Michigan's role as a battleground state highlighted at DNC

Friday, July 29, 2016 - 8:21am

PHILADELPHIA — The expectation for Michigan to be a battleground state this year was accentuated at the Democratic National Convention, with speeches from four state natives: Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Detroit worker Henrietta Ivey.

During the last two days of the convention, Weaver spoke to Clinton’s commitment to Flint, Duggan highlighted Clinton’s support for the working class, Granholm mocked Trump through impressions and Ivey talked about her personal experiences and how Clinton can help workers like her.

In addition to the plethora of speakers, Sen. Gary Peters (D–Mich.) was also named co-chair for the convention. A co-chair is selected from the members of the Senate at every DNC, Peters said.

Talking about the speaker line up from Michigan, Peters said he is excited to see Weaver included as the Flint water crisis continues to be a prominent issue for the state.

“Certainly it’s good to highlight some of our speakers who are consistent with some the messages that Secretary Clinton wants to talk about,” he said. “I’m particularly pleased that she has Mayor Weaver here talking at the convention. It’s a major issue for us.”

Michigan has traditionally been a blue state in presidential elections, having not voted Republican since 1988. However, this year the Clinton campaign expects a much harder battle to keep the state.

David Plouffe, former 2008 campaign manager and senior advisor to President Obama, said Michigan will be a hard-fought state, but he hopes the battle will lead Democrats to victory.

“I believe we are going to keep Michigan blue,” he said. “We’ve got some work to do. It’s always a battleground state. We definitely are going to do everything we can to keep it blue.”

In the primary season, Clinton lost Michigan in a tight race with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), while Donald Trump won the state with some ease against his Republican rivals. Trump has done particularly well with white, working class men and did well in areas where Clinton lost to Sanders by large margins, like the Upper Peninsula.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D–Flint) said he believes Sanders’ supporters will ultimately decide that Clinton better represents their ideals.

“I actually think that she will be fine,” he said. “In those areas that are more Republican, we’ve got a bigger hill to climb, but in those areas that Sen. Sanders did quite well, I think that those voters are going to find that Hillary Clinton’s values align very much with where Sen. Sanders comes from.”

Students and young people have also been a concern in terms of Clinton’s ability to unite the party and bring disaffected Sanders supporters into the fold. Young protesters have filled the streets of Philadelphia every day of the convention.

Clinton appealed directly to Sanders supporters during her acceptance speech on Thursday, telling them their cause was her campaign's cause. 

U.S. Rep Debbie Dingell (D–Dearborn) said she hopes Sanders will visit the University of Michigan's campus again to promote party unity among students who were avid Sanders supporters.

“I think that Ann Arbor will be a very important target,” she said. “We need young people to get involved, and for them to come from all over. I’m hoping I can get Sen. Sanders to come to campus to help with this.”

Despite the concern about a tough fight in Michigan, state leaders have confidence in Clinton’s ability to overcome, as they believe she is the best choice for progress.

Dingell said she has been a personal friend with Clinton for many years, and she knows Clinton is the best choice for Michigan residents.

“I am planning on working my heart and soul out for that woman,” she said. “I have known her for three decades, and I know she will fight hard for working men and women.”

Kildee, Dingell and Peters all told the Daily they are going to do everything they can to ensure Clinton wins the state of Michigan and to support Democrats down the ticket in this important election year.