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Howes: As the presidential campaign heats up post-impeachment, pay attention to Michigan

Daniel Howes
Detroit News

President Donald Trump was here when the House tallied impeachment votes on Capitol Hill.

That’s because Michigan’s a state he needs to win re-election next year – whatever comes of the Senate trial to remove him. Trump won’t be re-elected if he fails to carry two of the industrial Midwest’s three most critical swing states: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and the home of the Motor City.

Alongside impeachment this week, there’s a new NAFTA deal … and easing trade tensions with China. There’s a strong car and truck market likely to juice the state economy.

Add stock markets trading near record highs, and the elements are there for Trump to make a solid economic argument for re-election. Where better to do it  than in the heart of the American auto industry?

Michigan is shaping up to be the whole ballgame – just look at the signs.

NBC News is focusing on Michigan…tracking voter sentiment in Kent County in and around Grand Rapids. Will the home to former President Gerald Ford, moderate Republicans and midwestern decency turn out more for Trump than it did in 2016? The answer may determine who sits in the Oval 13 months from now.

Attorney General William Barr was in Detroit this week … here to tout the administration’s, quote, “Operation Relentless Pursuit.” It’s a federal initiative targeting violent crime, and Detroit is one of seven cities in the partnership -- which you can bet is no accident.

The Trump White House is tracking how Michigan’s House Democrats voted on impeachment…and whacking some of them with critical press releases. Democrat Elissa Slotkin represents Michigan’s 8th congressional district. She backed impeachment this week…despite representing a district Trump won in ‘16.

Days ago, the White House accused Michigan Democratic congresswoman Haley Stevens of holding up approval of the new NAFTA to, quote, “hide her support for impeachment.”

And Trump used his rally Wednesday night in Battle Creek to harshly criticize Democratic congresswoman Debbie Dingell for backing impeachment. That’s after the president provided funeral honors for her husband John Dingell, the nation’s longest serving member of Congress.

In case you missed it, Trump implied the longtime Democratic congressman might be “looking up” from hell.

As the long list of graceless Trumpisms go, the Dingell slap ranks near the top. Cruel rhetoric like that might re-energize Trump’s base in Michigan … but it’s unlikely to score with enough of the independents he needs to win the state a second time.

All of this means one thing for sure: Michigan’s gonna’ see a lot of Team Trump in the new year.

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Daniel Howes is columnist and associate business editor of The Detroit News. A former European correspondent for The News, he has reported from nearly 25 countries on three continents and in the Middle East. Before heading to Europe in 1999, Howes was senior automotive writer and a business projects writer. He is a frequent contributor to NewsTalk 760-WJR in Detroit and a weekly contributor to Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor.
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