GOP chief McDaniel: Michigan winnable for Trump

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News
Ronna Romney McDaniel

Detroit — Republican National Committee Ronna Romney McDaniel said Monday that Michigan will again be a "swing state" in the 2020 presidential election and is winnable for Donald Trump but will be more difficult than in 2016.

Trump became the first Republican to win Michigan since 1988, edging Democrat Hillary Clinton by 10,704 votes or two-tenths of a percentage point — the closest margin of any state. But Democrats swept top-of-the-ticket statewide offices in the 2018 election, including for governor, attorney general and secretary of state. 

"Michigan is going to be competitive, it’s going to be harder,” McDaniel told a Detroit Economic Club audience at the MotorCity Casino-Hotel. “You did same day registration and you have a Democrat governor. And it’s going to be a more difficult state, but we’re up for the challenge, and I think we’ll win.”

A May 28-30 poll of 600 likely Michigan voters found Trump trailed the five leading Democratic presidential hopefuls, with former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders holding 12-percentage-point leads. The Glengariff Group poll had a margin of error of plus-minus 4 percentage points.

McDaniel, who is credited with helping in Trump's victory in Michigan as state party chairwoman, cited an economy with 3.6 percent unemployment as a major accomplishment for Trump. The New York Republican has set record jobless lows for African Americans and other minorities during his presidency, she said.

Winning back control of the House "is definitely a possibility" and "I think it's something that we're going to do," said McDaniel, the Northville resident who grew up in Bloomfield Hills.

Michigan lost two GOP-held House seats in 2018, while Farmington Hills businessman John James came within 6.5 percentage points of defeating U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing. McDaniel urged the audience to back James, who is running again in 2020 in hopes of defeating U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.

The RNC has $34 million cash on hand with "no debt," she told the audience at the Detroit Economic Club lunch, while the Democratic National Committee has $7 million cash on hand with $6.5 million in debt.

"So if you're looking at what are we doing to prepare for 2020, me having that war chest and already being in states doing voter registration, identifying likely voters ... puts in a great position for 2020," she said.

McDaniel also decried the incivility in politics, saying physical and verbal assaults on Republicans and Democrats alike are unwarranted. She said even her own family had been targeted.

This past weekend, she said she and her teenage son were at a Chicago Cubs game where someone walked up them and said "'F--- you, F--- your son.' It's frightening. We should all call it out on both sides. I call it out."

A woman, McDaniel said, spit at her daughter because she was wearing a Trump shirt. "This is just wrong," she said. "I mean, you're a grown woman and you're spitting at a 14-year old?"

When asked if Trump has some responsibility for the incivility in politics since he launches attacks on Twitter, McDaniel said, "I think everybody knew what they were getting when they elected President Trump. I think he's somebody who says it like it is. I wish people could see the president I see."

She had high praise for the president, describing him as "very personable" and "considerate." She said they talk quite often.

McDaniel defends Trump almost daily, doing so with a tweet just before she went on to speak.

The majority of the job of party chair, she said, is to raise money.

"We just posted a $61 million raise for the first quarter of 2019, that is a record," she said. "In fact, I told the president last night when I talked to him, that of the 29 months that he's been president, the RNC has broken records in 22 of those in fundraising.

McDaniel, 46, is the granddaughter of former Michigan Gov. George Romney and niece of U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, with whom she has sparred because of his criticism of Trump. She said the family has had squabbles and joked that her staff and Mitt's staff will play a softball game in Washington D.C., but

Friends and colleagues describe McDaniel as a steadfast lieutenant to the president, a hardworking fundraiser and an effective spokesperson for not only the Republican Party but the administration. She helps to get out Trump's message — particularly when she thinks the media get it wrong.

When asked if she'd ever run for political office, McDaniel said, "I don't know if that's the right path" and said political strategy is more her liking.

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