Whitmer Denies Reports She Said Biden Can’t Win Michigan: ‘Full of Sh*t’

Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is currently seen as one of the Democrats’ best prospects to replace Joe Biden, attempted Monday to tamp down on rumors she delivered a damning message to one of the president’s senior campaign officials: that he could not win Michigan following his disastrous debate performance last week.

She reportedly also told Biden’s campaign chair, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, that she had ruled out a challenge to Biden, according to Politico—something she seemed to stress in a statement Monday.

“I am proud to support Joe Biden as our nominee and I am behind him 100% in the fight to defeat Donald Trump,” Whitmer said. “Not only do I believe Joe can win Michigan, I know he can because he’s got the receipts: he’s lowered health care costs, brought back manufacturing jobs and is committed to restoring the reproductive freedom women lost under Donald Trump.”

Whitmer also doubled down on the message in a post on X, writing: “Anyone who claims I would say that we can’t win Michigan is full of shit.”

Included in the post was a link to donate to her own PAC, Fight Like Hell.

Whitmer reportedly called O’Malley Dillon Friday, after a day of frenzied speculation that she would be a frontrunner if Biden could be persuaded to quit. The second-term swing state governor, however, told Biden’s campaign chair that she “hated” her name being floated and that she was loyal to the president.

Intriguingly, the other part of her message—the loss of one of the three states Democrats see as crucial to victory—was leaked by a third party described by Politico reporter Jonathan Martin as “a potential 2028 Whitmer rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.” That leak suggests a degree of bitter infighting behind the scenes among Democrats who are now positioning themselves for an after-Biden moment which could come, some think, within days.

The loss of Michigan would represent a stunning blow after it firmly moved back into the Democratic column in 2020 and Whitmer scored a 10-point victory over her Republican rival in 2022 to gain her second term. She also led the party to a trifecta and locked Republicans out of statewide office in the campaign–which should have made Michigan a far easier prospect for Biden than had been in the case in 2020.

Whitmer, 52, is not the only young governor being floated as a Biden replacement: others include California’s Gavin Newsom; Maryland’s Wes Moore; Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro; Kentucky’s Andy Beshear; and term-limited Roy Cooper of North Carolina.

However Whitmer has been generating buzz among donors and senior party figures for her two election victories and clear down-ballot appeal in the crucial midwest. She has a personal story which includes revealing that she had been the victim of campus sexual assault, was the subject of a far-right kidnapping and assassination plot, and has a personal popularity in Michigan which includes being the subject of a rap song called “Big Gretch.”

Quite how iron-clad her commitment to Biden is may only become clear in the next few days. She loyally tweeted her support for the president and Vice President Kamala Harris Sunday, but was not among senior Democrats appearing on Sunday morning TV shows. Maryland’s Wes Moore was the only governor putting in such an appearance on CBS Face the Nation, where he ruled out any attempt to “seek” the nomination in 2024.

Jill Biden Uses Vogue Photoshoot to Say Joe’s Staying In

However Whitmer is not going to be absent from television for much longer: She publishes a memoir, True Gretch, on July 9, which will mean a publicity tour at just the right moment if Biden continues to suffer from fading Democratic support. The book, subtitled What I've Learned About Life, Leadership, and Everything in Between, focuses on her “get shit done” motto, presenting another dramatic contrast to the Biden campaign’s themes of protecting democracy and highlighting the dangers of a second Trump presidency.

The book appears to have been written as an early shot at the 2028 nomination, which would have been perfectly timed for Whitmer: she is term limited and would leave office at the end of 2026, giving her a long run-in to the nomination process. But it would also be rocket fuel for a 2024 snap campaign.

Pre-release publicity for it says that “she tells stories about the outsize characters in her family, her lifelong clumsy streak, the wild comments she’s heard on the campaign trail, her self-deprecating social media campaigns (including her star turn as a talking potato with lipstick), and the slyly funny tactics she deploys to neutralize her opponents.” That suggests a candidate with a keen eye for modern campaign tactics on social media as well as traditional retail politics.

Such is the appeal of Whitmer that one former Democratic member of Congress, Chet Atkins from Massachusetts, emailed his distribution list of friends and allies urging them to give to Whitmer now while Biden contemplates his future.

The Biden campaign and White House, however, is circling the wagons around the wounded president. On Sunday he met his family at Camp David where they had gathered for an Annie Liebovitz photoshoot.

Despite widespread calls for the family to intervene, they instead told him to keep going. Then they blamed his debate prep team—and especially power couple Anita Dunn, his senior White House advisor, and Bob Bauer, his personal attorney who played Trump in the prep sessions—for his disastrous performance.

The strongest statement of support came from Hunter Biden, who told his father to be the man he knows best, The New York Times reported: “scrappy and in command of the facts.”

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