Has Michels Abandoned Trump?
Or has Trump abandoned Michels in governor's race? The silence is deafening.
Donald Trump’s endorsement was a key factor in businessman Tim Michels winning the Republican primary for governor. Michels traveled to Mar-a-Lago to solicit Trump’s backing. And he trumpeted that endorsement, comparing himself to the ex-president in the primary election. That helped him upset Rebecca Kleefisch, the former Lieutenant Governor, who was backed by much the state’s Republican leadership, including former governor Scott Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, but had trouble selling herself to the many pro-Trump, election-denying primary voters.
Yet since then the name of Donald Trump seems to have disappeared from the election. Trump has campaigned for many of the candidates he has endorsed in other states. By October he had held 21 campaign rallies across the nation, in states like Nevada and Arizona, Pennsylvania and Ohio, Iowa and Texas. Candidates like Kari Lake and Tudor Dixon, running for governor of Arizona and Michigan respectively, have enthusiastically embraced the ex-president in their speeches.
Trump expects absolute loyalty from any candidate he supports. He recently bragged about Ohio Republican U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance that “J.D. is kissing my ass he wants my support so much” and Vance did nothing to disavow this.
Whereas Michels began distancing himself from Trump immediately after winning the August primary, removing the Trump endorsement from his campaign website, only to restore it after a New York Times reporter tweeted about this. Michels denied he knew about his website removing the Trump endorsement. “No, you know, it wasn’t even transparent to me,” Michels told Fox 11 News in Green Bay. “I don’t know if we just had a staffer that did that.”
Meanwhile, he’s made it clear he hasn’t talked to Trump since the primary. Michels told WTMJ’s Steve Scaffidi, “The last time I talked to Donald Trump was on primary victory night, on primary election night. So he called me on primary night. Yeah, so that was 11 weeks ago now. Something like that. Yeah. So I don’t talk to him. I don’t call him.”
This came after the insult to Trump of having Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s leading Republican rival for the 2024 presidential election, campaign in Wisconsin for Michels. Consider that in Florida Trump campaigned for GOP U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, for not for DeSantis. Yet in Wisconsin Michels gladly linked his campaign with the Florida governor, who promised Michels would be a DeSantis clone if elected in Wisconsin. “Everything we’ve done in Florida, you will be able to do in Wisconsin and then some,” DeSantis declared.
Michels’ run away from Trump after the primary makes perfect sense, given Trump’s dreadful rating from voters in Wisconsin. The latest Marquette Law School poll shows Trump has an unfavorable rating with 55% of respondents compared to 37% who approve of him. While 78% of Republicans approve of Trump, just 29% of independents and 4% of Democrats approve of him. The results were similar in past MU polls, dramatizing how useful his backing could be in a primary and how damaging in a general election.
It’s worth noting that Democratic president Joe Biden ranks nearly as badly as Trump in Wisconsin, with 55% disapproving and 42% approving, the poll found. Democrats like Evers and Mandela Barnes have clearly distanced themselves from the president.
So why hasn’t he done that in Wisconsin? Considering how Trump loves to talk about himself, it’s surprising he hasn’t offered an explanation. Perhaps the appearance here by DeSantis was a deal breaker for Trump. Whatever the reason for Trump’s dramatic disappearance from Wisconsin’s campaign, this will not be the end of the story. You can bet we will hear from him after the election. If Michels wins, Trump will claim his endorsement was the reason. If Michels loses, Trump will crow that Michels lost because he abandoned The Donald. In the world of Donald Trump there are no defeats, only claims of victory, even for the 2020 election he lost by seven million votes.