Talking Points

Trump is repeating Clinton's mistake in Michigan

Nearly four years later, Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump in Michigan remains the most surprising outcome of the 2016 election. It should not have been, though. Clinton willfully neglected the Great Lakes State, which had not gone for a Republican since 1988.

Which is why it's so weird that Trump now appears to be repeating Clinton's mistake. If a report in The New York Times is any indication, the president's campaign has decided that Michigan is not in the cards. Since June, the campaign has been steadily decreasing how much it spends on television advertising there. That amount has now trickled down to zero.

Does this mean Trump is throwing in the towel? He shouldn't be. While Joe Biden's eight-point polling lead in Michigan is impressive, it's actually smaller than the lead some polls showed for Clinton at this point four years ago. Nor did the margins ever really disappear last time: only one 2016 poll, conducted on the eve of the election, ever showed Trump beating Clinton in Michigan. If years of theatrical congressional hearings, impeachment, lockdown, and a serious economic crisis can't move the needle firmly toward Biden, it doesn't make sense to give up on a state worth 16 electoral votes, one in which the president's major campaign themes continue to resonate with many voters. Meanwhile, a recent focus group suggests that swing voters in the state have serious doubts about the former vice president's ability to lead. Other polling suggests that Michigan voters are less concerned about coronavirus despite increases in the number of positive tests, which should be another positive sign for the president.

That's not to say that Trump and his team should not get creative. One of the biggest advantages he had in 2016 was the popularity of Jill Stein. The Green Party candidate won a larger share of the vote in Michigan than Trump's eventual margin of victory. Maybe the big-time GOP donors should consider investing in Howie Hawkins, the Green Party's co-founder and 2020 presidential nominee, instead.