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President Trump visits MI and gives Bill Schuette a shout-out

Republican gubernatorial candidates wanted to get next to President Donald Trump this weekend but only one got the presidential shout-out in Washington Township, MI.

“A really great friend of mine, a great attorney general, the next governor of Michigan, Bill Schuette. Where’s Bill? Bill? Where? Alright, wherever the hell he is…”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette actually declared Saturday night’s Macomb County event was a “Trump-Schuette” rally.

Republican state Senator Patrick Colbeck wasn’t there, but he sent out a statement arguing that he’s the real Trump candidate for governor. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley wasn’t there, either. Instead, he put out a statement talking about “shared priorities” with the president.

But Calley was never in the hunt for backing from Trump. He’s been back and forth in support for Trump. He backed away after the infamous Access Hollywood tape. But he says he voted for Trump in November.

Schuette didn’t support Trump in the primary. He was for Jeb Bush. But after Trump clinched the nomination, Schuette proclaimed, “I ride for the brand.”  That would be the Republican brand.

The Schuette campaign has made a mission of reminding Republicans of who stuck with Trump in 2016, and who didn’t.

Now, this Republican gubernatorial primary in Michigan has been billed as a proxy fight between Donald Trump - who supports Bill Schuette, and Governor Rick Snyder - who supports his Lieutenant, Brian Calley.

Snyder withheld his endorsement of Trump in both the primary and general election in 2016. Trump’s burn-it-all-down message stood in stark contrast to Snyder’s “relentless positive action.”

But we here at It’s Just Politics think this really might be a proxy fight between Trump and Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich. Kasich told CNN over the weekend, “I didn’t leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left me.”

Kasich was vanquished by Trump in the 2016 presidential primary. Back then, Kasich was Brian Calley’s first choice for president.

Kasich says there’s still a large group of voters in the middle of the political spectrum who have not been given a real choice. “You have a department store that’s red, and a department store that’s blue, and neither are providing products to the great middle, and you know what happens? That’s how another store opens in the neighborhood.” Kasich sounds an awful like a term-limited Midwest governor thinking about what’s next for him.

Now, no GOP hopeful for governor in Michigan is going to disavow the Republican in the White House. Not directly or openly.

But Schuette and Calley represent two different types of Republicans and in 2018 Michigan could be the testing ground for messaging and tactics in the event Kasich takes on President Trump in a 2020 GOP primary for the presidential nomination.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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