This article has been updated since its original publication.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been floated as a possible running mate for former Vice President Joe Biden in the coming 2020 election. However, her actions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic may have seriously hurt her popularity in the swing state that President Trump so desperately needs to win.
In an op-ed published on Saturday, the Michigan paper Detroit News, which endorsed Libertarian Gary Johnson over Trump in 2016, severely criticized Whitmer for playing politics as her state suffers through an unprecedented crisis.
“Gov. Gretchen Whitmer must send an unequivocal message to her constituents that Michigan is her priority in this hour of crisis,” wrote Detroit News. “Her running feud with President Donald Trump calls into question whether she’s acting in the best interests of this state, or on behalf of the Democratic Party.”
Whitmer has routinely used COVID-19 pandemic as a means to battle with President Trump, such as when she alleged the federal government was not helping her state with coronavirus while providing zero proof to support her case. She also reversed course after instructing medical professionals in her state not to prescribe the drug hydroxychloroquine, which the Trump administration had been pushing to combat COVID-19.
“Prescribing any kind of prescription must also be associated with medical documentation showing proof of the medical necessity and medical condition for which the patient is being treated. Again, these are drugs that have not been proven scientifically or medically to treat COVID-19,” said a letter from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
Unlike Dem Governors Gavin Newsom (CA) and Andrew Cuomo (NY), Whitmer’s actions became so blatantly partisan that President Trump had to publicly call her out on it.
“I love Michigan, one of the reasons we are doing such a GREAT job for them during this horrible Pandemic,” Trump tweeted. “Yet your Governor, Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer is way in over her head, she doesn’t have a clue. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude! #MAGA.”
Though Detroit News did not necessarily criticize Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic in her state, the newspaper did feel that her priorities were out of place by focusing so much media time on criticizing the Trump administration.
“She’s also assumed the role of designated Democratic attack dog in this crisis, appearing almost daily on cable news shows to criticize the administration’s handling of the virus response,” Detroit News wrote. “That creates confusion about whether Whitmer is advocating for her Michigan constituents, or carrying out her duties as co-chair of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, or worse, serving her own ambition to be vice president.”
“Trump apparently thinks it’s the latter,” the op-ed continued. “He’s singled out the governor for particular disdain, repeating often the unsupported claim that Whitmer is mishandling the crisis in her state. Last week he demeaned her by referring to her as ‘the woman from Michigan.'”
While Detroit News referred to Trump as a “petty and vindictive man,” the newspaper ultimately felt that Whitmer should put the needs of her state first and seek to foster a collaboration with the president, citing Governors Cuomo and Newsom as chief examples of politicians who have set aside their differences with Trump for the good of their state.
“If everyone pulls together, the worst of the COVID-19 crisis might soon be behind us, and there will be time to return to the jousting of the election campaigns,” the op-ed concludes. “Until then, Michigan residents need to know their governor is serving one master – them.”
Joe Biden, who has promised to pick a female running-mate, has already stated that Whitmer is on his “list” of potential choices for the 2020 race.
UPDATE: The original article said that Detroit News is “hardly a bastion of conservatism.” The language was altered to reflect the fact that the paper has been more libertarian-leaning than the Detroit Free Press. It did not endorse President Trump in 2016.