DETROIT (WOOD) — There’s a reason Michigan was chosen to host one of the Democratic presidential primary debates. Candidates on Tuesday tried to appeal directly to the voters they need to win the 2020 battleground.
In the spin room after the debate, one of the frontrunners, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, cited the Michigan economy — slammed particularly hard during the recession — as the result of “failed policy” and promised to fix those policies.
“Voters here get it,” she said. “Washington has worked great for decades for the wealthy and the well-connected. It just hasn’t worked for most of the people right here in Michigan.”
She said her proposed policies would change that. She promised Michigan voters that if the elect her, “they will have a president who is on the side of the working people.”
A current consensus of polls indicates that the election may hinge on the 80 or 85 electoral votes from Michigan, Florida (which hosted the first round of debates), Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona.
Michigan voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, but his victory was by no means a landslide. That, coupled with the election of Democrat to the governor’s office and other top executive positions last year, has Democrats eyeing the state. And it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that they could take it: Before electing Trump, Michigan had voted blue in every presidential election since 1992.
“Michigan is a lovely state for Democrats because there’s a lot of opportunity,” former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said in the spin room.
Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland said he’s the candidate to make Michigan blue again.
“I’m going to focus on, as I said tonight, the kitchen table, pocketbook issues that matter to every American. I’m going to talk about infrastructure, jobs, pay, fixing health care and improving education,” he said in the spin room.
Candidates showed that they think the way to win Michigan is to appeal to the working class. They debated at length whether workers would be better off with a health care insurance system that allows for a private option or a wholly public one, and they all promised to build an economy that favors workers, not big business.
Rep. Tim Ryan, whose state of Ohio is like Michigan heavily reliant on manufacturing, touted a plan to creating a “chief manufacturing officer” in his administration whose sole responsibility would be creating more advanced manufacturing jobs with an emphasis on green energy.
At least two candidates also mentioned Flint specifically during the debate, saying they had recently visited the city where the ripples of a lead-tainted water crisis are still felt.
“I have a bill — I tried to get in on the discussion there — I have a bill to pull up every lead pipe in America,” Ryan added in the spin room.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Wisconsin also noted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s campaign promise to “fix the damn roads,” saying Whitmer hit directly on the issue and going on to promise increased investment in infrastructure that would help low-income neighborhoods like one in Detroit that was hit hard by recent thunderstorms.
During the debate, Sanders boasted his win in the Michigan Democratic primary in 2016. He did not speak with reporters in the spin room.