By Alan Resnick / Detroit
Trump acolyte Tudor Dixon is badly trailing her opponent
If next month’s Michigan gubernatorial election were a prize fight, the referee would have already stopped it. One of the two combatants, Republican Tudor Dixon, is on the ropes, getting pummeled, and appears to have been KO’d.
Her more talented opponent is incumbent Gretchen Whitmer (D), aka “that woman from Michigan,” a title bestowed on her by Donald Trump because of her response to the COVID outbreak in 2020. Whitmer incurred Trump’s wrath because she took very strict pandemic mitigation measures, including a temporary lockdown of the state.
“That women from Michigan” was the most civil of Trump’s comments and tweets about Whitmer during the summer and fall of 2020. His continued boorish and childish outbursts (e.g., “Half Whitmer’) likely served to energize many of the far-right groups in our state who viewed Whitmer’s prioritization of public safety as an attack against their personal freedom and liberty.
It all culminated in a foiled kidnap attempt on Whitmer organized by 14 men, six of whom were affiliated with a paramilitary group known as the Wolverine Watchmen. To date, two of the six men charged with federal crimes have been convicted.
Dixon is a political newcomer. Prior to entering the political arena, Ms. Dixon spent 17 years in the steel industry in various sales roles. She then helped create Lumen Student News, a company that produces conservative TV news and history lessons for middle- and high-school students.
Dixon went on to host a show on Real America’s Voice. She also briefly dabbled 10 years ago as an actress. Perhaps you remember seeing her in the low-budget horror movie Buddy BeBop vs. The Living Dead, in which she was eaten alive by zombies. She also played the role of Claire in the sci-fi TV series Transitions: The Series, in which the lead character was killed and brought back to life as a vampire.
Dixon attempted to differentiate herself from a field of equally dubious primary rivals by focusing on the role parents should play in their children’s education. She suggested that public schools had become a hotbed of government-sponsored perversion, and called for school administrators to be prosecuted if they allowed children access to sexually explicit books.
Dixon didn’t pull ahead of opponents until less than one week before the August 2 Republican primary, when she received the endorsement of the twice-impeached, disgraced former president. Donald Trump labeled her “a conservative warrior” while describing his longtime foe Whitmer as “one of the worst governors in the nation.” Dixon also received the endorsement of Betsy Devos, former Trump Administration Secretary of Education and matriarch of one of Michigan’s wealthiest and most powerful Republican families.
It’s been all been a train wreck for Dixon since her primary victory. You really have to wonder if anyone is actually managing her campaign or if this is a DIY project. The New York Times nicely summarized her problem: “Democrats rushed to define Ms. Dixon before she had a chance to define herself.
Dixon’s attempt to turn the election into a cultural battle has not worked out very well, to put it mildly. This is particularly true with respect to her stance on abortion, one of the top issues in the governor’s race in wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
While Michigan is not one of the states with an anti-abortion “trigger law” that went into effect after the Supreme Court’s ruling, we do have a law enacted in 1931 that prohibits abortion in nearly all instances. And our Republican-led legislature has refused to change that law.
So Whitmer and pro-choice groups sued to block that law. And a Democratic-backed referendum (Proposition 3) that would amend Michigan’s constitution to guarantee abortion rights is on November’s ballot.
Dixon is against all abortions except when the life of the mother is in danger. When one reporter posed a specific question about whether a 14-year-old rape victim should be allowed to have an abortion, Dixon responded “That is the perfect example. . . A life is a life for me.” Dixon later doubled down by saying, “There’s healing through having the baby.”
Democratic-advertisements on TV continually pound Dixon’s position on abortion. These 30-second ads are absolute gut punches. There is an unseen reporter asking a question about whether Dixon supports any exceptions for abortion, a photo of Dixon, and her voice repeatedly saying “No exceptions.”
There are also ads with doctors describing how Dixon’s position would make their attempts to provide medical services criminal activities. One ends with the doctor saying, “Tudor Dixon is too dangerous to be governor.”
Given this constant hammering, it’s not surprising mlive.com reported that on October 1, Dixon “implored supporters to separate the issue of abortion access from her gubernatorial campaign.”
Her unpopular stance on abortion (an August 29 survey found that 60 percent of respondents supported pro-choice Proposition 3) has led Dixon to turn to what she hopes are other galvanizing cultural battles. Earlier this month, she proposed a policy similar to the controversial "Don't Say Gay" law that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed earlier this year.
The next day, Dixon unveiled a proposal for a “Women’s Sports Fairness Act,” which would ban transgender girls from competing in sports with the gender they identify with. Dixon accused Whitmer of “embracing the trans-supremacist ideology, which dictates that individuals who are born as men can be allowed to compete against our daughters.”
And of course, given her endorsement by Trump, Dixon’s woeful campaign would not be complete without mocking the thwarted kidnapping attempt on her Democratic opponent. At a recent rally ,Dixon declared, “The sad thing is Gretchen will tie your hands, put a gun to your head and ask if you’re ready to talk. For someone so worried about being kidnapped, Gretchen Whitmer sure is good at taking business hostage and holding it for ransom.”
The comment drew big yuks and applause from Dixon’s supporters in the audience, while drawing outrage from others. The next day, after Whitmer appeared with President Biden at an auto show in Detroit Dixon said, "The look on her face was like, 'Oh, my gosh, this is happening. I'd rather be kidnapped by the FBI,'"
Until Saturday (Oct. 8), I can honestly say that I didn’t remember seeing one television commercial for Dixon since she won the Republican primary. I guessed that it was because Oakland Country, where I live, became solidly Democratic as of the 2020 election, and was viewed as a lost cause by her campaign.
But AdImpact, an advertising tracking company, then reported that since August 2, the date of Dixon’s primary victory, Democrats have spent $17.6 million on ads in the governor’s race, while Republicans have spent only $1.1 million.
Dixon’s campaign has literally been off the air here for months, and her latest commercial demonstrates why. It focuses on transgender rights and her aforementioned Women’s Sports Fairness Act. But transgender rights is not even on the radar screen for an overwhelming majority of voters here. Predictably, Education, taxes, crime, abortion, and inflation rank as the top five issues going into the upcoming election.
Given Dixon’s paltry advertising budget, some local groups have produced their own TV spots to support her. One such ad paid for by the Gratiot County Republican Party, stars seven geriatric members of an unnamed biker group trashing Whitmer’s positions. The chairman of this political group confirmed that the video was professionally shot and cost $1,400. Having watched this 60-second gem, I’d say he overpaid by about $1,200.
Larry Sabato, noted political scientist and political analyst, tweeted this about the ad: “My nominee for the Worst TV Ad of the 2022 Campaign (even given loads of competition)”
Jeff Timmer, former head of the Michigan Republican Party who is now a senior advisor to the Lincoln project and a co-founder of Republicans and Independents for Biden tweeted: “Tudor Dixon is not a serious person and calling her campaign shitty and amateurish is an insult to shitty amateur campaigns.”
Here’s the link if you want to check it out. Pour yourself your favorite libation, sit back, click, and enjoy:
In contrast, Whitmer’s advertising campaign has been masterful. Her pro-abortion rights ads that pound Dixon don’t contain Whitmer. And when Whitmer does appear in an ad, she never even bothers to mention Dixon by name.
Former President Trump brought his circus act to the Detroit area on October 1 in an attempt to energize true believers and the undecided about Dixon’s flagging campaign. Between lying about the 2020 election and airing of his usual grievances and slights, Trump managed to say this about Dixon: “a national leader in the battle to protect our children by getting race and gender ideology out of the classroom.” And what would a visit to Michigan be without another attack on Whitmer, whom he called “one of the most radical, most sinister governors in America”?
Donald Trump Jr., Kellyanne Conway, and Majorie Taylor Greene also visited Michigan this month to try to prop up Dixon’s campaign. What’s that old saying about “with friends like these . . .?”
As of October 3, Whitmer was leading Dixon by 17 percent in a Detroit News poll. With one month to go before the election, it’s impossible to envision Dixon somehow pulling off a victory, given how badly she trails Whitmer in fund raising and advertising.
Richard Czuba, an independent pollster from Lansing, Mich., summed up Dixon’s dilemma: “It is great to run as an outsider, especially when you run against an incumbent. But there are two sides of that outsider coin. On the one hand, you can run as the outsider against the establishment. On the flip side, you don’t know how to do this — and that is what is showing.”
Alan Resnick is an industrial psychologist with over 40 years of professional experience. He and his wife are sheltering at home in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He is passing the time by cooking, exercising, catching up on friends’ recommendations of must-see TV and writing.