Aug 11, 2023 - Politics

What swing voters say about Whitmer for president

Whitmer signing an executive order to create the Grow Michigan Together Council to address the state's stagnant population growth.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signing an executive order at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island to create the Growing Michigan Together Council to address Michigan's stagnant population. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Michigan swing voters had mostly positive things to say about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — even those who opposed her.

State of play: Axios sat in on two online Engagious/Sago focus groups Tuesday with 13 Michiganders who voted for President Trump in 2016 and President Biden in 2020. Five identify as independent, five as Republicans and three as Democrats.

  • While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, responses show how some voters think about current events.

Why it matters: As Whitmer's national spotlight continues to grow, so could her political aspirations. National Democrats continue to monitor her performance as governor.

  • She's ruled out running against Biden next year, but hasn't ruled out running for higher office in the future.
  • Whitmer earned support from voters critical of Biden in this focus group, as participants supported her potential run for president.

What they're saying: "The number of positive comments about Gov. Whitmer stood out; we usually don't hear swing voters offering widespread praise for a political figure," Engagious president Rich Thau, who moderated the focus groups, tells Axios.

  • "More often than not, these kinds of voters are perpetually dissatisfied — especially after an officeholder has been in the job for several years the way she has."

Between the lines: Four of six participants in the first group said they wished Whitmer was running this year instead of Biden, while four participants in the second group said they'd prefer to see her run in 2028.

Here's what they said:

  • Brian C. of Huron: "She could unify the country — I think it's possible more than Biden."
  • Rodney L. of Detroit: "A young, fresh face, fresh mind. I think she's done a great job with Michigan, so I think she'd do a good job for the country."
  • Dixie T. of Harper Woods: "She's a very strong woman and she does get a lot done. She did handle the COVID-19 situation with all hands on deck and I think she would do a better job than Biden is doing now."
  • Paul C. of Jackson: "I'd rather see her in the future when she has a better chance of winning."
  • Lynn J. of Eastpointe: "I think she needs a little more experience under her belt. I don't think the country is necessarily ready to vote for a woman yet. I'd like to see her in a role in the federal government, maybe as an appointed role in the Biden administration or another Democratic administration, so she could get her feet wet a little bit before she would run for president."
  • Mary A. of Canton: "I think she needs a little time to get maybe more foreign policy experience under her belt, but I do think that she works across the aisle fairly well, but even though I disagree with some of their policies."
  • Sonya S. of Hartland: "I just think everybody in Michigan knows her and likes her, I just don't see that opinion in every other state. I don't see her as impactful, I mean, when I look at other states — Florida, look at Texas — I see what has happened there has gone beyond what [Whitmer] has done here."
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