Michigan Is 2020’s Biggest Prize. Here’s How the GOP Can Win It
Election Day 2020 is now just under 200 days away. In pandemic time, that probably translates to about 200 years away. Nevertheless, presidential campaigns are beginning to ramp up, and as each side finalizes its strategy for the coming months, one state is likely to be among the highest priorities for both camps: Michigan.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Wolverine State was already being discussed as a top battleground. It was one of the most closely contested states of the 2016 cycle, with President Trump carrying it by only about 10,000 votes. Its 16 electoral votes vastly shift the 2020 White House odds depending on who wins them. And it is also a rare potential pick up opportunity for the Senate GOP this year in what could prove to be an uphill battle to hold the chamber.
However, the coronavirus has also shifted Michigan even further into the spotlight. As an early disease hotspot, the state’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has garnered a great deal of media attention, and she’s now showing up on many of the party’s vice president shortlists. But her draconian shutdown restrictions in response to the virus, some of the strictest in the country, have also galvanized large protests and turned the state into a flashpoint in the debate over when and how to reopen America’s economy. These issues are likely to define the presidential campaign as we head into the fall.
Current polling in Michigan suggests the race will once again be a close one—for example, a survey commissioned earlier this month by my own organization, American Principles Project, showed President Trump and Joe Biden in a dead heat and the state’s Senate race within the margin of error as well. For Trump and Republicans, finding an issue to give them an edge will be critical. Of course, defining the President’s response to the coronavirus and its economic impacts will be a significant factor. But another issue may also loom as a potential game changer.
Right now in Michigan, an effort is under way to add a controversial initiative to the state’s ballot in November—one which would ask voters to approve adding “sexual orientation and gender identity” (SOGI) to state nondiscrimination law. While the measure has widespread support from Democrats (whose federal “Equality Act” would do the same thing nationally), the establishment media, and corporate giants such as the auto industry, many Michiganders likely don’t have a real understanding of the radical consequences which would result from its passage. However, when voters are told, the evidence shows they are firmly against it.
Drawing again from APP’s recent Michigan poll, it is clear that the Democrats’ LGBT extremism could be a major weakness for them in the state. For example, when asked about the prospect of biological males being allowed to compete in women’s sports, a logical effect of the SOGI change, Michigan voters were strongly opposed by a 66 percent to 14 percent margin. This level of opposition could also be found for other hot-button LGBT agenda items. Voters opposed allowing children to undergo physical sex change procedures, 68-15. They opposed allowing biological male inmates to be housed in women’s prisons, 67-11. And they opposed libraries holding Drag Queen Story Hours, 61-26.
Incredibly, almost every major Democrat supports these actions, often enthusiastically. Earlier this year, Joe Biden tweeted that “Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time. There is no room for compromise,” and the incumbent Democratic Senator Gary Peters is a co-sponsor on the previously mentioned pro-SOGI “Equality Act.” As shown above, these ought to be obvious vulnerabilities for the Democratic Party. But the question remains: Are President Trump and the GOP prepared to hold them accountable?
Republicans will not need to do much work to bring these issues to the fore. The SOGI ballot initiative itself has the potential to make these issues the central ones of the election, and my own group, APP, has committed to getting involved in Michigan and drawing awareness to this battle as well. With the most important state of 2020 hanging in the balance, this may represent the GOP’s best opportunity to land a decisive blow in their favor come Election Day. They cannot afford to ignore it.
Frank Cannon (@FrankCannonAPP) is the president of American Principles Project, a conservative nonprofit dedicated to putting human dignity at the heart of public policy.