Michigan Gov. race: Gretchen Whitmer has endorsements on lock

Photo: Ali Lapetina for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Whitmer has nailed down even more establishment endorsements, making this her race to lose.

The Teamsters, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and Michigan’s Democratic Congressional delegation have all lined up behind former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer.

We reported last week on Whitmer’s growing list of official nods over and against her two most serious rivals, entrepreneur Shri Thanedar and former head of Detroit’s Health Department Abdul El-Sayed. But if there was any remaining doubt about whether the whole Democratic apparatus in Michigan would fall in line behind the front-runner, it’s more or less dispelled now.

Thanedar has been relying on his massive, self-funded war chest more than affiliation with any particular group, and El-Sayed has a few interesting endorsements. But the money hasn’t won the party structure to Thanedar’s side, and El-Sayed’s list is puny next to Whitmer’s swollen roll-call of major liberal organizations in the state.

There are just a few questions still up in the air:

1) Where will the UAW decide to throw its support?

It would be out of the ordinary at this point for an organization that, in Michigan, is practically a Democratic Party organ to endorse someone other than Whitmer. It’s not impossible, but it’s unlikely.

2) Can Whitmer boost her dismal name recognition? 

As we reported last week, Whitmer’s name recognition is still terrible, with Thanedar leading her in that regard by almost 20 points. Those numbers will improve as we get closer to the August primary, but it’s hardly a good sign for someone who’s been campaigning for months.

3) What does Whitmer’s endorsement lead signal about Democratic politics in general as we head into the 2018 midterms?

There’s been a groundswell of popular progressive politics on the left since Donald Trump’s election, one that hasn’t exactly been met with enthusiasm by the higher-ups in the party.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has, in special election after special election, declined to spend money on races that had grabbed the attention of the leftward wing of the party. In Texas over the last couple of weeks, the DCCC even tried to torpedo a progressive Democratic primary candidate, Laura Moser, in favor of a contender with more centrist politics.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee has been doubling down on a blue-dog strategy nationwide.

While the events of the 2016 election and the subsequent year of a Donald Trump presidency have pushed all Democrats, including Whitmer, somewhat to the left, she and El-Sayed are still emblematic of the divide within the Democratic Party. On the left, El-Sayed embodies the Berniecrats — younger, more diverse in race and religion, more progressive in policy, and more outspoken in its politics. Towards the center, Whitmer is emblematic of the way Democratic politics has worked since the Reagan years — centrist, happy with corporate cash, hesitant with outspoken liberalism, and historically more likely to win primaries.

The party’s effort to get its ducks in a row behind Whitmer this early might pay off, given that the young people who make up the Berniecrat wing often fail to vote in midterm elections. Or, given that the Trump Administration has so fired the politics of the American young as to mobilize them in numbers never before seen, a ham-handed effort to keep the state party’s politics dead center might well backfire.

Time, and the August primary, will tell.

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