Incumbent Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is drawing support from Republicans in the state as Tudor Dixon's campaign lags far behind in fundraising.
According to the results of a poll conducted late last month of Michigan voters likely to vote in the general election in November, incumbent Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is leading her Republican opponent, Tudor Dixon, 48%-35%.
Election observers say the campaign of Dixon, who defeated a historically large crowd of primary challengers and was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is struggling.
The database maintained by the website Transparency USA shows that whereas Whitmer, a seasoned politician, had garnered $26 million in campaign contributions as of late August, Dixon's campaign had raised only $2.3 million.
David Dulio, director of Oakland University's Center for Civic Engagement in Rochester, Michigan, told the American Independent Foundation that the Whitmer campaign has "clearly benefited from early spending from the DGA [Democratic Governors Association], which has really had an impact. They have been able to define Tudor Dixon as extreme on abortion before she was able to define herself."
According to MLive, the Whitmer campaign has spent $30 million to reserve broadcast airtime for advertising between now and Election Day, while Dixon's has spent $3.6 million.
"It's all about the money," says Dulio. "Dixon's inability to counter the Whitmer spending is a huge deal. She can't do what she needs to do without her own fundraising or other groups coming to help her, and I haven't seen anything from outside groups indicating they're willing to play here."
Dixon had been accused by other GOP candidates during the primaries of being an "establishment" Republican, owing to her endorsement by the DeVos family. Dick and Betsy DeVos are longtime Republican donors in Michigan, and Betsy served as Donald Trump's secretary of education until she resigned after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol. However, aside from the DeVos family, which has donated $4 million so far to groups backing Dixon, other major donors, such as the Republican Governors Association, have held back.
Even Right to Life Michigan, an anti-abortion group that endorsed Dixon, has contributed only $100 to her campaign.
"Campaign money is limited," Dulio pointed out, "although it doesn't always look that way. The large GOP funders may have made the calculation that their money is better spent elsewhere — Pennsylvania, Arizona, even Florida."
Adrian Hemond, founder and CEO of the Michigan campaign consulting group Grassroots Midwest, told TAIF that Dixon's campaign "has no money; the candidate who lost the attorney general nomination at the Republican spring convention has more cash on hand than Dixon. That's shocking."
Hemond points the finger at management: "Dixon's campaign has been one of the worst and most incompetently run statewide campaigns that we've seen in at least a dozen years, and the Republicans have every environmental factor on their side: The economy is terrible, the president is unpopular, and it's the president's first midterm election."
"Furthermore," he added, "Dixon is nowhere to be found, which is malpractice as far as her campaign is concerned. She could easily go to Traverse City or Marquette or Alpena. They would put her on television, and have her talk about whatever she wants to talk about."
The late-August poll, conducted by the Glengariff Group, Inc., revealed that abortion has become the defining issue for voters, especially for female voters, over economic, security, and law and order issues. The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on Sept. 9 authorized the placement on the November ballot of an initiative called Reproductive Freedom for All, giving Michiganders an opportunity to vote on whether to amend the state Constitution to protect the right to abortion.
Dulio said he is waiting to see how anti-abortion organizations respond in terms of spending on advertising to counter the ballot measure. "There's still a battle to be fought," he said.
Hemond underlined the centrality of abortion as an issue: "Abortion is absolutely the issue that is dominating this election. The Republican nominee has a position on it that is not mainstream, and she is being punished for it, to the extent that anyone knows who she is."
Dixon's extreme no-exceptions position on abortion, which may have assisted in the primaries, may be limiting her campaign, said Hemond. In other races around the country, candidates have been scrubbing their websites of similarly extreme positions, suggesting that they think such positions will not appeal to voters in the November's election.
During a press conference on Monday, Whitmer introduced "Republicans for Whitmer," a coalition of former Republican officials who are endorsing her over Dixon. Hemond said that such endorsements are another hurdle for Dixon: "More concerning to Republicans is that there are some major donors on that list that can get the governor access to additional funding, and they have signaled that they are not giving money to Tudor Dixon, which she really needs."
"Cross-party endorsements are rare," Dulio said, "but Whitmer is already in a very strong position. She's not cutting any corners, and maybe at this point she's even trying to run up the score. These endorsements will get the attention of some independents, and maybe even some Republicans."
The GOP nominees for attorney general and secretary of state, Matt DePerno and Kristina Karamo, are faring even worse than Dixon, says Hemond: "The Karamo and DePerno campaigns are just as incompetently run; the only difference is the quality of candidate is much worse. Kristina Karamo is a certified crazy person. These candidates are so far out of the mainstream that even a well-run campaign would need a lot of help. But they have poorly run campaigns and poor candidates."
Karamo has a long record of bizarre and extreme statements and beliefs, including the idea that abortion is "child sacrifice" and is "far more wicked than slavery." Meanwhile, DePerno is one of several subjects of an investigation by the Michigan Department of Attorney General and the Michigan State Police into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.