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Gov. Whitmer endorses Biden for president, becomes a campaign chair

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, weighing in on the race for the Democratic presidential nomination five days before Michigan's primary election.

Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Whitmer credited Biden for "working to protect health care." She also highlighted the efforts of former President Barack Obama and Biden to save the auto industry during the economic recession.

When Michigan needed help, it was Obama and Biden who "had our back," Whitmer said.

"I think the blueprint from 2018 about showing up, focusing on the dinner table issues and getting things done is exactly what Joe Biden represents," Whitmer said. "And that's why he has my enthusiastic support."

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appears on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday, March 5, 2020. Whitmer endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president during the appearance.

In addition to endorsing Biden, Whitmer will join Biden's campaign as its fourth national campaign chair, according to a press release. The other chairs are Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The chairs serve top advisers and surrogates, according to the campaign.

The first-term Democratic governor made her endorsement two days after Biden won a majority of the 14 states that voted on Super Tuesday and a day after former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg suspended his campaign and endorsed Biden.

Whitmer had previously stayed out of the primary race before opening the door to endorsing a candidate on Wednesday. She told reporters in Lansing a lot had changed in the race in the previous 72 hours.

On Thursday on "Morning Joe," Whitmer said the events of recent days had shown that Biden is the Democratic Party's "strongest candidate" and that he has the ability to build a diverse coalition "reflective of who we are as a party."

"You all know that politics can change fast," Whitmer said. "A few days can be a lifetime."

In recent days, Biden's campaign has gained steam and he has won endorsements from a handful of other former Democratic presidential candidates, including Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg.

There are four Democratic candidates remaining in the race: Biden; Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders; Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren; and Hawaii U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

They'll compete on Tuesday for six state's voters. Of the six, Michigan is the state that carries the most convention delegates.

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, endorsed Whitmer's primary opponent in 2018, Abdul El-Sayed. Sanders won Michigan's 2016 presidential primary over Hillary Clinton by 1.4 percentage points.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, and El-Sayed have previously endorsed Sanders.

Biden has received endorsements from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and former Michigan Govs. Jim Blanchard and Jennifer Granholm.

Whitmer won Michigan's 2018 race for governor over Republican Bill Schuette by 9 percentage points. She has become an emerging star in the Democratic Party, giving the party's response to President's Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Feb. 4.

cmauger@detroitnews.com