Politico reported Monday morning that President Donald Trump’s advisors have argued it may be safer for Trump’s re-election chances if Republican John James runs for a key Michigan U.S. House seat in 2020, rather than re-doing his failed 2018 Senate bid as has been rumored.
This comes as rumors swirled last week that James was on the brink of making an announcement on his 2020 plans — something that was also speculated before the Michigan GOP state convention in February.
James has been reportedly weighing a challenge to U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) or U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester) in the 11th congressional district. Peters raised almost $2 million last quarter and Stevens brought in the most fundraising dollars of any Michigan representative through 2019’s first quarter, raising $575,000 overall.
The Trump team’s rationale, Politico reporter Alex Isenstadt writes, is that “a statewide campaign by James could force Democrats to spend more money in the state, driving turnout on the other side and potentially hurting the president.” The report also notes that James has met with both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence recently to discuss his options.
The report comes amid growing anxiety within the Trump campaign about his re-election chances in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which were crucial to his 2016 victory. It cites “two people briefed on the results” as having said that in his campaign’s own internal polling, Trump currently lags former Vice President Joe Biden in all three states.
James is an Iraq War veteran and businessman who lost his 2018 U.S. Senate campaign against U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) by roughly 300,000 votes. Because he made the race closer than expected, James has largely been seen as a top prospect to take on Peters for U.S. Senate.
James’ camp also has deleted almost all of its content from his 2018 Senate bid from his social media accounts, fueling speculation that he will be making another run for office.
The Trump team has been increasingly focused on — and entangled with — with the Michigan GOP’s political machinations since crushing losses for Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections. That includes Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale’s rare endorsement of Laura Cox for state party chair and the appointment of former Trump aide Michael Ambrosini as the state party’s executive director.
The president kicked off his re-election campaign in March with a rally in Grand Rapids, and Vice President Pence spoke last month in metro Detroit in an attempt to bolster support within Michigan’s auto industry.
Democrats, for their part, have matched Republicans’ intense focus on the state, as the Advance has documented.