Here’s a look at what sets up Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as a potential VP running mate to help get Biden elected. And maybe even carry out a higher office after.
LANSING, MI — During the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has made a name for herself on the national stage.
She’s managed the crisis and she’s it managed through President Donald Trump’s constant criticism and personal attacks. .
Whitmer has been rumored to be a major contender to be former Vice-President and Democratic Nominee Joe Biden’s running mate for November. And she’d be the best choice he could make for a number of reasons from her calm in crisis to the pure electoral math advantages she’d bring to the Biden campaign.
Biden’s Vice-Presidential candidate will almost certainly need to fit a few key criteria.
Biden pledged to nominate a woman, a strong running mate helps secure a battleground state’s electoral votes and Biden will want someone closer to the moderate end of the Democratic Party’s spectrum who will agree with him on policy positions and fight to get the Biden agenda passed.
There’s another consideration unique to Biden. According to reports in Politico, Biden may only serve one term as President if elected. That means Biden would want a running mate to help him today and even replace him tomorrow. Which means a candidate with charisma, leadership and a political philosophy close to Biden’s is more crucial to this candidacy than to most.
There are some reasons Whitmer just might fit that bill.
Whitmer is a Strong Leader
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has shown she’s a strong leader during the coronavirus pandemic. Especially because she’s been elevated to that position by President Donald Trump.
Whitmer was derisively called “that woman from Michigan” by President Trump and handled the moment with professionalism and grace. That went on to characterize the entire relationship between the two leaders. When Trump hits with names like “Half Whitmer”, the governor has responded with remarks reminding him that he can’t order governors to ‘reopen’ state economies.
This has alienated Michiganders, as The ‘Gander has reported. It’s also created a strong backlash in the form of Michigan women taking the label “that woman from Michigan” as a point of pride.
WXYZ reports that one entrepreneurial Detroiter, Amanda Burden, has made big business selling “that woman from Michigan” shirts in support of the Governor who, Burden says, “has been busting her butt to take care of people in our state.”
Whitmer has used that elevated status to become a leader on the national stage already. Whitmer’s plan to reignite Michgian’s economy was adopted by a bipartisan coalition of Midwestern governors in place of the plan outlined by the White House. She’s been on national television repeatedly articulating the Democratic response to the pandemic. And even when her administration has made mistakes in this largely uncharted territory, Whitmer has been quick to address them.
She’s also led Michigan through the pandemic with a kind of compassion and personal care that is much needed in professional politics. Politico reported on a conversation Whitmer had with a Michigander consoling them mere minutes after they lost a family member to the coronavirus. The ‘Gander reported Whitmer taking a personal pay cut before issuing temporary layoffs to state employees, sharing in the pain the state must endure to continue providing critical services.
When conservative Michiganders announced their intention to travel to Lansing to protest the stay-at-home orders that Whitmer used to flatten the curve marching to President Trump’s drumbeat, Whitmer just wanted them to do so safely.
“It’s okay to be frustrated. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay, if it makes you feel better to direct it at me, it’s okay to do that too, I’ve got thick skin,” Whitmer said. “I just ask that those that are protesting these orders do so in a safe manner so you don’t get sick and so you don’t subject our first responders to risk either.”
But Whitmer’s advantages for the Biden campaign are even more tangible than that.
Let’s dig into numbers.
Whitmer By the Numbers
Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has been widely supported according to polling reported by The ‘Gander. Nearly 60% of Michiganders supported Whitmer’s approach to the crisis while only 37% supported Trump’s approach. She beats Trump handily across this metric, and even if it no longer is the main issue on voters’ minds in November any half-savvy political campaign wouldn’t let Michiganders forget the differences in how both leaders handled the crisis.
Michigan went for Trump by a razor-thin margin in 2016, less than half a percent won Trump the state. Two years later, Whitmer took the state by a margin of nearly 10%. It’s important to acknowledge that Whitmer was running against Bill Schuette, a candidate tied to the deeply unpopular previous governor, Rick Snyder. But those differences in victory margins are telling.
By comparison, Biden’s lead over Trump is much, much tighter. The latest data from RealClearPolitics gives Biden around a 5-point lead, but that number is far from stable and isn’t growing regularly.
That could be a problem for Biden. A lead in polling doesn’t mean a lead at the ballot box. Trump famously outperformed polling data in 2016, attributed by the New York Times in part to polling methodology considering Trump’s supporters not likely voters and due in part to undecided voters breaking heavily in Trump’s favor. Polls might not be much more reliable this time around. Polling showed progressive firebrand Bernie Sanders winning Michigan by a wide margin in the 2020 Democratic Primary, but the electorate wasn’t nearly as left-leaning as the polls indicated and Biden absolutely blew Sanders out of the water in Michigan.
This should actually give Biden some pause, because it shows that poll sampling methodology is still not predicting the actual results of the election, and is in the case of Michigan seemingly farther off than it was in 2016.
Michigan matters a lot.
Trump was the first Republican Michigan went for in decades, and inspires fierce loyalty in his followers. Some even risked contracting the coronavirus to send his message to Gov. Whitmer by protesting in Lansing. That means his support doesn’t fade easy, and it certainly hasn’t in Michigan.
Michigan is crucial to both campaigns in 2020. As the Detroit Free Press reports the electoral votes of Michigan are absolutely critical to securing the White House. Based on current projections, if Biden can take Michigan the remaining paths to victory for President Trump are tricky. Of the six other swing states, if Biden takes Michigan Trump would need to take at least four to win.
Winning Michigan isn’t a lock for either candidate, but it makes the path significantly harder for their opponent if they manage it. So while not an essential win, locking down a win in Michigan would be the kind of boon for Biden that it would be hard for Trump to make up for with his various incumbency advantages and tendency to outperform polls.
Whitmer’s loyalty in Michigan could boost Biden as a candidate.
As CNN reports, Biden’s search for a running mate has been unusually public with his discussion of who might become his vice-president. There are other names in the running, including Georgia’s rising star Stacey Abrams, Nevada’s Catherine Cortez Masto, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin and former primary opponents Elizabeth Warren,Amy Klubachar and Kamala Harris. An unlikely but possible choice would also be Michelle Obama. CNN explored the various strengths of all those names and more.
But given the various advantages she represents, “that woman from Michigan” just might be a top contender.