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Whitmer says she won't run for president: ‘I'm grateful to be right here’

Whitmer
Speculation that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would run for president intensified after she crushed Republican Tudor Dixon last week. (Bridge photo by Rod Sanford)
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer floated as presidential ‘contender’
  • Whitmer says she plans to stay in Michigan for second term
  • President Biden considered Whitmer as running mate in 2020

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she is committed to a full second term in Michigan, batting back national speculation she may run for president in 2024 if aging Democratic incumbent Joe Biden declines to seek re-election. 

“I plan enthusiastically to serve for four years and leave the state in better shape than we are even right now,” Whitmer told Bridge Michigan on Tuesday. “I think our future is bright. I’m excited about being at the helm.”

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The presidential chatter intensified last week after Whitmer crushed what Republicans had predicted would be a “red wave,” receiving more votes than she did in 2018 and winning re-election by 11 points over GOP challenger Tudor Dixon. 

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The dominant performance was important for Democrats across the state and country. She helped the party retake full control of the Michigan Legislature for the first time in 40 years, and helped U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Dan Kildee defeat Republican challengers amid a fight for control of Congress.

"She's a contender," Los Angeles Times columnist LZ Granderson wrote less than 24 hours after Whitmer's big win. "If President Biden decides not to seek reelection, do not underestimate her chances for the Democratic nomination and the White House."

Former President Donald Trump, who announced his 2024 re-election campaign on Tuesday night, had backed Dixon in the governor’s race after publicly sparring with Whitmer over pandemic responses early in the COVID-19 crisis. 

Whitmer, who Biden considered as a running mate in 2020 before choosing Kamala Harris, already had a “profile that transcended Michigan” but was again vaulted into the “national spotlight,” wrote reporter Ashley Parker, a senior national political correspondent for the Washington Post.

Whitmer is "Pabst Blue Ribbon with just the right measure of Merlot," contributing columnist Frank Bruni wrote in The New York Times. "...There will no doubt be some governor in any post-Biden mix. I don’t spot another with more potential than Whitmer."

Speaking with Bridge one week after her re-election win, Whitmer called the national speculation “surreal” but said she has no plans to run for president.

"I love state government because the work that we do, you can see the results," Whitmer said. "I'm close to the people that I serve, and this is where I want to be. So all the reports in the world don't change any of that. That's who I am. That's what my focus is, and I'm grateful to be right here."

Whitmer went a step farther in an interview with The Detroit Free Press, saying she does not "foresee" ever running for president, even after she completes her second term as governor in 2026.

Only one Michigander has ever served as president, Gerald R. Ford, but he never won election to the post. Ford was elevated from vice president after Richard Nixon resigned over Watergate. He lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976. 

But Whitmer isn’t the only current Michigander that Democrats are floating as potential presidential material: U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who ran in 2020 but dropped out after Biden won key states, recently moved from Indiana to Michigan and now lives in the Traverse City area.

(In case you are wondering, Ohio lays claim to eight former presidents, more than any other state.)

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