Is it 2020 yet? No, but it might feel like it, as Michigan remains the subject of intense national focus for next year’s presidential election.
Reuters puts the spotlight on rural voters, particularly those in the Upper Midwest who are hurting from President Donald Trump’s trade policies. Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist Dan Balz believes Michigan is one of just four states that will determine the presidency, along with Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida.
And finally, the Post looks at what the only independent in Congress, West Michigan’s Justin Amash, is really up to for 2020.
It’s all part of the Advance’s semi-regular roundup of Michigan in the national news.
The conventional wisdom is that rural voters still have Trump’s back, thanks to his slew of anti-immigration policies. But Tim Reid and Joseph Ax report the reality from the ground for Reuters.
Democratic candidates are targeting rural voters who broke hard for Trump in 2016, while the president is stressing his $16 billion aid package for farmers to offset fallout from bad weather and his trade policies.
Democrats point to last year’s congressional elections, where the party increased its share of the vote from 2016 in at least 54 districts with large rural populations, as a sign that Trump’s grip on rural America may be loosening.
Even a small erosion in Trump’s support among rural voters could make a difference in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, where Trump won by razor-thin margins in 2016, Democratic strategists say.
Trump won by a combined total of just 77,000 votes in the three states.
Amash comes of age
There comes a time in a young man’s life when things begin to change. Muscles develop. Relationships get complicated. He starts seeing himself differently, trying to figure out where he fits in. It can be confusing, thrilling, shameful.
For Justin Amash, 39, that time is now.
In recent weeks, the Trump-wary congressman split with the Republican Party to identify as an independent; he’s been criticized by his closest colleagues and developed a pumped-up physique that has people asking whether his new workout routine is about getting camera ready for a third-party presidential run.
The story is filled with tidbits about Amash’s one term in the state House, as well as his political evolution, with Amash admitting, “I used to be more inclined to think Democrats are bad; Barack Obama is uniquely bad or whatever. Over time, I’ve come to see I was too harsh in many ways. I feel like I’m a better person today.”
The piece inevitably turns to Amash’s flirtation with a Libertarian presidential bid next year, with him saying, “It’s obviously something that is realistic. If someone were to do something like that, there’s obviously a good chance it would be me. . . . It’s something I could decide to do.”
That’s sure to keep the speculation going.
The big 4
Is the 2020 map the smallest in years? That’s Balz’s hypothesis and he believes that Wisconsin might prove to be the most pivotal state.
However, poll analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight (an East Lansing native), tweeted over the weekend that he believes there are many potential swing states including Arizona, Ohio, Nevada and Texas (and the second congressional district in Nebraska, which splits its electoral votes).
I don't buy that the 2020 map will necessary be so small. If I were Trump or one of the Democrats, my initial plan would involve probably trying to compete in AZ FL MI WI PA NV NH TX MN CO VA GA NC ME OH IA NM and NE-2. The list would get culled down but that's where I'd begin.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) September 1, 2019
In his column, Balz runs through Michigan’s 2016 and 2018 electoral history:
Of the northern states, Trump won Michigan by the fewest number of votes, just 11,000. Between 2012 and 2016, the Democratic vote badly eroded, with Clinton falling about 300,000 votes short of Obama’s total, including about 75,000 fewer in Wayne County, which is home to Detroit.
… Bitterness lingers among Democrats in Michigan over the 2016 campaign and how it was played by Clinton’s team. The 2018 midterms since have given Democrats some cause for optimism. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recaptured the governor’s mansion and the party picked up two congressional districts.
Balz talked with longtime Democratic strategist Amy Chapman and pollster Richard Czuba and writes that for 2020, “Democrats also have opportunities in some outstate areas. Kent County, home to Grand Rapids, is one area of Democratic growth. Other prospects include higher-educated counties such as Grand Traverse along Lake Michigan and Midland in the center of the state.”