Report: Top Michigan Democrats fear weak field operation could cost Biden

September 16, 2020, 1:35 PM

Campaign sign in Bloomfield Township. (Photo: Twitter/Abby Vegas)

A couple weeks ago, Michigan Democratic Party leaders were worried Joe Biden was losing ground to Donald Trump with northern Midwest whites who liked the president's law-and-order talk. Now they're concerned his ground game in Michigan isn't strong enough.

A piece by Time highlights the stark contrast between Biden and Trump support in battleground Macomb County — the kind you can see, anyway. There are reportedly Trump flags and signs all over Sterling Heights, but one resident says he "can’t even find a [Biden] sign." A grassroots organizer says "people don’t even know where to volunteer for Biden,” and that she doesn't know what to tell the 15 would-be volunteers who call her asking for guidance each week.

The concern is that Biden is taking the state for granted like Hillary Clinton did before losing it by fewer than 11,000 votes in 2016. But how important is ground game when Biden has a strong digital operation — the campaign says it reached 1.4 million Michigan voters the week of the Democratic convention — and leads in the polls? Very, Dems intent on unseating Trump tell Time.

... after conversations with more than a dozen Democratic Members of Congress, state representatives, local party chairs and party operatives, a slightly more anxious picture emerged. Top Democrats believe the race is closer than the polls suggest, and some are privately urging the Biden campaign and state Democrats to reconsider physical canvassing. “I think Biden could absolutely do more,” says Michael Heitman, chair of the Democratic Party in Isabella County, a small county in central Michigan which voted for Barack Obama twice and then for Trump in 2016. “I’d really appreciate if the Biden campaign had someone specifically for his campaign here.”

Some top Democrats say that the visibility of Biden campaigning in Michigan is as important as the campaign itself. “I think we need a more visible Biden campaign presence in the state, that is soup to nuts: from yard signs to surrogates to visits,” says U.S. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, who represents Michigan’s 8th District. “I would love to see a steady drumbeat that made clear, even to the most apolitical person, that Joe Biden cares about Michigan, and he has plan.”

Granted anonymity to share candid assessments of the campaign, other top Democrats are more pointed. “Calling a telephone number isn’t a connection,” says one leading Michigan Democratic official. “Some of the same people that said everything was okay four years ago are the same people saying everything’s okay now.”

Biden stopped last Wednesday at a UAW hall in Warren and a steelworker's home in Detroit for quieter — and more public-health friendly — events than Trump's mostly maskless outdoor rally the next day. Trump has also sent a series of adminstration officials and surrogates to Michigan in recent weeks, including Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Attorney General William Barr.


Michigan Visit: Biden Praises Gov. Whitmer for Covid Handling, While Trashing Trump, Sept. 9

Read more:  Time

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