Pence interested in attending Mackinac GOP confab
Vice President Mike Pence has expressed an interest in attending next month’s Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference that is already scheduled to feature a Michigan homecoming for National GOP Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel.
New York Times reporter Jonathan Martin tweeted Sunday that Pence is expected to attend the biennial Republican confab, scheduled for Sept 22-24. A source familiar with planning for the island event tells The Detroit News the vice president has signaled his interest, but the White House is unlikely to finalize official plans until next month.
Pence’s office declined to discuss his possible attendance. Press Secretary Marc Lotter noted the office has “not yet released the vice president’s schedule for that time period.”
The Michigan Republican Party has invited many high-ranking GOP officials to the fall leadership conference, spokeswoman Sarah Anderson said.
“We hope he comes, but we don’t have anything confirmed yet,” she said Monday.
The state party has also extended an invitation to President Donald Trump, who turned down a similar request for the 2015 Mackinac GOP conference that featured five other Republican candidates he was competing with for the presidential nomination.
Other invitees who have not yet indicated whether they will attend the 2017 conference include Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a west Michiganian who officially joined the Trump administration in February; former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez; and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.
“We’ve invited a ton of top-level people in the administration – obviously the president and the vice president – members of Congress and different high-caliber media folks to sit on panels,” Anderson said.
McDaniel is the first and only confirmed speaker for the 2017 conference. The niece of 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, McDaniel led the Michigan Republican Party from February 2015 through January, when she took over the Republican National Committee, a post for which Trump had backed her.
“She’s coming home,” Anderson said of McDaniel, noting the state party will announce more speakers in the days and weeks leading up to the September conference.
The Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference often draws big GOP names.
The 2015 event featured then-presidential candidates Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
While Trump didn’t attend the island event two years ago, both he and Pence spent considerable time in Michigan during the 2016 cycle, including a series of campaign stops in the run-up to the GOP primary and general election.
Trump was the first Republican to win Michigan since 1988. A recent Target-Insyght poll of 822 likely state voters showed Trump with a 49 percent approval rating here, which is notably higher than national ratings.
Pence has personal ties to Michigan. The former Indiana governor has a positive working relationship with Gov. Rick Snyder, whose former chief of staff Jarrod Agen works for Pence and was recently promoted to deputy chief of staff.
While the 2017 agenda has not yet been set, more than 1,000 people have already registered to attend the September island conference, Anderson said.
Staff Writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed.