Whitmer’s advice to 2020 contenders: Don’t skip the Midwest

    Gretchen Whitmer | Wikipedia Commons

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has dipped her toe into the 2020 election, but not as a presidential or vice presidential contender.

    As the Advance first reported in December, Whitmer said she wasn’t interested in being on the ticket. But on Monday, she did invite Democratic presidential hopefuls to visit Michigan via her new personal Twitter account. Whitmer’s office has not yet had presidential candidates reach out about stopping by Michigan, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

    Democratic presidential debate held at the University of Michigan-Flint, 2016 | Susan J. Demas

    And Whitmer also talked to the New York Times for a story that ran that same day on the apparent debate among some Democrats about neglecting the Midwest in favor of the Sun Belt next year:

    “It drives me crazy,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, who rolled to an easy victory last year in a state Mr. Trump narrowly won. “To put any particular part of the country into a general classification and write them off is ridiculous.”

    Ms. Whitmer said she won “by going into areas most Democrats wouldn’t spend their time going.” She added, “You show up at a bowling alley.”

    Greg Sargent

    Greg Sargent, who writes the liberal Plum Line column for the Washington Post, took issue with her comments:

    Simply as an empirical matter, this framing of the policy choice is overly simplistic and doesn’t adequately reckon with what’s happening in the Democratic Party right now.

    Sargent acknowledged that “it’s not clear how deep this debate really runs” among Democrats. 

    In a tweet on Monday, Sargent was more pointed in his criticism: “It’s terrible to see dynamic Democrats like @gretchenwhitmer feeding the frame that Democrats have to choose between racial issues/immigration and ‘kitchen table’ issues. That is a totally false choice. It is *not an option* to do one and not the other.”

    In an interview with the Advance on Tuesday, Whitmer was asked about the NYT interview and Sargent’s criticism. She said she had not seen Sargent’s column and was “surprised” by his take.

    “My comments spanned a number of issues and my message to anyone running for office, no matter what office it is, is that you have to show up and talk to people. And when you do that, it keeps you focused on the things that matter,” she said. “And it really was that simple.”

    When asked if she thought it was an either/or proposition for Democrats to address both racial and economic issues in 2020, Whitmer said, “Of course not. No, absolutely not. There are a lot of issues we’ve got to tackle as a nation and as a state. I believe, though, when you show up in a meaningful way, it really keeps you tethered to how you can impact people’s lives.”

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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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