand … you cannot love your country unless you love your fellow countrymen and women.”

Amy Klobuchar speaking in Detroit, May 3, 2019, Ken Coleman

Minnesota Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar addressed NOBCO officials as well, telling them she was “sure [they] are sick and tired of having all the infrastructure in the country on the back of local officials” as part of her pragmatic, good-governance-oriented campaign pitch.

Klobuchar will return to Detroit next weekend on May 18 for a Women’s Caucus luncheon before the Michigan Democratic Party’s annual Legacy Dinner.

Offbeat businessman Andrew Yang was another of the numerous candidates to appear in Michigan just over the last weekend, pitching an ideologically heterogeneous audience at the Detroit Shipping Company food hall on his vision for America based around a universal basic income.

Andrew Yang speaking in Detroit, May 4,2019 | Derek Robertson

Yang said that Trump in 2016 “got the problems correct … but his solutions were not what we need, to build a wall, turn back the clock, bring jobs back. I’m saying we have to turn the clock forward” — presumably through his signature policy goal of giving every American adult $1,000 per month, no strings attached.

Recent entrée into the presidential field U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) spoke at the Kent County Democrats’ biggest annual fundraiser over this last weekend, telling the Advance that the country’s transition away from a manufacturing-heavy private sector represents an “opportunity for us to make a new economy in communities that have been left behind.”

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) visited Oakland County in mid-March, centering her pitch around economic justice in the wake of the Flint water crisis and her own backstory as an upstate New Yorker.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in Clawson, March 18, 2019 | Andrew Roth

“Michigan is a lot like where I’m from,” Gillibrand said. Echoing the common 2016 post-mortem, she added, “I think these are the places that very much felt left behind in the last election. They didn’t hear their stories being talked about enough and so they didn’t feel like the Democrats were going to help them.”

Maryland former U.S. Rep. John Delaney visited Michigan in January. And in addition to Klobuchar’s return later this month, the self-described “moral and spiritual awakener” Marianne Williamson, who has not yet reached the level of tracking by RealClearPolitics’ polling average, will appear in Harper Woods and Detroit this weekend.

Derek Robertson
Derek Robertson covers local government, education, health care and the social safety net, and LGBTQ issues. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington, and before that covered local politics in Chicago. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He enjoys film, the Detroit Pistons and his cat. He once competed in the National Spelling Bee, but was eliminated before any potential ESPN appearances.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here