Gretchen Whitmer goes door-to-door for Biden in Michigan weeks after kidnapping plot

Whitmer canvasses for Biden in Michigan
Whitmer canvasses for Biden in Michigan 06:05

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer spent her weekend going door to door to hear from voters in her state's Oakland County. It was part of a get-out-the-vote effort in a ring of suburban areas surrounding Detroit — crucial territory in a battleground state that President Trump only won by a razor-thin margin in 2016

"Health care for all is very important to me," one Michigan voter told her.

Another voter told the governor the most important issue in the 2020 election for her was the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'm a physician, and the handling of the pandemic has been horrific," she said. 

In Michigan, where hundreds of thousands of people cast their ballots for a third party candidate or did not vote at all in 2016, Mr. Trump carried 47% of support. While it was a majority, the slim margin meant most Michiganders woke up unhappy with the election's results.

The Biden campaign had put a pandemic-related pause on campaign door-knocking until October. The Trump campaign did not. Now Whitmer, dog treats in hand and just weeks after federal authorities unraveled an extensive plot to kidnap her, is at the forefront of an effort to make up for lost ground.

Alleged Michigan militia members in court 01:16

"They're very proud of their ground game," said "CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil of the Trump campaign's outreach, noting to Whitmer that the Trump team, "say they've been knocking on doors long before you guys started."

"I can't tell you what they've been doing," Whitmer replied. "I can tell you we've been taking this pandemic seriously."

Whitmer has previously blamed the president's rhetoric, which included a tweet that read "LIBERATE MICHIGAN," for emboldening the militia members who allegedly planned to kidnap her and overthrow the state government. 

In a series of Twitter posts, Mr. Trump appeared to condemn the violence, while also criticizing Whitmer's governing. At a rally in Michigan, the president also declined to stop chants of "lock her up" in relation to Whitmer.

"Ten days after a plot to kidnap — to put me on trial and then to murder me — ten days later, they're back in Michigan using the same rhetoric," Whitmer said. 

She blasted the president's rhetoric as "dangerous" and despite appealing personally to the White House, said they "haven't done a darn thing" to ease tensions.

"It falls on deaf ears every time," she said. 

Evidence presented in Whitmer kidnapping case... 02:00

The Biden campaign knows it needs to outperform Hillary Clinton's 2016 effort — she lost by less than 11,000 votes, the thinnest margin of any state. According to Whitmer, the issue then was "historically low" turnout.

"We don't have tidal waves here in Michigan, but I do think that this year is going to dwarf anything we've ever seen," the governor said. "I think that bodes well for Joe Biden, and I think it bodes well for Michigan."

Mr. Trump, for his part, has held multiple rallies, imploring suburban voters — namely women — to turn out for him, claiming he has "saved" the suburbs.

"These suburbs didn't need to be saved," Whitmer laughed, dismissing the president's "dog whistles."

She said the people in the Detroit suburbs "care as much about equity," education, clean water and climate change as anybody.

Forty minutes away, in Detroit, Michigan Republican Chairwoman Laura Cox said she was confident the Trump campaign is "in a great place." The campaign claims to have knocked on 1 million doors in Michigan alone, and Cox said even Whitmer's efforts may not make a difference this close to the election.

"We're gonna win again for the president and vice president. The enthusiasm is palpable," Cox said.

Asked what "enthusiasm" meant in regards to graffiti scrawled across the walls of the GOP's Black Voices Headquarters, Cox replied, "It tells me that we're getting under their skin, and our messages are resonating, and they're worried."

Detroit is the largest majority-Black city in the U.S., and could be the biggest reason Mr. Trump triumphed in Michigan in 2016 — Hillary Clinton won the county by a landslide, but with 76,000 fewer votes than former President Barack Obama. 

To see Democrats' efforts to make up for that loss firsthand, Dokoupil stopped at a voter registration event hosted by Detroit Action, a community group trying to bring more voters to the polls. 

Musician Mic Phelps, who performed at the event, said he didn't even bother voting in 2016. He said he had believed the country had, "a history of promising change to certain groups," without then delivering on those promises.

This election, however, he said the stakes are clear to him, and to those around him.

"All of my friends who never really get into politics are all in it right now," Phelps said. "They're going to vote. They registered. They're voting from home, voting at the polls… I've seen a lot more excitement."


Tony Doukopil's series "At America's Crossroads" continues on CBS This Morning on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 a.m.