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Michigan Matters to Biden, Trump more than others, pundits says

Michigan Matters to Biden, Trump more than others, pundits says
Michigan Matters to Biden, Trump more than others, pundits says 24:22

(CBS DETROIT) - With little over 190 days to go, the countdown clock to November's election is ticking, and by all accounts, the No. 1 spot President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, their anointed representatives, family members and influential leaders supporting them are heading to on the campaign trail is Michigan.

Yes, the Great Lakes state is front and center this election season, as Jonathan Martin, Politico's senior columnist, told me during this week's Michigan Matters. He talked about this critical race and its impact across the state and on other contests, too, including the U.S. Senate race.

"They'll be there every two weeks!" he said of the presidential candidates, explaining the critical swing state as it voted for Biden in 2020 and Trump in 2016. Known as the birthplace of the Reagan Democrats, now with the highest percentage of Arab Americans outside of the Arab world and the Gaza crisis still raging, as well as being home to the UAW, the state has a unique pedigree both candidates will need to win the election.

Case in point: First Lady Jill Biden attended an event Friday at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. Douglas Emhoff, Second Gentleman, married to Vice President Kamala Harris, was in Detroit Thursday for the opening of the 2024 NFL Draft. Donald Trump is heading to Saginaw in mid-Michigan this coming Wednesday night while taking a break from his criminal trial in New York. Vice President Kamala Harris will be in Michigan the following week to talk up the economy and things like mobility, which matters in the state that put the world on wheels.

Robert Kennedy Jr. was also in Metro Detroit last weekend at a fundraiser, as he recently made it onto Michigan's ballot.

"As Michigan goes, so goes this presidential election," said Susy Avery, former Chair of the Michigan Republican Party, who also appears on the show. Trump and Biden have been in Michigan every few weeks in recent months.

Bryan Barnett, Denise Ilitch and Susy Avery with Michigan Matters host Carol Cain.  Tim Lawlis/CBS Detroit

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, a Republican, runs one of the more affluent municipalities in Oakland County outside of Detroit and said his city has become more "purple" in how it votes in presidential elections.

This is why the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics recently spent time in his city to conduct interviews with voters and see how it was leaning as one of a handful of places that serves as a harbinger for the country, said Barnett, who also took part in it.

Denise Ilitch, a Democrat serving as regent at the University of Michigan, supported Barack Obama as she held a fundraiser at her Metro Detroit home for him in 2012. She's supporting Biden, who served as his vice president, adding, "He's done a lot of good work to helping Michigan families – he's forgiven student debt and invested in infrastructure."

As vice president, Biden was the chief liaison to the White House during tenuous times when the Detroit 3 automakers and the city were in critical financial condition and bankruptcies loomed. Biden was in the state so often that folks joked he ought to get a Michigan driver's license.

By the time this presidential race is over, Biden, Trump and their entourages may not need Michigan driver's licenses, but they'll know their way around and where the orange barrel construction zones are enough to void them on their way to campaign events.

Watch Michigan Matters at its new time: 5:30 a.m. Sundays on CBS Detroit, noon Sundays on Detroit 50 WKBD, and also streaming 9 p.m. weeknights on CBS Detroit's website, CBS Detroit's app and Pluto TV. 

(Carol Cain is the 13-time Emmy-winning senior producer and host of Michigan Matters)

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