General election preview: Whitmer, Schuette compete to be Michigan's next governor

Gubernatorial race serves as barometer for broader political climate

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

DETROIT – Former state senator Gretchen Whitmer and current Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette won the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primaries, respectively, on Tuesday.

They now square off in a general election race for governor that will be decided by Michigan voters on Nov. 7.

The candidates give voters a true choice. Whitmer is the establishment Democrat with strong union ties and Schuette tied himself to President Trump during the primary.

Michigan’s gubernatorial race will test whether the Democrat’s female-led “blue wave” is strong enough to flip a state that Trump won two years ago. It will also test the strength of Schuette’s Trump endorsement.

Candidate challenges

The challenge for Whitmer may be unifying Democratic voters who were split between her traditional liberal positions and the more progressive platforms of her primary opponents, Abdul El-Sayed and Shri Thanedar, both of whom were proponents of a Medicare-for-all health care system (also known as single-payer). 

Schuette’s challenge may be reaching beyond Trump supporters. Recent polling suggests the president’s support from independents and swing voters could be waning. It's a question Republican gubernatorial candidates are facing around the country. 

Key issues

Infrastructure, economic conditions and health care figure to be major issues in the gubernatorial race.

Whitmer’s “fix the damn roads” slogan tries to connect with the daily frustration of Michiganders, and Schuette’s promises of fewer regulations and lower taxes could be popular in the business community.

The Whitmer campaign appears ready to make Michigan’s Medicaid expansion a centerpiece of the contest. As a leader in the state senate, Whitmer worked with Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to make Medicaid available to 600,000 low-income adults. She may use the expansion to show she can reach across the aisle and work with Republicans.

Schuette spent much of the primary season criticizing Whitmer as another “tax and spend” Democrat who will inhibit job growth. But beyond attacking Whitmer, Schuette can build on his past statewide election success. He's known across Michigan and that will help in November. 

Want an early start researching the candidates' stances on issues? Bridge Magazine has a guide here.