Election 2020

Michigan Trump Republicans Go on Midterm Warpath

Trump supporters march east on the bike path along Metro Parkway in Clinton Township, Mich., on March 4, 2017. (Todd McInturf /Detroit News via AP)

Fresh off and fired up from the Michigan Conservative Coalition’s “Battle Cry 2018” convention in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., Trump Republicans are ready to take the midterm election fight to Democrats and even some of their fellow GOPers.

Hundreds of solid-red Republicans turned out for the event as Michigan conservatives moved to make sure Trump voters who shocked America and rocked the world in November 2016 are even more committed two years later.

“Unlike Mitt Romney and others, we didn’t hide from (Trump’s) wealth. We embraced it, because that’s the American Dream,” keynote speaker Corey Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager, said.

Lewandowski also signed copies of his book Let Trump Be Trump, which expressed a sentiment shared by Rosanne Ponkowski, president of the Michigan Conservative Coalition.

“(Battle Cry 2018) was very exciting,” Ponkowski told PJM. “The room was full of energy. At one point I just looked out and said, ‘Wow, this is pretty good.’”

But the way Ponkowski sees it, the Feb. 2-3 convention was only one more step in making sure a conservative Michigan Republican electorate is ready for November.

Michigan was one of four states that FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver said made the difference in 2016. President Trump won Michigan by the slimmest of margins — 47.5 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 47.27 percent of the vote — a difference of 10,704 votes.

But will those 10,704 Michigan Trump voters who were so crucial in the 2016 election show up at the polls in November 2018? And if they do, will they be voting for candidates friendly to Trump?

A Detroit News/WDIV poll released in January showed Ponkowski and her fellow Trump supporters have some work to do.

The numbers point to a disappointing reality for Michigan Trump Republicans: it looks like they are members of a rather small club. According to the poll conducted by Glengariff Group, only 39.5 percent of likely Michigan voters approved of Trump’s performance in office.

The poll showed 47 percent of Michigan voters “strongly disapprove” of what Trump has done in office so far. Another 54 percent disapprove.

“His approval ratings are terrible, it’s that simple,” said Rich Czuba, who conducted the poll. “We are the bellwether state at this point. Michigan is going to reflect what is occurring nationally.”

Ponkowski said so far, in 2017, the Trump Republicans have made dozens of stops in Michigan, talking to Trump voters, signing them up as delegates, and letting them know what is going on via weekly updates from the White House.

“We have to make sure that Michigan stays red,” Ponkowski said.

Ponkowski is optimistic that the GOP will prevail in November.

“We see people still very active and understanding that they want Mr. Trump’s agenda to move forward and the only way that can happen is if you have a Republican House and Senate that likes Mr. Trump’s agenda,” said Ponkowski.

And that brings up another priority for the Michigan Conservative Coalition: replacing retiring “RINOs” and Republican “#NeverTrumpers” with GOPers who support Trump.

“We’ve seen many people retiring that that aren’t particularly on Mr. Trump’s side,” she said. “So we’re like, ‘That’s OK, let’s replace them with somebody who is for Trump and for the agenda because he has a lot to get done.’”

“I think people are understanding that,” Ponkowski said, “and that is why they are still engaged.”

Does that mean the Michigan Conservation Coalition wants to take over the Michigan GOP?

“That definitely has been kind of our mission. It is not so much that we want to take over; it’s just that we want the Republican Party to stand up for the Republican platform,” she said. “Every four years there is a convention. They spend several days creating this incredible document and then it just kind of gets thrown in the trash can.”

So, the Michigan Conservative Coalition is concerned with more than just the November general election. Ponkowski said they want to be sure the best candidates, and by that she means Trump-supporting conservatives, win their primaries.

“We are looking for Republicans who are going to uphold the platform and not just have an ‘R’ behind their names,” said Ponkowski. “So we will do all we can during the primaries that the conservative platform Republicans end up being the general candidates.”

The MCC is also concerned with more than just Michigan. Ponkowski was driving to Florida as she spoke with PJM to take “a much-deserved vacation,” but also to help organize a Florida Trump Republicans group. Ponkowski said Ohio could be next.

“We are taking our show on the road,” she said.