Michigan has had 14 of the 24 Democratic presidential contenders grace us with their presence this year. But the two biggest candidates from the Midwest — Scranton, Pa., native former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — have yet to stump here.
Ever since now-President Donald Trump pulled the Upper Midwest hat trick by winning Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in 2016, Democrats have been obsessed with taking those states back. While previous modern presidential campaigns have focused almost exclusively on the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, the industrial Midwest has emerged as a focal point in 2020.
Biden, in contrast, has been the frontrunner since he jumped in late in April. And Buttigieg has occupied the wunderkind slot in media coverage, vaulting him into the top tier. Both have made the argument that their Midwest roots give them an advantage in the presidential race.
“I actually live in a middle-class lifestyle, in a middle-class neighborhood, in the American Midwest,” Buttigieg told CNBC.
And Biden’s hard-scrabble Scranton roots have been at the core of his political career, which began in the 1970s in Delaware. (“Joe Biden from gritty Scranton; they really resent that in Delaware,” he said in a folksy April speech).
Last cycle, Biden headlined a November 2018 rally for now-U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) in Lansing that featured now-Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Dems. And on Thursday, Buttigieg’s husband, Traverse City native Chasten Buttigieg, is doing a closed-door fundraiser for the Ingham County Democrats.
So far, that’s as close as Michigan has gotten to a Biden or Pete Buttigieg 2020 campaign visit. But given the significance for Democrats of rebuilding the “Blue Wall” next year, that will likely change sooner than later.