- A Republican Party official blames the Election Day losses on a lack of funding
- Donald Trump has been blamed as a major problem by typical donors who were not in the race
- Both Republican and Democratic strategists cited the impact of heavy advertising spending that identified the early abortion issue
BIRMINGHAM — The blame game for last week’s weak Republican showing in Michigan intensified Tuesday, with a top party official saying former President Donald Trump scared away donors and hurt candidates during the polls.
During a panel discussion on the 2022 midterm elections hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber at the Townsend Hotel, Michigan Republican Party chief of staff Paul Cordes said many donors “don’t want to donate to a party or a candidate because of Donald Trump.”
The lack of campaign funding and infrastructure for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon in the immediate aftermath of her August primary victory left the GOP without “tools to fight back” as Democrats spent millions to target Dixon and other candidates on their opposition to abortion and other issues. he said.
“We turned out a lot of Republicans, but the top of the ticket was holding everything back,” Cordes said, adding that he believed Republicans had a chance to retain the Legislature or gain additional seats in Congress if Dixon had performed better.
On the subject:
The candidates, including Tom Barrett, who narrowly lost to incumbent Democratic Rep. Alyssa Slotkin in central Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, were victims of “top-of-the-ticket issues,” he said.
Dixon lost to incumbent Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by 11 points in last week’s election, while Republicans lost all three statewide races, both houses of the Legislature and two competitive congressional seats. It was the party’s worst showing in a generation in Michigan.
Whitmer lifted more than five times as much as Dixon, $36.4 million through Oct. 23 and has spent nearly $13 million on advertising over the past two months. Dixon did not run television ads until the end of the campaign.
Whitmer also appears to have benefited from a strong turnout in support of Proposition 3, enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution. Voters approved the measure 57% to 43% after both parties poured more than $57 million into the campaign.
Cordes’ comments came a day after Trump announced he would run for president again in 2024. Speaking before the chamber, Cordes doubled on a memo by party leaders shortly after the election, who blamed Dixon’s candidacy for defeat, as well as a “power struggle” within the party between loyalist and anti-Trump factions.
Cordes said the purpose of the memo was not to criticize Dixon, but to outline what went wrong.
“After we got fired from positions at almost every level of government, we felt we owed it to the people we worked for to do a sort of debriefing on where we thought things were,” he said.
Dixon hit the memo writes on Twitter that it is a “a perfect example of what’s wrong with” the party. She said Cordes and party co-chairs Ron Weiser and Meshon Maddock “all refuse to take responsibility for their own failures.’
Weiser is not running for re-election, and Dixon said she is considering running for office. Matthew DePerna, who lost his GOP attorney general bid, announced his candidacy.
Amanda Stitt, chief strategist for Whitmer’s re-election campaign, also addressed the panel and noted Whitmer’s strength as a candidate and the messaging of the Democratic candidates.
“Inflation has been thrown out as a ghost … it’s not something we’ve seen Republicans with a plan to really deal with it and say what they’re going to do,” she said.
Stitt also noted that candidates who opposed abortion rights and questioned the outcome of the 2020 election fared worse across the country than their opponents. Dixon, DePerna and GOP Secretary of State nominee Christina Karamo have
Stitt and Cordes cited the ads bashing Dixon’s record on abortion as a key factor influencing public opinion.
Cordes acknowledged that the Democrats’ early ad on the issue, which highlighted Dixon’s comment on a podcast by journalist Charlie Ledoff citing a “perfect example” after he questioned whether she would oppose abortion in the case of a teen being raped, set the narrative throughout two months.
The quote was taken out of context and cited Dixon’s belief that Proposition 3 would make it harder to catch abusers.
But the damage was done.
Republicans like Dixon, who oppose abortion with no exceptions other than to save the life of the mother, will struggle after the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade this summer, Stitt said.
“No matter what, whoever the Republican is, I think we would be able to really define them on this issue,” she said. “The ‘perfect example’ was, of course, a perfect example.”