WARREN, Mich. — Yes, they’ll be voting for her in November, but many Republicans who attended Donald Trump’s rally in Michigan on Saturday weren’t rooting for their gubernatorial candidate at a rally meant to boost the entire GOP ticket — especially the woman at the top.
Trump was in Michigan, one of the nation’s swing states, to cheer on GOP candidates Matt DePerno, Tudor Dixon and Kristina Karamo, all seeking statewide office against incumbent Democrats. But Dixon, the party’s gubernatorial nominee, had the smallest set of visible allies, judging purely by the campaign attire people wore at the rally.
“I like it, but it doesn’t show the passion that I want, where you raise your voice and see it in the eyes,” said Ann Clark, a 72-year-old wearing a red MAGA hat and a shirt with Karamo’s name on the front and DePerno’s name on the back part.
“I didn’t vote for her personally [in the primary], but I will stand behind her. It just happened to come up so quickly, we weren’t that familiar with her,” said Lisa Olson-Marshke, a 57-year-old educator who wore a shirt endorsing Karamo, who is running for the state’s top elected official.
Both Karamo and DePerno, the GOP attorney general nominee who is under investigation for alleged election fraud, are seen as cleaner grassroots candidates compared to Dixon.
“Tudor Dixon has a lot of ties to Betsy DeVos and I’m not a DeVos fan at all,” said another undecided rally attendee, referring to the former education secretary under Trump, who is also a major Republican benefactor. and the main backers of Dixon’s run for governor, according to MLive.
Even if she wasn’t their first choice, attendees who spoke to HuffPost said Dixon was far better than the Democratic alternative, which was fired by Republicans for the long-delayed coronavirus shutdown. Often throughout the day, the crowd erupted into chants of “Shut her up!” when Whitmer’s name was mentioned.
Trump spent more time reminiscing and talking about his former rival Hillary Clinton than strengthening his candidates. The vast majority of attendees appeared to be staunch Trump supporters, wearing brightly colored, sequined, or light-colored MAGA clothing.
“Let’s talk about prosecuting Donald Trump and the Republican Party,” Trump said before kicking off a rally for the January 6, 2021 “Stop the Steal” rally in DC that sparked the attack on the US Capitol.
He called Dixon a “very, very good woman” and “a national leader in the fight to protect children, removing race and gender ideology from the classroom.”
“[Democratic Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer is one of the most radical, most sinister governors in America,” Trump said. “You need to get rid of this wild extremist Gretchen Whitmer and put Tudor Dixon in the governor’s office.”
Dixon spoke before Trump took the stage, complaining that her opponent is running a “basement campaign” and not engaging voters.
“Democrats seem to think you can get away with campaigning in the basement. Are we going to let them get away with it this time?” Dixon asked, a nod to Joe Biden’s limited campaigning during the pandemic.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the hardline GOP congresswoman from Georgia who attended the rally, called Dixon “a great American woman” with the “experience to turn Michigan’s economy around,” while Whitmer “abused your children with the communist its closing!”.
To contest critical statewide offices, Michigan Republicans have fielded a host of candidates favored by the hardline base and backed by Trump. Trump was in Michigan to push them across the finish line after the latest poll cast doubt on whether they can appeal to voters in a year when Democrats are expected to go to the polls strong to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution. of the state.
“These people are not liberal, they are authoritarian,” said Karamo, who believes the last election was compromised by fraud. “Never in American history has the office of secretary of state been so inextricably linked to our freedom.”
In what should be competitive races, Republicans are being outspent and outspent by their opponents, a sign that the GOP’s big donors are unsure of their position. Dixon, who raised less than a million dollars in the last fundraising round compared to Whitmer’s millions, hasn’t even been on TV a month since Election Day. Polls show Dixon trailing Whitmer by double digits.
“[Trump] he’s trying to help them raise some money and get Macomb out [County] vote when Democrats decimate Republicans on the airwaves,” said Jason Watts, a GOP adviser to Trump’s strategically located metro Detroit rally. “All the talk in the grassroots is that they think Trump’s PAC is going to come in and soak up all this money, but it’s just not there.”
Dixon, who is touting her job as an executive at her family’s steel company, emerged from a chaotic primary that had no clear lead and saw several candidates dropped from contention after failing to submit the proper paperwork to get on the ballot. . The eventual Republican nominee, who is staunchly anti-abortion and pro-parental rights, was seen as the most electable of the remaining GOP candidates.
“No one who is honest thought [Dixon] he would beat Whitmer,” said Dennis Lennox, another GOP consultant from Michigan. “Dixon’s whole appeal in the primary was that she would do the least damage to the ticket in November, particularly the down-voted congressional candidates.”
John Sellek, a Republican PR consultant and managing director of Michigan-based Harbor Strategic Public Affairs, said “the Michigan primary was like the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate primaries in Ohio and Pennsylvania.”
“A Trump endorsement put an outsider on top, but then they started the general election without a funded and equipped campaign,” Selleck said. “The GOP is looking to change the general election narrative from abortion to education, and Trump could potentially help that effort while he’s here, depending on how he frames it.”
Lisa Dolan, a 53-year-old Dixon supporter, said education, including how gender and sexuality are taught in schools, is her main concern.
“I hope and pray” that the Republicans win, he said. “I don’t think we have many strong Republicans, to be honest. At least not right now.”