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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer must send an unequivocal message to her constituents that Michigan is her priority in this hour of crisis. Her running feud with President Donald Trump calls into question whether she's acting in the best interests of this state, or on behalf of the Democratic Party.

Unfortunately she's sending conflicting signals about her priorities and motivations.

We have no criticism of how Whitmer is handling this crisis; she is taking the same steps as most other governors in states hard hit by the virus.

But she's also assumed the role of designated Democratic attack dog in this crisis, appearing almost daily on cable news shows to criticize the administration's handling of the virus response.

That creates confusion about whether Whitmer is advocating for her Michigan constituents, or carrying out her duties as co-chair of Joe Biden's presidential campaign, or worse, serving her own ambition to be vice president.

Trump apparently thinks it's the latter. He's singled out the governor for particular disdain, repeating often the unsupported claim that Whitmer is mishandling the crisis in her state. Last week he demeaned her by referring to her as "the woman from Michigan."

She responded by showing up on a late night talk show wearing a t-shirt bearing those words while disingenuously  declaring that this is no time to play politics.

It certainly isn't. It's also no time to engage in a silly tit-for-tat with the president.

Trump is a petty and vindictive man. He's not beyond punishing a state whose governor torments him, and has said as much publicly.

Michigan needs a lot from the federal government, including help managing the overwhelming number of unemployment claims that are suddenly being filed. 

Citizens are better served if their leaders at all level of government set politics aside and work together. Partisanship is unacceptable when lives are at stake.

Whitmer should look to the example of other Democratic governors, most notably Andrew Cuomo of  New York and Gavin Newsom of California, who have found away to work collaboratively with the Trump administration.

Both have had differences with the president in the past, but they've set them aside for the good of their states.

Newsom told CNN Trump has been "responsive" to state's needs: "I'd be lying" to say otherwise. 

That was the right message for his state to hear. Those who are frightened need the assurance that their leaders have things under control.

And while those words may be hard to choke up for an ardent partisan, it's the right thing to do. If everyone pulls together, the worst of the COVID-19 crisis might soon be behind us, and there will be time to return to the jousting of the election campaigns.

Until then, Michigan residents need to know their governor is serving one master — them.  

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