Question: As of today, what top issues look likely that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will use against Republicans in her re-election bid next year? And what will be the top issues the Republican nominee should use against Whitmer?
Answer: She will surely focus on Donald Trump (and maybe some Betsy DeVos), and try to tie every Republican to him, although that appears to be slowly fading as a successful campaign strategy, given the results of recent elections in Virginia and New Jersey (and Michigan does not have as pro-Democrat a tilt as either of those states). As an extension of that, she will pound away at the Republicans’ steadfast efforts during the last several election cycles to disseminate what she describes as “falsehoods.” She will claim the Michigan GOP has focussed exclusively on instilling chaos into the state’s pandemic response and undermining public confidence in the state’s electoral process. But that’s all negative. Can the governor cite something positive to recommend her re-election? Hardly anything. She can hope that the state’s economy has fully rebounded from the disaster of the last two years, which she contends was not her fault. Yes, there has been some improvement up to this point, as has been the case in every state in the country, but how much of that is due to anything Whitmer has done? Or has it been due largely to federal largesse from Washington, and what is the price to be paid for that (and is being paid right now, with rampant inflation and a staggering increase in the national debt)? We’ll see how things stand a year from now.
As for the Republicans, the gubernatorial nominee — whoever he or she might be — will hammer away at Whitmer’s hypocrisy during the pandemic in saying ‘Do as I say, not what I do’ (the infamous Florida trip, dining at restaurants without a mask et al.) Next, they’ll talk about the devastating — and unnecessary — impact her executive orders had on small businesses, and taking too long to allow them to open up again. Third, they’ll point out the cruelty of families not being allowed at the deathbeds of their loved ones. Fourth will be the spending on unemployment — and the rank incompetence of her Unemployment Insurance agency in squandering billions of dollars in fraudulent UI benefits — when there are so many jobs available that the workforce has shown it has so little interest in applying for. Overall, they’ll contend that everything Whitmer did in 2020 and into early this year proves their persistent claim that she didn’t really believe her policies were based on science or objective data. The GOP will argue Whitmer should not have the power to declare citizens to be “nonessential.” They’ll also echo the charge of new Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin that Democrats, and that would include Whitmer, value teachers’ unions over kids, and that Whitmer doesn’t think parents have any role in deciding what should be taught in K-12 schools. And, O Yes!, if President Joe Biden and his administration remain as unpopular as they are today, they will try to tie Whitmer to the ongoing mess in Washington, D.C., no matter whether majority Democrats get their “Build Back Better” agenda across the finish line. In fact, if they do, that may give the GOP even more grist for their mill.
But that’s all negative, too. What will a Republican nominee offer that is POSITIVE? First and foremost, the economy in Michigan, and that would include rehabilitation of public infrastructure. Whitmer has shown herself to be inept at understanding or caring about business and jobs. No governor in recent history has spoken less, and done less, in encouraging economic development in Michigan than Whitmer. That will be the big issue next year — not rising crime, education, or any of the hot-button social/cultural issues like abortion, LGBTQ rights, etc. For that matter, if those come into play, they may redound to the benefit of the Republicans as well.
Recently, Michigan Democrats and most of the Mainstream Media and their pr firm acolytes (they’re mostly one and the same) are claiming the Republicans themselves are guilty of rank hypocrisy in criticizing Whitmer for not reacting aggressively against the surge in COVID-19 in Michigan, which is now higher than it was a year ago when all of Whitmer’s lockdowns were in place. The Democrats and the MSM ask, “How can the Republicans blast the governor now for not doing what they argued against vociferously last year?” Let’s put aside the evidence that almost everything the Whitmer administration has done so far to manage the pandemic has been for naught. Florida has done better using a different strategy. How would the Republicans answer the Democrats’ question? By simply saying, “If her strategy for the first year of COVID-19 was based on ‘science,’ as the governor contends, why isn’t she employing it now when the threat from the coronavirus is even greater?” The GOP appears to be begging for Whitmer to REIMPOSE her lockdowns and mask mandates. But does Whitmer dare do that, or has her strategy all along been based on POLITICAL science and hatred of Donald Trump rather than what was best for Michigan? Trump is gone, and they know she won’t.
All of this presupposes the Republicans will produce a gubernatorial nominee who can harness all these questions and issues, and right now there is little evidence that they can. There are a lot of candidates out there, but none of them seem to have that capability in toto. They have bits and pieces between them, but no single candidate has anything close to “The Total Package.”