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Whitmer vaults to top of donor lists while ‘Big Gretch’ tries to promise loyalty to Biden

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) is a darling candidate to Democratic donors scrambling for President Joe Biden’s replacement after his abysmal debate performance. Some know her as “Big Gretch,” as buzz builds to her presidential candidacy in the “Draft Gretch” movement, but she reportedly threw her support behind Biden in a recent phone call and condemned […]

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) is a darling candidate to Democratic donors scrambling for President Joe Biden’s replacement after his abysmal debate performance.

Some know her as “Big Gretch,” as buzz builds to her presidential candidacy in the “Draft Gretch” movement, but she reportedly threw her support behind Biden in a recent phone call and condemned shouts for her to replace the president.

While doing that, she apparently declared Michigan “no longer winnable for Biden” in the wake of Biden’s debate performance, which confirmed many age-related concerns voters had about the president. Michigan is considered a critical swing state that would make winning in November unlikely for Biden if he can’t capture it.


Whitmer’s name, as well as others, such as Vice President Kamala Harris, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA), and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, has been thrown around as a possible replacement for Biden since the debate.

There are two obvious ways for Biden to be replaced on the ticket: Democrats could invoke the 25th Amendment and try to replace Biden with Harris, or delegates at the Democratic National Convention could revolt and cast their votes for someone other than Biden on the floor in Chicago.

In either scenario, Harris would likely be first in line for the Democratic nominee position, given her continual spot in the public eye and her position in the Biden administration.

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Whitmer is an appealing option for donors and voters as a member of a deep bench of Democratic governors with executive experience who have their eyes on higher office in 2028. Many younger governors, such as Whitmer, Newsom, Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-PA), and Gov. Wes Moore (D-MD), have been floated as quality presidential candidates.

A recent blast email from Chet Atkins, a former House member from Massachusetts-turned-lobbyist, pushed for donors to send money to Whitmer’s campaign.

“How can you not love a Governor who is affectionately called ‘Big Gretch’ by Detroit rappers, a Governor who faced down a kidnap attempt, and passed gun safety legislation in response,” Atkins wrote in the email, adding that the election is going to hinge on Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania and that “no one knows and understands these voters the way she does.”

Whitmer reportedly did not know about the email or approve it.

“Over the next several weeks, party leaders and the press will be looking to see who has the momentum and the ability to beat Trump,” he wrote. “A massive outpouring of small and large dollar donations to Gretchen Whitmer’s political committee will send a strong and clear message. It will also allow her to be ready on day one when the nomination opens up.”

But most of the candidates, as reported by Politico, would be hard-pressed to make it past Harris if Biden steps down or is replaced. That includes Whitmer, though her buzz in this year’s race is indicative of her possible 2028 popularity.

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at the NAACP Detroit branch Fight for Freedom Fund dinner in Detroit on Sunday, May 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Trump leads in two out of three national polls released after the debate and is up 1.9 points in the Real Clear Politics average.

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Whitmer loses against Trump 46% to 44% in a recent head-to-head poll between the former president and myriad Democrats. However, Whitmer had the closest margin, at 2%, between her and Trump than every candidate except Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), though voters in the poll rated the theoretical races “not sure” more than Biden versus Trump and Harris versus Trump.

A more direct section of the poll that asks voters to select a theoretical replacement for Biden placed Whitmer’s support at only 6%, ranking fifth below Booker, Buttigieg, Newsom, and Harris.

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