Michigan in national news: Biden buoyed Upton in 2018

By: - January 27, 2019 2:38 pm

Susan J. Demas graphic

With 10 million people, a full-time Legislature and our status as a 2020 swing state, Michigan is frequently in the glare of the national spotlight.

Fred Upton (left) and Joe Biden (right)

Here’s a roundup of some national coverage of the Mitten State that you may have missed over the last week:

There’s been a flurry of stories former Vice President Joe Biden, as speculation grows that he could join an already crowded Democratic field for president in 2020.

Alexander Burns’ lead anecdote for his New York Times piece, “Joe Biden’s Paid Speech Buoyed the G.O.P. in Midwest Battleground,” sets the stage of Biden giving a $200,000 speech at Lake Michigan College and playing a pivotal role in the 2018 race between U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Joseph) and Matt Longjohn:

“… Mr. Biden was not there to denounce Mr. Upton. Instead, he was collecting $200,000 from the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan to address a Republican-leaning audience, according to a speaking contract obtained by The New York Times and interviews with organizers. The group, a business-minded civic organization, is supported in part by an Upton family foundation.

“Mr. Biden stunned Democrats and elated Republicans by praising Mr. Upton while the lawmaker looked on from the audience. Alluding to Mr. Upton’s support for a landmark medical-research law, Mr. Biden called him a champion in the fight against cancer — and “one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with.”

“Mr. Biden’s remarks, coming amid a wide-ranging discourse on American politics, quickly appeared in Republican advertising. The local Democratic Party pleaded with Mr. Biden to repair what it saw as a damaging error, to no avail. On Nov. 6, Mr. Upton defeated his Democratic challenger by four and a half percentage points.”

Burns goes on to note that Biden’s chumminess with Republicans may be his Achilles’ heel if he runs next year in a party with a base itching for a fight against President Trump and the GOP.

The Washington Post also uses Michigan for the lede of its story, “Trump voters now blame him for the government shutdown.” The Post traveled to the other side of the state, Macomb County, which has fascinated national reporters for decades, first as the home of “Reagan Democrats” and now as the embodiment of Trumpism.

Here’s the scene Matt Viser of the Post sets in a Walmart:

“Two years ago, Jeff Daudert was fed up with politics. He wanted to shake up the status quo. He didn’t mind sending a message to the establishment — and, frankly, he liked the idea of a disruptive president.

“But the 49-year-old retired Navy reservist has had some second thoughts.

“’What the [expletive] were we thinking?’ he asked the other night inside a Walmart here, in an area of blue-collar suburban Detroit that helped deliver the presidency to Trump.”

Viser explains that losing voters like Daudert in the Midwest could be fatal for Trump in 2020. The story also notes that now-Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, won Macomb County by 4 points last year with a “campaign that barely mentioned Trump and instead promoted basic bipartisan governance, with the slogan: ‘Fix the Damn Roads.’”

Finally, the New York Times published a broad overview of the president’s ’20 prospects, “A Bruised Trump Faces Uncertain 2020 Prospects. His Team Fears a Primary Fight.” 

The triple-bylined story from Burns, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman notes that Trump’s advisers are very concerned about the Upper Midwest, which put him over the top in the 2016 Electoral College:

“Privately, some of Mr. Trump’s 2016 aides have said they are pessimistic about his path to 270 electoral votes after his party’s midterm defeats in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. An Associated Press poll on Wednesday showed that Mr. Trump’s overall approval rating had fallen to 34 percent, with his support among Republicans dipping below 80 percent — a startling turn for a president who strives for total control of the G.O.P., and has usually achieved it.”

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-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 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.