Election 2020

Trump Endorses Iraq War Vet John James in Michigan Senate Primary

Republican U.S. Senate candidate John E. James (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

President Trump gave a big boost to John James, a rising star in the Republican Party who is running in Michigan’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate. In two tweets Friday, the president called the 37-year-old African-American business executive and Iraq War helicopter pilot a “SPECTACULAR!” candidate with “great potential,” who is “strong on crime and borders, loves our Military, our Vets and our Second Amendment.”

James is running against detergent manufacturer Sandy Pensler in the August 7 contest and the winner will face third-term Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow in November.

Vice President Mike Pence also endorsed James on Friday:

“I want to help the president create more economic opportunity, secure our borders and strengthen our national security. From the battlefield to the boardroom, I have the experience to get the job done for Michigan,” James said in a statement.

The candidate and his “good buddy,” former U.S. Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill (who allegedly fired the head shots that killed Osama bin Laden), expressed how pleased they were with the endorsements while out politicking on Friday.

Both of the Republican candidates support Trump and have defended his trade and tariff policies, but one of the two has perhaps not always been firm in his support for the president.

James and a super PAC backing him have run TV ads criticizing Pensler for not liking Trump’s “style” and saying that he cannot speak at a “fourth-grade level” like Trump. Pensler has said the remarks were taken “completely” out of context and he was defending the president by complimenting his simple, succinct communication skills.

In a statement Friday, Pensler expressed disappointment that Trump had decided to make an endorsement:

“I have run a campaign strongly in support of the president’s policies of lowering taxes, reducing regulations and protecting our borders,” he said. “My support continues for President Trump and his policies, and I believe Michigan Republican voters will see that I have a greater depth and understanding of the issues and will be a stronger voice for our great state in the U.S. Senate.”

Three polls taken in the past month have shown a three-point advantage for Pensler, a tie, and a seven-point advantage for James.

Political reporter Salena Zito said on Twitter that she was impressed with the amount of enthusiasm James was garnering from younger voters.

“I’ve never quite seen the amount of millennial and genZ enthusiasm behind this young man in Michigan for any other GOP candidate/challenge,” she tweeted.