Why Michigan’s Republican Party has been in chaos and what it might mean for Trump in 2024

Donald Trump during a September appearance in Michigan
Donald Trump during a September appearance in Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - After weeks of arguments, a lawsuit, and threats of dueling conventions, the Michigan Republican Party did something fairly organized on Saturday.

It held a low-key convention and awarded more delegates to front-running former President Donald Trump.

Yet the comic opera that preceded the rather dull convention also underscored a divided state Republican party that may have trouble helping Trump win Michigan - an essential state if he hopes to defeat President Joe Biden.

“There is not one thing occurring right now at the state GOP that will help them to elect candidates, nothing,” said Richard Czuba, founder of nonpartisan Michigan-based polling firm Glengariff Group.

“This is all an internal battle about who has control of the party.”

Michigan GOP drama over former chair Kristina Karamo

The latest scuffle within the Michigan Republican Party began in January when members organized the removal of chair Kristina Karamo, accusing her of mismanagement.

Saturday's convention was much less exciting than the one a year ago that elected Karamo - an outspoken election denier who believes in demonic possession and names names about it.

Karamo still protests both Trump's loss to Biden in 2020 and her own defeat in a 2022 Michigan secretary of State race - a loss by nearly 14 percentage points.

In addition to her management style, Michigan Republicans also criticized Karamo for a series of odd statements.

Karamo has said that "demonic possession is real," and ascribed that condition to singers Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Cardi B, Billie Eilish and others.

The former Michigan Republican chair has compared abortion to Pagan child sacrifice, and that women who support abortion rights are doing so because" ..they can live sexually promiscuous lives." A party social media post during her tenure compared gun control proposals to the Holocaust.

After her removal in January, Karamo sued unsuccessfully. She and her supporters tried to organize a separate convention to pick a separate slate of delegates. But their plans fell apart right before Saturday's official GOP state convention.

An air of hope

There was a noticeable air of hope that the drama was behind them, as newly-installed chair Pete Hoekstra promised to bring major donors back to the party and the spectacle of a competing convention in Detroit was avoided.

Things were quiet - for the most part.

Most of the 13 caucuses went off without a hitch, but at least one devolved into a screaming match.

Also, some Karamo-camp attendees were denied the chance to vote from their peers who said they had not registered in time.

Fundraising - and getting out the vote

Delegates who attended the official Republican convention in Grand Rapids said the problems could hurt fundraising and get-out-the vote operations.

That might change if the party can put their divisions behind them and - perhaps more importantly - raise enough money to fund the efforts necessary to win elections.

Trump and the RNC

Trump and the Republican National Committee have been careful to distance themselves from all the drama in Michigan.

Neither has spoken ill of Karamo but both expressed support for the election of Hoekstra, a former congressman and a Trump supporter.

After Saturday's convention vote, Trump told supporters at a rally in North Carolina that he was happy to win all of the available Michigan delegates.

He also told a little joke.

"100 percent," he said. "Can't we do better than that?"

Why Michigan is important

Every vote counts in Michigan, a state Trump probably needs to win if he is to re-capture the White House.

Michigan certainly played a major role in Trump's two previous presidential campaigns.

Failure to get out even a small number of votes could lose the state for either candidate.

Trump won the Electoral College in 2016 thanks to narrow wins in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin - just a little less than 11,000 votes in Michigan.

Biden defeated Trump in Michigan in 2020 by a little more than 150,000 votes.

Other states: Georgia, Arizona, Nevada

Michigan isn't the only state where Republicans are trying to improve local operations.

There is Republican infighting in other states that Trump needs in order to win the general election.

They include Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada - states that have often voted Republican in the past, but went for Biden four years ago.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Michigan Republican Party gets it together Trump at convention