Trump v Michigan, downstaters not welcome, latest polling good for Dems. Riley Beggin and Jeff Timmer join us.

May 25, 2020

Michigan Policast for Monday, May 25, 2020

  In this episode:

  • Trump comes to Michigan and fights with everyone
  • Amy Kerr Hardin on the opening of Traverse City and “up north”
  • Latest polling – good news for Whitmer and team, bad news for Trump and GOP
  • Riley Beggin on the GOP lawsuit, Edenville Dam
  • Jeff Timmer on the 2020 elections, and a post-Trump Republican party
  • John James and the Trump agenda: he's all for it, he understands it, and he's going to implement it …
  • Voting by mail and the VoteSafe project
  • Transcript


Jump to:

Trump comes to Michigan and fights with everyone



Amy Kerr Hardin on the opening of Traverse City and “up north”



Amanda Danielson is the co-owner of italian restaurant Trattoria Stella. She says before the Governor finished annoucning the reopening, her phone started ringing for dinner reservations.

“Easily 75-80 percent of the calls that we got were [from] 810, 248, 313, 734, 312 [area codes.]” Danielson said. ~source


Latest polling – good news for Whitmer and team, bad news for Trump and GOP


Riley Beggin on the GOP lawsuit, Edenville Dam



Jeff Timmer on the 2020 elections, and a post-Trump Republican party





John James and the Trump agenda: he's all for it, he understands it, and he's going to implement it …



Voting by mail and the VoteSafe project





Walt Sorg  00:00

The presenting underwriter of the Michigan Policast is Progress Michigan providing a strong, credible voice that holds public officials and government accountable and assists in the promotion of progressive ideas.


Stephen Colbert  00:15

You know, the great state of Michigan is grappling with a series of disasters right now record unemployment, Coronavirus, flooding. And today, a visit from Donald Trump. There's a reason it's wearing a mitten because it doesn't want you to see which finger it's holding up. Trump went to a Ford plant in Ypsilanti today, and one of the big questions was whether he was going to set a good example and abide by the company's rules by wearing a face mask. People were so concerned that prior to the visit, the Michigan Attorney General wrote a letter asking Trump to wear a mask for the visit explaining anyone who has potentially been recently exposed, including the President of the United States has not only a legal responsibility, but also a social moral responsibility to take reasonable cautions okay? You lost them at legal and social and moral and responsibility and wrote a letter. Next time trying delivering your message via sock puppet with a nice set of cans.


Walt Sorg  01:14

Stephen Colbert on Michigan's week in the Land of Trump, a week in which the President's ongoing feud with that woman from Michigan was expanded to that other woman from Michigan and then that other other woman from Michigan, with the women coming out on top, this is Michigan Policast, we're all about Michigan politics and policy in the national events impacting our pleasant peninsulas. I'm all sort of dreaming of a beer at my favorite Traverse City bar.


Christine Barry  01:38

I'm Christine Barry camped out in a county where the sheriff won't enforce the law. Governor Whitmer has dual wins victory in the court of claims over emergency powers and another poll showing overwhelming statewide support for her use of those powers. She's now passed the 100 Executive Order milestone as she relaxes the statewide lockdown, even while extending precautions into mid June. Also this week, barbers demonstrate in support of the little known constitutional right to a haircut, Midland is under water and former Governor Granholm leads a bipartisan group supporting universal vote by mail option.


Walt Sorg  02:17

We'll be talking with award winning journalist Riley Beggin about This Week in Whitmer and also with former Executive Director of the Michigan Republican Party who's a part of the Dump Trump Movement.  And we'll have an ear witness report direct from Traverse City from our collaborator Amy Kerr Hardin the official bar chick of the Policast. Amy, welcome back to the Policast


Amy Kerr Hardin  02:36

it's good to be back and I have not gone into any bars but I'd love to at some point.


Walt Sorg  02:41

Okay, well, we're cut out one of these years. We'll begin though with President Trump's taxpayer funded campaign visit to the Ford plant in Roseville in the carnival that was created.


Dana Nessel  02:50

So the President is like a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules. And I say this is no joke.


Christine Barry  02:57

Trump was welcomed into Michigan by Attorney General Dana Nestle, who advised him that state law required him to wear a face mask for his tour of the plant, a tour which also violated Governor Whitmer's executive order on safely reopening auto plants. Trump, of course made a show of ignoring Nessel's letter. So then she went on CNN to make sure he got the message. If he won't obey state laws, he's no longer welcome in our state.


Dana Nessel  03:22

His own doctor Dr. Fauci, his own medical expert recommends the wearing of masks in public enclosed spaces. The CDC makes that recommendation in Michigan, of course now that is the law and in fact a  court just upheld that just upheld the governor's orders just hours ago. And even in Ford. It is their own policy. So the President is like a petulant child who refuses to follow the rules. And I say this is no joke. I mean, you just reported that 93,000 people have died in the United States. This is not a joke, and he's conveying the worst possible message to people who cannot afford to be on the receiving end of terrible misinformation. And it's very, very concerning.


Gretchen Whitmer  04:10

As you saw in the footage, all of the Ford executives wore the mask. All of the employees were wearing masks all of the press tour. And it's really important that anyone with a platform has a responsibility to make sure that they model precisely what we're asking everyone else to do. This is about public health, not one person's or another. This is about all of us and anyone in a position of power and responsibility, I hope emulates and does what precisely what they're asking everyone else to do.


Walt Sorg  04:41

And we all know when Donald Trump gets pissed he immediately lashes out on Twitter, and he wrote about our attorney general at least she got her name right. The wacky do nothing Attorney General of Michigan, Dana Nessel is viciously threatening Ford Motor Company for the fact that I inspected a ventilator plant without a mask, not their fault and I did put on a mask No wonder many auto companies left Michigan until I came along. That rounded out a trifecta of Trump attacks on Michigan statewide leaders. All three of them happen to be women. His one way feud with Governor Whitmer has already inspired a couple of songs about that woman from Michigan. And then Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson got into the action with her decision to send an absentee voter applications to every registered voter.


Jocelyn Benson  05:23

For me, I'm dumbfounded that this is controversial, especially because there are Democratic or Republican secretaries of state are doing just what we're doing here in Michigan. But to me, it's also a reflection of what will be happening in our state in the months ahead, which is an effort to misinform and confuse voters about their rights in the state. We see it happening nationally, we've seen it happening in various different forms, and we anticipate this is going to just escalate in the months ahead. So my responsibility is also to try to cut through that misinformation that chaos, that confusion and just clearly say to all of our voters, regardless of who you're voting for this, these are your choices. This is how you can vote this year.


Walt Sorg  06:00

I've got to be careful in the segment. If this turns into a battle of the sexes, I'm outnumbered and outbrain powered as well. But this is really kind of hilarious. There's a great article I saw Christine in Forbes, it was just published. It's an op ed piece by one of their business writers basically saying the three women from Michigan went to battle with the President of the United States, and they won creating a nightmare for him in the election. What's your take?


Christine Barry  06:23

First of all, there are a couple of things about the Ford visit that we should take a look at. The first is that the order doesn't require that you wear a mask if you're not medically able to do so. And I don't know about you Walt, I'm not convinced Trump is medically able to wear a mask. He seems to have breathing problems at times and there are video Supercuts of him heavy breathing while trying to speak. It's totally possible that people have told him you can't wear a mask in front of people out in the public because you will pass out or something. So I did. I did want to acknowledge that.


Walt Sorg  06:55

I like that rumor.


Christine Barry  06:57

I did want to acknowledge that I know he plays it off as some weird alpha male thing, but he might simply just not be comfortable with it because he has a breathing issue. You don't tell the president what to do. You know, he does what he wants. But Governor Whitmer is right. He's got an important platform, he has a responsibility. And he's setting an example of ignoring the law of the state. So if the ag goes out there and says, This is not a joke we're serious about this, and kind of goes tit for tat with him, then that shows everybody that we are serious about it. And we will see a little bit later in this show. These precautions that we're taking are more supported than they are opposed. So she has some wind at her back. I don't think that Trump is doing himself any favors here, except for that he's chumming his base, as he always does.


Walt Sorg  07:50

It's also about sort of good example as a leader, which I think is really important in a crisis situation. It's you know, Rudy Giuliani, as crazy as that man is right after 911 But he was on the scene, and he was empathizing with the people and all the losses that were down there. And he was he was setting an example for how the city should behave. There's a picture for that the White House had taken a Barack Obama during the h1 and one flu epidemic of him getting inoculation against that flu to set an example. We know that the two best defenses we have right now against the corona virus are wearing a mask and social distancing. Two things Donald Trump refuses to do, basically is not socially distant. The only time he comes in contact with people who make sure that they get tested, and he says testing is not important. Unless of course you want to meet with me. And then the one thing he does bottle can kill you. And that's of course, taking the hydroxychloroquine.


Amy Kerr Hardin  08:42

I was just going to say, I wonder if his handlers told him that he's not allowed to wear a mask, and he's not allowed to socially distance whether he would just, you know, act in defiance on that,


Walt Sorg  08:52

But it's turning it into a political issue. Now, there I saw some polling recently that republican men are the only group that a majority of whom do not want to wear a mask, I see it my own family with my in laws. The alpha males in the family absolutely refused to wear a mask that realizing that wearing a mask is about me respecting your health, not me trying to protect my own health. The mask works really to prevent it for me from spreading it to you.


Christine Barry  09:16

Well, they don't care about that all they see his weakness. If you look at a mask, somebody's wearing a mask you're a sheep. You believe in the conspiracy. You know, it's interesting, and I know we'll talk about this in more detail later. But that latest poll that came out from the Detroit Chamber of Commerce said that 86% of the respondents believe that COVID-19 is a serious public risk, public health risk. All I could think of was, oh my god, there's 14% of people who don't believe that this worldwide pandemic is actually a risk.


Walt Sorg  09:53

You can see that on social media all the time. People that just refuse is the Bill Gates conspiracy. Bill Gates. wants to implant us with something or other so we can get richer. I don't know what the hell, that's all about.


Christine Barry  10:04

Well, you have to remember though, and I'll see if I can find the link to this. But I just saw the news that 50% of the people pushing the hoax theory on social media are bots, why? It might have just mentioned Twitter, I'm not sure. But it's it's botted. So it's amplified there, much more so than,  it doesn't really reflect reality is what I'm saying. But there's still 14% of the people in Michigan. I don't know how you can think it's not serious risk.


Walt Sorg  10:36

When we get into the polling, we'll see that most of the state believes that we have an issue here and most of the state is playing by the rules. The problem is with a pandemic, just about everybody has to play by the rules, or you're never going to get over it. We'll talk about that with Amy in just a moment, because she's right in the center of a part of the state where the rules are being loosened.


Christine Barry  10:54

One of the other things that we were talking about earlier was Trump's tweet about Jocelyn Benson. mailing out ballot applications. He got it wrong the first time and said that she was mailing out ballots and that, you know, in response, if we wanted to go down the voter fraud path, he would ask to withhold funding. And then, of course, he was corrected en masse by just so many different layers of like the individuals and governments and organizations. There's so many people came out and corrected him because he's not she wasn't mailing ballots, she was mailing ballot applications. She responded to him directly. Then he came back and he said, mailing ballot applications is illegal. And she responded to him directly again, she handled that very well. And you know, I will say it's interesting when you contrast Gretchen Whitmer, and Jocelyn Benson with Dana Nessel who is not as measured with her words, when she responds to people as the other two. So it's kind of fun to watch how the three of them deal with him.


Walt Sorg  11:57

It's a wonderful little tag team. Well, I really enjoy watching the three of them do their number on the president who's just outmatched in so many ways.


Christine Barry  12:11

Meanwhile, back in the land of reality, multiple developments in the state response to the ongoing pandemic, in addition to Secretary of State Benson's active promotion of vote by mail legislation was introduced by House Democratic Floor Leader Yousef Rahbi to make sure that those votes are counted.


Yousef Rahbi  12:30

With the passage of proposal three with what we saw on May 3 with the you know, increase in usage of at home voting, mail in voting, it's important that we make sure that that every ballot is counted. And frankly, this is a potential problem with every with every election, but particularly now, in an era where there's additional strains on the mail service, we want to make sure that every single ballot has the opportunity to get counted.


Walt Sorg  12:59

The governor also issued a series of executive orders, she's now signed more than 100 of them as a result of the pandemic, including orders that opened up auto sales by appointment, a lot of retail sales by appointment, medical office visits, dental visits, those sorts of things. But most important of all opening the bars in northern Michigan so that the tourism industry can begin to rebound a little bit in the North Country just as Memorial Day weekend goes by. So how did it go in the North Country on week one of drinking and socializing? Amy, you're right in the middle of it in Traverse City. What did you see and hear?


Amy Kerr Hardin  13:33

The announcement came as a surprise to most businesses and local officials, restaurants and bars may open at 50% capacity with a number of restrictions, physical distancing, use of PPE and sanitizing requirements. However, the governor did not lift the restrictions on short term rentals and hotels. Traverse City still anticipates a frightening number of tourists and there is a concern that the hospitality industry will not respect the continued restrictions. The local Chamber of Commerce has put out a statement to their members reminding them to obey the rules. But I've personally seen a local business a furniture store down the road from me open for business well over two weeks ago in defiance of the rules that they had time.  The marquee on the iconic State Theater reads “coming too soon, the tourist” and then the other side of the marquee also had a very similar you know, kind of witty way of saying tourists you're not really welcome.  As soon as the unexpected announcement was made. We experienced another run on grocery stores leaving shelves bare as locals prepare to go into hiding. We are a foodie and cultural arts Mecca and the locals are concerned about protecting that important part of our economy but not at the expense of loss of life. Traverse City has a major medical center servicing its aging population, but we only have 29 ventilators. an outbreak would cause a triage nightmare up here. Some businesses are excited for Memorial Day weekend in residence are wary of the influx of downstaters, I imagined people been seeing on social media pictures of the traffic jams on I 75 of people fleeing Southeast Michigan to come up here.  One brewery tour company received 40 phone calls from downstate vacationers. within two hours of the governor's announcement. Many of the winery and brew pub tour companies are going to be surprised to learn they will need to make reservations and limit the size of their groups to under 10. And allowed the wineries and brew pubs are not even opening or they're only two in curbside at this time. Same thing with a lot of the restaurants they said. You can tell us we can open but we're not opening.  Anecdotally in the past two months, I've heard only three planes flying into cherry capital airport, and I live kind of where I could see the flight path I can hear the planes, the only three that I observed. Since the announcement it seems like there's one every few minutes. Business as usual but deadly consequences here. I'm going to share a social media post from one of our finest restaurants. Trattoria Stella, Paul Danielson wrote, he's the chef owner there. He wrote, ‘within 20 minutes of the governor's announcement, we had calls at Stella for parties of 20 and people who needed flexibility as they were coming directly from the airport. And these are just the clueless careless folks that we have been totally avoided for the last few months', end of quote.   As he was posting that on social media, his wife is the co-owner of the restaurant was going to mainstream media and saying, we're very excited about opening You know, this, this will be great to get our customers back and so forth. So there's like two different layers of messaging going on there. One local watering hole won't even allow non locals in, they put a sign on the door saying if you're not local, don't come in other places who just decided not to open. Most of Michigan is still under stay at home orders till June 12. That means they may not travel north and if they do, it's a 14 day quarantine without shopping at the grocery store first, but I think most people People are just completely ignoring that. So stay at home. We love you tourists, but not this year. The experiment of opening Northern Michigan is meant for locals only.


Walt Sorg  17:09

This is a really important experiment that's going on right now in Michigan and all across the country. I was watching a report that Rachel Maddow put together last week. And the new hotspots right now or places that are beginning to reopen. It's the the meat processing plants are just having terrible problems all across the nation. They're having problems still in the corrections facilities and in the veterans hospitals, and in the nursing homes as well. We're going to find out real quickly with the auto plants opening up if this is something that can be contained, or if in fact reopening the auto plants the reinvigorates the virus and it starts spreading again in Southeast Michigan. We just had a really good curve for the last couple of weeks now about will it continue, and of course with the example of the president and not wearing a face mask, that certainly doesn't help a whole lot. I'm really worried that we're going to have a second wave sooner. If not later, and it's going to hit us really hard, even in the summer, when you would think that the virus would died down just because of the heat.


Christine Barry  18:07

I did see a still photo of the president wearing a mask, but I don't know how long he had it on. So there is that I wanted to go back to something Amy said about the restaurant where the chef owner was saying, you should stay home and limit groups just limited to small groups and locals only that kind of thing if I understood that, right. And then the wife was saying, We're so excited to be open. I don't think those two messages are exclusive of each other. I think you can be a business who's excited to be open. But within limits of we don't necessarily want people from downstate coming here, we're excited for our local customers.


Amy Kerr Hardin  18:50

That's That's correct. And that was the whole idea of the experiment is we really flatten the curve up here and we don't have too many cases. So it's a good place to explore. Bear with us with them the governor's idea here, but if downstaters has come up here, it just screws up the entire experiment.


Walt Sorg  19:07

And while all this was going on, the governor was getting some good news on a couple of fronts. First of all, polling commissioned by the Detroit Chamber of Commerce showed widespread support for her leadership on the issue. 86% of Michigan voters surveyed believed the virus is a threat to public health, with support at that level or higher among self described independents, Democrats and even voters who say they lean Republican. The only group that is not strongly in favor of what she's doing are republican men and even that was 58%. And they also agree by a margin of 69-22 that the protests at the state capitol against the governor stay at home orders sent a wrong message out there that haircut brigade that invaded our town, Amy as much as you're worried about tourists in Traverse City. I'm getting tired of having all of these demonstrations with no masks and no social distancing just a matter of a couple of miles from my home because we're getting we're getting the virus imported from all over the state by these folks who just don't think that there is an issue.


Amy Kerr Hardin  20:04

It's very, very, very bad PR from Michigan too I mean, it makes the residents of Michigan look pretty stupid nationally.


Walt Sorg  20:10

The other part of the poll, which I found really fascinating only 11% of Michigan voters said they do not regularly wear a mask when they go out as required by the governor's orders. Seems to me I run into most of them at a Speedway gas station down the street from me 90% of Democrats 80% of independence and 72% of republican women say they wear a mask. but less than half of Republican men say they wear a mask with the percentage of those who do not especially high for those under the age of 50. It's become a super macho thing I guess for republican men is right up there with carrying your long guns down to the state capitol.


Christine Barry  20:44

It's a strange sticking point. I think for that. I don't know why but it's part of that whole don't tread on me feeling. I think what I really liked about this was that people identify with the Democrats and people who identify as independent Largely aligned on these issues. And that's a really good thing.


Walt Sorg  21:05

It's going to continue to baffle the president as he campaigns for re election, as well. We'll be talking a little bit later with the disenchanted republican former Executive Director of the Michigan Republican Party, Jeff Timmer. They're losing the suburban voters and the President is doing nothing to get them back. And this thing is not helping them at all.


Christine Barry  21:22

Another thing I really liked was the number of 72% support reopening our businesses gradually. And I think that's an important number to get out there as a counter effect, if you will, a counter message to the Senate Republicans, the House Republicans in the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, who just keep hammering on comparing us to what now Indiana because of the stupid billboard, but comparing us to other states saying we should be open we could be open on and on and on. And this poll shows that people appreciate our slower approach. And Amy, I hope that experiment goes well and you don't have a lot of people from downstate causing Traverse City problems in the next few weeks,


Amy Kerr Hardin  22:06

I think that they're going to realize that the restaurants and bars and so forth are now opening as quickly as they wanted them to. So, you know, just go home please go home.


Walt Sorg  22:17

While all this was going on, the governor won a major victory in court, upholding her use of emergency powers, even as the orders were expanded as a result of the catastrophic failure of three dams in Midland County, which resulted in 10,000 or more people being thrown out of their homes. For details on both. We're joined by Riley Beggin, award winning Capitol reporter for bridge magazine.  Riley, always a pleasure to have you on the Policast couple of big stories that you've covered this week. First of all, the court ruling in the court of claims judge Stevens basically saying that the governor is acting within her powers to use the emergency powers going forward.


Riley Beggin  22:52

Pretty much everyone agrees that this is just the beginning of a long legal battle. This is very likely to end up in the State Supreme Court. When I get when I say long it actually is moving quite quickly, but it's going to be going through a couple courts here. What the court of claims decided was that the governor does have the authority under this 1945 law, the emergency powers of the governor act to act unilaterally to declare an emergency. And issue orders under that, the other law that was up for debate in this case was the 1976 Emergency Management Act. That is the law that the governor needs the legislature's approval to continue announcing these emergency declarations and issuing things like the stay at home order under them. We don't have to get into all of what happened with that case if you don't want but I think the top line thing that people need to take away is that for the time being, the governor's powers and the orders that come from them, stand and we'll see what happens next.


Walt Sorg  24:00

The court system is not known for its speed. And it seems like this could be a moot point by the time it gets to a decision in the state Supreme Court is there was any speculation as to just how long it would take for it to get to that point.


Riley Beggin  24:13

It's hard to tell I mean, where the GOP hasn't officially submitted their appeal yet, but they've pledged to do that. So where it would go next is the court of appeals and then from there, we'll go to the state Supreme Court. The lawsuit was filed by the Michigan house and senate earlier this month, I believe may 5 or seventh something like that. The hearing happened less than a week later and the opinion came less than a week after that. So it is moving pretty quickly but it's hard to tell exactly when it will all be wrapped up.


Walt Sorg  24:46

As we talked about emergency powers. The governor of course has a second emergency to deal with and that is the situation in Midland the catastrophic flooding in Midland, has wiped out 10,000 homes and created all sorts of havoc. You wrote a story for bridge With a couple of your colleagues basically indicating this was a failure of government regulation at all levels to get to protect the people.


Riley Beggin  25:07

Yeah, what we found was that this dam has been out of compliance for more than 13 years. Essentially it was purchased in 2004. By this guy lives in Las Vegas. Time and time again, over the course of more than a decade. He failed to make the upgrades that were necessary to this thing called spillway capacity, which is sort of an engineering term for the part of a dam that allows it to safely drain excess water


Walt Sorg  25:38

Sort of a relief valve?


Riley Beggin  25:39

Yeah, yeah, essentially. You know, what we saw happen on Tuesday evening was the Edenville dam and the Sanford dam. Both overflowed and Edenville dam there was a failure in that infrastructure that ended up causing that water to go over the top and thousands of people were evacuated and we know the rest of the story but Basically the federal regulators did this push and pull with this dam owner for 13 years. And eventually, after leaving deadlines and continuing to send strongly worded letters so to speak, they did revoke the license of these dam owners to continue generating electricity. The dam owners argued that you know, without this source of funding, we're not going to really be able to do these upgrades that you request. What happens next is it goes to the state regulators, the state regulators, just days after the federal regulators say that we can't allow you to create energy anymore because of this is unsafe, decided that it wasn't fair condition. The state decided that it was in fair condition, even though the DEQ told us that, you know, we were starting the process of discussing with them what sort of updates they needed to make, but obviously that didn't happen in time. Another side effect is that the state regulations for spillway capacity are actually about half as stringent as the feds. So the federal government wanted them to be able to handle 100% of the possible maximum flood capacity, which means in the worst-case scenario, nothing will happen here. The state's standards are actually half of that. So, to pass the state standards, you only have to be able to safely hold half of the possible maximum flood, which we went over on Tuesday.


Walt Sorg  27:33

Now, from a political and accountability standpoint, this is going to be great fun for reporters, because this whole transition happened during the end of the Snyder administration, but it moved into the Whitmer administration. And at the federal level, it began during the Obama administration and ended during the Trump administration. They're going to be pointing fingers forever. It sounds like


Riley Beggin  27:53

possibly, I think to their credit, there is a lot of this, this dam owner was a challenge seemed to be a challenging person to work with. He was kicking the can down the road. But what it seems to highlight, I think so far is the challenges of, of, you know, holding someone like this accountable. And clearly, the state was beginning the process of trying to do that, and it didn't happen fast enough.


Walt Sorg  28:21

infrastructure has been an issue that the governor of course campaigned on. Although she was focused on the roads, this is a part of what she wants to do. The challenge now, of course, with this is, along with everything else is where's the money going to come from, to deal with all these infrastructure problems? Because the state is basically broke.


Riley Beggin  28:39

Yeah, to your point. I mean, the governor said yesterday, you know, I've been calling for more infrastructure funding and she called back to the road debate, which sounds you know, seems so far in the past to all of us now that we've been dealing with the virus and all this flooding, but regardless of what solution You would prefer, I don't think anybody would deny that there is a problem with infrastructure funding in this state.  You know, many, many of these dams in Michigan are, are very old and need upgrades. And a lot of them are privately owned, too. So it's definitely a long term issue that needs looking at.


Walt Sorg  29:18

I know it's early, but is there any indication of how these people in Midland are going to get some help the businesses and the homeowners who basically were wiped out with a flood.


Riley Beggin  29:27

So the governor declared a second state of emergency for the middle an area related to this, which does allow the state to funnel some more funding towards them. And then just yesterday, the President also declared a national state of emergency for that region. So that allows FEMA to send resources to help but you're right there is another huge crisis happening that's already tapping into a lot of our state and national emergency resources. We'll see how that plays out. But the resources that are available are certainly being mobilized right now.


Walt Sorg  30:04

But all we need now is the plague of locusts have we've completed the Trinity I guess.


Riley Beggin  30:09

Exactly. Yeah.


Walt Sorg  30:10

Riley Beggin from bridge magazine. Always a pleasure. Thanks so much for joining us.


Riley Beggin  30:13

Thank you.


Walt Sorg  30:14

Well, while Donald Trump's polling shows high approval amongst Republican voters, it isn't universal. A group of some of the top Republican National operatives has formed a group called the Lincoln project which is dedicated to defeating Trump in November and kind of pissing them off along the way. Its leaders include attorney George Conway, the husband or White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, former McCain Campaign Manager Steve Schmidt, former New Hampshire Republican party chair Jennifer Horne, Republican media consultant Rick Wilson, and our next guest, former Michigan Republican Party executive director, Jeff Timmer.


Walt Sorg  30:53

Jeff for somebody who's been high up in the Republican Party in Michigan. It comes as a shock probably to some that you're a part of this anti-Trump movement through the Lincoln project. What got you to this point?

Jeff Timmer

Well, when Trump ran for election in 2016, I guess going back to 2015, when the battle for the nomination was still underway or just getting started. I happen to be at the first debate in Cleveland, where Trump was just Donald Trump and everybody thought it was, you know, kind of a circus sideshow. Still he was nails on a chalkboard to me right from the get go. And everything about him seemed unserious from not just as personal style but to somebody who has. I've considered myself a Reagan conservative. That's when I came of age and started working in politics was the end of the Reagan presidency. And everything that Trump believed in stood for and at that time, and since it has largely gone against that brand of Republican conservatism.  We could spend many podcasts talking about the reasons why from policy to personality. But the biggest thing for me is it caused me to really evaluate what was more important to me, the party or the reasons I became involved in the public service sphere, it caused me to think that there are things far more important than winning campaigns. And that's the future of the country. And that's why I'm doing what I'm doing.


Walt Sorg  32:31

It's intriguing. There are a lot of Republicans who feel like you, but it seems like none of them are speaking out if they're in elective office. The closest we've seen lately has been, strangely enough, another former Michigan republican by the name of Romney. I'm sure George Romney, if he were still alive would be a part of your movement, and it's sounding more and more like his sudden Mitt is headed in that direction. What's it going to take though to pry somebody loose like a Mitt Romney, perhaps a Ben Sasse, or a Jad case who's although not an office, now close to having been in office.


Jeff Timmer  33:02

I believe there's absolutely nothing that will happen between now and November 3 that will shake loose elected Republicans, certainly not at the national level if what we saw prior to and during impeachment didn't shake loose any Republican senators or any Congressman, we're not going to see it. Now. If if the last February, March, April and now into May, the bungling of COVID by Trump. If that hasn't shaken loose people already, there's nothing that's going to shake them loose. There's a few stalwarts out there. Larry Hogan, the governor of Maryland, Charlie Baker, and Massachusetts who have been Trump critics, you know, not necessarily on the news every day. They also happen to be the most popular republican politicians in the country.


Walt Sorg  33:55

And you've also had Mike the one in Ohio, who's done a few things to irritate the president. Lately Oh, he's Yeah, he's a strong conservative. No question. Yes. Yeah,


Jeff Timmer  34:04

I forgot his name. I mean, I just forgot to list him. DeWine is another great example. Very, very popular, despite, you know, do taking measures to protect the people of Ohio that Trump disagrees with. DeWine remains, you know, exceedingly popular, more popular than most governors anywhere.


Walt Sorg  34:24

When I see the strong support that Trump has within his core within his base, I think back to 1964, which really dates me, of course, but when you had Barry Goldwater, and we said he was going to bring down the Republican Party, it would be the end of it. Yet it wasn't that much later that we had Ronald Reagan  in the White House and Republicans were sending again, is Trump a temporary aberration for the Republican Party, or is this something that's going to have some lasting impact


Jeff Timmer  34:50

trumpism will outlast Trump the loudest voices the plurality, not the majority, but certainly a loud plurality of voters. within the Republican Party are a party of anger. People have anger and grievance. That's what motivates them. Whether it's fanned by Fox News and the conservative talk radio. That's not going away when Trump loses this November if Trump loses this November, the group I'm working with the Lincoln project, we certainly understand this is going to be a long battle. But first we have to, it's gonna be a long war. First, we have to win the battle. between now and November 3.  I had an op ed that was in MLive yesterday, talking about this, that I authored, along with my colleague, Jennifer Horne, who's the former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party urging republicans in Michigan to vote for Biden, we've not become Democrats. We haven't changed our political philosophy. The party has been co opted in those terms. Republican and conservative have been bastardized to mean something that they didn't mean For most of the last 50 years, that they've been in Vogue, I think the governing majority throughout most of the country. And I don't think that the party's going to change quickly, because when I ran the Michigan Republican Party 15 years ago, a lot of these same people that we saw at the protest at the Capitol, waving their Confederate flags and whatnot, they've existed in the republican Coalition for a long time. They weren't embraced by the Republican Party. They weren't. They weren't encouraged. They weren't motivated. We kept them away from conventions from rallies. Now they are invited, they're embraced, they're promoted. And that's the difference.


Walt Sorg  36:47

The Michigan Republican Party, the modern Michigan Republican Party really was built by George Romney with the mantra of appealing to the swing voters. And that's was the electoral success for the party for the longest time, two years ago. We had a huge shift those swing voters, they really crossed over to flip through congressional seats. What's it going to take for the republicans to win them back?


Jeff Timmer  37:08

That's going to be a very steep hill for the republicans to climb. There's been such damage done to the brand among suburban white voters in places like Michigan. That is especially among suburban white women, with white women with college degrees who were behaviorally republican for the longest time, but were more moderate in both their social and fiscal views have now become I think, behavioral Democrats. They were trending that way. But Trump has been a catalyst that has, I think firmly pushed them into the D camp. Now college educated white men are still largely sticking with Trump, but we saw significant erosion in 2018 you The numbers I look at very frequently. And when you look at cross tabs, and polls show that there's a, there is a weakening among college educated white men. And if it continues if there, there's not a lot of persuadable voters this election, this is not a persuasion elections as much as this is just a turnout election. But to the extent of persuadable voters exist, it's the college educated white male.


Walt Sorg  38:30

wanted to ask you about a couple of very intriguing political campaigns, one that just ended and one that in some ways hasn't even started. The one that just ended, of course, was for Justin Amash, running for president or maybe running for congress again or something. Where is he going? Now? He says, apparently, it's not going to run for his seat again in Congress. That seat appears to be trending more democratic. The polling shows right now that it's a toss up. What now for Justin Amash?


Jeff Timmer  38:57

That's an interesting question. He has definitely built a following among the disaffected on the center. Right. It's largely libertarian. He's certainly I think we've been playing the both the parties have failed us. We need something new card. He's been playing that script very well, this is it. There is a strategy to what he's doing. The strategy included. I think, this announcement for president, I'm surprised that the I doubt he was ever serious about running for president.


Walt Sorg  39:35

He did say that he thought he could win. At least he said that for a week or two, which seemed to be the he was either delusional or putting on a show.


Jeff Timmer  39:42

I think it was just to kind of turn a spotlight on him. But I'm surprised that he, he turned it off so quickly, but he's still has a very large Twitter following.  Social media does matter. He has a direct conduit to get his thoughts into the new cycle his message still gets play and will continue to get play. If we're successful, my group of real conservative Republicans in helping defeat Trump, people like Justin Amash could well be allies in the Battle of what comes next.  Our politics has operated in the center right center left forever American politics and right now there is a real vacuum. I think both parties are being pushed by their extreme elements to a larger degree than in the least in recent memory. And there is an opportunity for whether it is just a reforming of a coalition within one of the two major parties or for a new third party to emerge that eventually subsumes one of the other parties, you know, the way that Republican parties subsumed the fragments of the Whigs. You know, back in the mid 1800s,


Walt Sorg  41:09

I take issue with you though with the Democrats, at least in Michigan. You look at the gains they made in 2018. And it was Gretchen Whitmer, defeating Abdullah El Sayed in the primary. It was Elyssa Slotkin and it was Haley Stephens, all of them center left candidates, certainly not extremists.


Jeff Timmer  41:24

No, I agree and Biden winning the nomination, I think speaks to that. But the the loudest voices I guess the most attention seems to be on those more extreme elements from the fact that Joe Biden won the nomination and if he wins and beats Donald Trump does not mean that there is a mandate for a progressive agenda in America. I think that there is a great danger after this election if Biden is to win, to miss read the results. I don't think that America is American voters are yet ready for a Green New Deal or Medicare for All. That's what I mean when I'm talking about the extremes kind of are the Bernie Sanders ..


Walt Sorg  42:11

They're dominating the conversation, even if they're not dominating the polls.


Jeff Timmer  42:14

Exactly. They're dominating in the same thing. trumpism there are a lot of Republicans, elected officials and others who have come to me and said, We agree with what you're doing, keep doing it. I just can't do this for x reason I'm elected and don't want to, you know, I, I just don't need to deal with the, you know, the trouble This will cause me, there are people in the party or who have worked in campaigns like myself, who don't want to jeopardize their incomes, their businesses in this environment. I get that but they're going to be the first to say, Oh, you know, you know, the king is dead, long live the new king, whoever that is. There will be some diehard trumpets who've been empowered who will continue to fight a. If the Republican Party is not going to go away in November, the brand is severely damaged. It might be like Enron, it might need to reform under a new name. But the the Republican Party of old is has become subsumed by Trump and identified by a person in a way that didn't happen with Ronald Reagan , even though it didn't happen with Eisenhower. No person has personified the party the way that Trump has. It is a striking phenomenon.


Walt Sorg  43:36

The other campaign that really has me intrigued because of its tactics so far, is john James, the United States Senate. On paper, he's a great candidate, in a lot of ways, has a great backstory, has obviously lots of money, but he's allowed Gary Peters and the democrats to pretty much define them by being invisible this whole time and he's basically in hiding. You never see him. What is going on there.


Jeff Timmer  44:00

He is a very interesting candidate and I think he represents a very normal pre-Trump republican philosophy. I don't think he's Trumpy, but he doesn't dare not be Trumpy in today's environment. He, you know, made some news, a little bit of news in the last week or two by some criticisms. He had lobbed against Trump. Were publicized and it's being used to you know, show that he's not going to be lockstep with Donald Trump


Walt Sorg  44:32

and then immediately has a fundraiser with Donald Trump Jr.


Jeff Timmer  44:35

Right, right is it's trying to be too clever. You either have to cut ties and disavow Donald Trump in run toward the center, or you have to just tie your fate to him. There's not going to be a clever I'm with him on this, I'm not with him on this. JOHN James is not going to have the wherewithal to establish a awareness level with voters. Neither is Gary Peters quite honestly, that is able to overcome the din the the hurricane force of the presidential race. They are completely tied to the fate of the top of the ticket in this race. If Donald Trump performs well, john James has an outside chance an outside chance of winning. I don't think it's a very strong one. Because Trump report performing well, beans he he wins Michigan barely, there's no opportunity for him to like win Michigan by a landslide. There is an opportunity for Biden to win by a margin, like Whitmer did in 2018. You know, a nice comfortable 10 point margin that just wipes john James off the face of the map. The result is the same as it was when he ran against Stabenow.


Walt Sorg  45:53

Let me give you a chance to reinforce your republican credentials at least a little bit and you're over in West Michigan. You've got to Republican members of the House, one of them's retiring with Justin Amash. And then you've got somebody who's been there forever and Fred Upton, can either of those districts be flipped?


Jeff Timmer  46:09

Yes. I think if Fred Upton were to have retired, his district would be leaning democrat for the vote. The just the voting demographics in his district have been, have been moving that way. I think that there is a growing likelihood, I won't call it a there's an increasing probability that Upton will lose. He ran the closest he survived the closest challenge he's ever had in 34 years in 2018. turnout is going to be substantially higher than it was in 2016. We had five point or excuse me, 4.8 million voters in 2016. We're going to have closer to 6 million this time around is those extra 1.2 million voters are not going to be predominantly Republican. I think I think there is a wave shaping up. All the fundamentals of the election that we're looking at this November look like they did in May of 2018, when there was a blue wave that hit the majorities in the Michigan legislature. The Republicans did maintain those but they lost seats. The Democrats flipped to congressional seats. They flipped all the constitutional offices. And I think that there's a increasing likelihood that Upton loses. I think that the odds of the democrats picking up a Matias seat diminished significantly if he does not run as an independent,


Walt Sorg  47:43

very strong candidate appear mayor.


Jeff Timmer  47:44

Yeah, a strong candidate. But if if it was a three way race Amash would have been a legitimate threat to peel off up to a quarter of the vote. He would have been Ross Perot, to Peter Meijer's, George Bush, who lost to build Clinton who got 43% of the vote. That's how a democrat wins the third congressional right now. Gretchen Whitmer, one Kent County in 2018. Not by a big margin, but she won it. I suspect Donald Trump is likely to lose Kent county but behaviorally Kent County, and then you add the smaller rural counties around it that make up a smaller portion of the congressional district remain behaviorally, if not solidly republican and will vote while they will vote for Biden or leave the presidential race blank. They will revert in vote for republicans down ticket.


Walt Sorg  48:41

Jeff, I appreciate you joining us. I hope you don't get a Twitter storm now from the president for your appearance. But if you do, you'll be in good company. Every woman who at least in Michigan seems is under his attack.  Maybe you'll be next.


Jeff Timmer  48:52

Like I mentioned, I did. Welcome him to Michigan yesterday with a love letter in eight daily newspapers and M urging Republicans to vote for Biden in making the case why they needed to do so. And I'll take any incoming fire from from from Trump. I don't know why republicans are afraid, because I think he's a toothless tiger.


Walt Sorg  49:15

Jeff, thank you so much for joining us.


Christine Barry  49:21

And no Michigan Policast would be complete without an update on what john James is not saying this week. He did surface briefly on Twitter to complain about Joe Biden's admittedly stupid comments on black voters, something for which Biden almost immediately apologized. But James on again, off again, support for Donald Trump came into view again, with Donald Jr. making it clear during an online john James fundraiser. I can assure everyone that john is all for the agenda. He understands it, he's going to implement it. James has said in the past that he's often different with Trump, despite his statements have to thousand percent support for the Trump agenda and his response to Donald Jr.


Walt Sorg  50:15

A couple of other political notes. First of all, by the time you listen to this podcast, it may have already been broadcast. But this week on axios on HBO, it includes an interview with our governor, which the teaser for it kind of had me fascinated.


Speaker  50:34

Do you feel like when you're talking about the president publicly, you have to censor yourself for the sake of continuing to receive federal assistance?


Gretchen Whitmer  50:41

Yes, yes. And you've always felt that way. Listen, the worst night's sleep that I've gotten in the last 10 weeks is when he has attacked me on Twitter.


Walt Sorg  50:57

That should be an interesting interview, looking forward to seeing the whole thing. One final political note former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm has partnered with former Republican Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania to create the organization vote safe, which is promoting something Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell fear making it easier for people to vote safely by expanding mail in voting.


Christine Barry  51:17

And that's it for this week's Michigan podcast. We have all of our sources and show notes over on our website,


Walt Sorg  51:25

As always, your comments are welcome, email us at or reach out through the Michigan podcast page on Facebook, or the headquarters for ranch and Raiders known as Twitter. Please nothing in all caps. Amy, a delight to have you back with us this week. Thanks so much for joining us.


Amy Kerr Hardin  51:41

Thank you for having me.


Christine Barry  51:42

And thanks for listening. We'll be back in a week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *