ANNOYED THAT TWO battleground states are trying to make it safer and easier for people to vote this fall, President Donald Trump is threatening to deny federal cash to both Michigan and Nevada, baffling political analysts who wonder why Trump would want to punish people whose votes he needs.
In morning tweets, the president claimed that the states’ separate plans to send absentee ballots to all registered voters was illegal (a claim disputed by both states) and would enable voter fraud (a claim unsubstantiated by the records of the five states which now conduct elections entirely by mail).
He did not say which funds he pledged to “hold up” – or how he could do so – but the very idea of withholding federal help to states hit by both the pandemic and, in the case of Michigan, catastrophic flooding this week, perplexes observers.
“If he’s threatening monies related to coronavirus relief or response, that’s potentially dangerous” in Michigan, a state the president won by a razor-thin margin in 2016, says political science professor David Dulio, director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Oakland University in southern Michigan.
“When the president goes after his opponents,” such as Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, “his base loves it,” Dulio says. But federal aid? “It’s not a wedge issue,” he adds.
“I think the president’s political strategy or working strategy, whatever you want to call it, is attacking people he views as his enemies,” says Michigan political consultant Adrian Hemond, a partner with the firm Grassroots Midwest and a former Democratic staffer in the Michigan state legislature. “Whether or not that’s an advantageous or appropriate tactic at any moment is irrelevant. The president is going to do this, and this is what he does.”
Trump is scheduled to visit a Ford plant in Michigan on Thursday, a sign of how important the state is to his reelection effort.