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Michigan Republican lawmakers ‘draft’ Ron DeSantis for president

Eighteen Michigan legislators want Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to run for president in 2024, an early sign of divisions and a potential split within the party from former President Donald Trump. (Shutterstock)
  • 18 Michigan Republicans ask Ron DeSantis to run for president
  • House GOP Floor Leader Bryan Posthumus hand-delivered letter
  • Donald Trump won Michigan in 2016 but lost in 2020

LANSING — At least a quarter of Republicans in the Michigan Legislature are asking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to run for president, an early sign that Donald Trump could face organized opposition in the swing state. 

While Trump is “going to run a good campaign,” DeSantis is an attractive option because – unlike the former president – he could serve two full terms if he is elected in 2024, said Michigan House GOP Floor Leader Bryan Posthumus.

“I also think it’s time for the next generation of leaders to step up and, and I think DeSantis is the guy to do that,” Posthumus told Bridge Michigan. 

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The Kent County Republican last month organized and hand-delivered a letter to DeSantis in Florida, urging the second-term governor to run for the White House. 

Posthumus said 17 colleagues signed onto the letter, which says they “stand ready and willing to help” DeSantis win the state next year. There are now 72 GOP members in the Michigan House and Senate. 

“You are uniquely and exceptionally qualified to provide the leadership and competence that is, unfortunately, missing” in Washington D.C., the lawmakers said in excerpts of the letter, as first reported Wednesday by POLITICO.

Posthumus declined to release the full letter to Bridge or disclose the list of legislative Republicans who signed it, saying they did so without the expectation it would be released publicly. 

Rep. Phil Green, R-Millington, told POLITICO he signed the letter because DeSantis “has a record of conservative principles and implementing them in a fashion that makes real change into his state.”

Michigan Republican Party Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock, a Trump loyalist who is not seeking re-election to the state party post, dismissed the letter as the work of lawmakers who simply oppose the former president at all costs. 

“If these 18 Republicans don’t get their choice in the primary, I’m sure they’ll just vote for Biden again,” Maddock told Bridge Michigan in a text message. 

Posthumus described himself as "pro-Trump" in his 2020 campaign for the state House and last year joined colleagues in asking Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel to investigate election fraud claims from the debunked film "2000 Mules," which Trump has championed in his quest to undermine his 2020 loss.

The letter is “not about Trump,” Posthumus told Bridge, noting he was in Florida last month for another event and worked with DeSantis’ team to set up a meeting.

"He was very engaged in the conversation and definitely is looking at Michigan as he's weighing his options," Posthumus said of DeSantis. "It's definitely on his mind."

It's significant to see legislators "get off the sidelines" to try and "draft" DeSantis before any presidential campaign has announced leadership committees in the state, said Michigan political strategist Dennis Lennox.

The letter suggests the lawmakers believe DeSantis could put "Michigan back into play" in 2024 and put Republicans "in a much better position to recapture" the majority in the state House, Lennox said. 

Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 but lost to current President Joe Biden by 154,188 votes in 2020. Democrats dominated last year’s election, headlined by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s nearly 11-percentage point win over Trump-endorsed GOP challenger Tudor Dixon.

"Republicans just want to win, and Ron DeSantis is a winner,” Lennox said. 

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