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The Michigan GOP’s Online Wars Could Last Through Election Day
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The Michigan GOP’s Online Wars Could Last Through Election Day

Plus: A look at Biden’s standing with Catholic voters.

Happy Wednesday! The men’s Final Four in Phoenix is set for this weekend. What will be the most contentious showdown in the state of Arizona this year: Purdue-NC State? Alabama-UConn? Or Biden-Trump?

Up to Speed

  • Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona raised more than $7.5 million in the first quarter of 2024 in his quest for his state’s open Senate seat, his campaign announced Tuesday. The numbers for the first three months of the year contribute to his total cash on hand of $9.6 million. Though his likely Republican opponent, Kari Lake, has not announced her first-quarter fundraising yet, Gallego has previously outperformed her in that metric. Gallego is not the only Democrat to feel the comfort of cold hard cash in 2024, as President Joe Biden has outraised former President Donald Trump in the campaign for the White House.
  • Trump and the Republican National Committee raised $65.6 million in March, Politico reported Wednesday. That haul is more than Trump raised in March 2020 during his reelection campaign, and it could make up part of the gap the former president faces against Biden, who just last week brought in $25 million at a New York City fundraiser.
  • Catherine Templeton, who is mounting a primary challenge against Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, raised $461,000 in the first quarter, her campaign announced Tuesday. The campaign also claimed 40 percent of Templeton’s donors had previously donated to Mace, which could indicate Templeton is gaining momentum with disaffected supporters of the Republican incumbent. Mace has embraced Trump more closely in recent years and has earned his endorsement. Though Mace has yet to release her fundraising numbers for the first quarter, a report from South Carolina’s Post and Courier said her quarterly average for 2023 was almost $377,600.
  • The Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ six-week abortion ban to go into effect, but it also greenlit a referendum that will allow voters to decide whether to put a right to abortion in the state constitution come November. The Biden campaign has said it believes putting abortion on the ballot could drive up Democratic turnout in the Sunshine State and make Florida—which DeSantis won in the 2022 gubernatorial election by almost 20 points—“winnable” for Biden. But Florida Democrats and pro-choice advocates are already expressing concern that Biden’s engagement on the issue could turn away Republican voters in Florida from supporting the referendum.
  • Trump and Biden won several primaries Tuesday, though they did not escape protest votes from within their parties. In Rhode Island, Wisconsin, New York, and Connecticut, Trump won overwhelmingly, as expected. But Nikki Haley, who dropped out in March, received between 10 and 15 percent of the vote in all four states. On the Democratic side, Biden’s support of Israel’s war in Gaza left him contending with “uncommitted” or “uninstructed” votes in all the states except New York, which does not allow write-in or uncommitted votes. Those choices received between 8 and 15 percent in the Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Connecticut Democratic primaries.
  • Speaking of Wisconsin, Trump and Biden have both focused their campaigns on the Badger State, which Trump won in 2016 and Biden recaptured for Democrats in 2020. The former president held a rally in Green Bay Tuesday evening that featured an empty podium for the current president in response to Biden’s not having committed to debating Trump. Also Tuesday, the White House announced Biden will hold a rally in the state on April 8, his fourth visit there since December.
  • Nebraska’s legislature is considering a bill to ensure that the winner of the statewide presidential vote receives all five of its electoral votes, which could pose a problem for Biden. The state currently distributes three of its electoral votes by congressional district, with Democrats competing for and often winning the urban district around Omaha. Under the proposed bill, if Trump were to win over the majority of Nebraska voters as he did in 2020, Biden would lose a reliable vote in the Electoral College. Republican Gov. Jim Pillen on Tuesday night expressed his support for the measure. “It would bring Nebraska into line with 48 of our fellow states, better reflect the founders’ intent, and ensure our state speaks with one unified voice in presidential elections,” he said in a post on X. “I call upon fellow Republicans in the Legislature to pass this bill to my desk so I can sign it into law.”

Dueling Websites for the Michigan GOP

Kristina Karamo addresses the crowd after the final votes were tallied at the Michigan Republican Convention in Lansing, Michigan, on February 18, 2023. Karamo won in the third round of voting to become the new Michigan Republican Party Chair. (Photo by Sarah Rice for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Kristina Karamo addresses the crowd after the final votes were tallied at the Michigan Republican Convention in Lansing, Michigan, on February 18, 2023. Karamo won in the third round of voting to become the new Michigan Republican Party Chair. (Photo by Sarah Rice for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

It’s been just over a month since a judge confirmed the Michigan Republican Party’s decision to oust its controversial chair, Kristina Karamo, and replace her with former Rep. Pete Hoekstra. So why do Karamo or allies of hers still control some of the Michigan GOP’s digital assets?

Committee members for the state party voted in January to remove Karamo over concerns about her stewardship of party funds. (One committee member called her a “tyrannical incompetent dumpster fire” in an email obtained by CNN.) The Republican National Committee later approved her removal and the selection of Hoekstra—who served eight terms in the House of Representatives and later as ambassador to the Netherlands—as the new chair. Then came the February ruling from Judge Joseph Rossi, which ordered Karamo to relinquish control of the state party’s bank accounts and postal boxes, and to cease presenting herself as chair of the party.

But Karamo’s hold on some of that online real estate appears to have continued.

As of Wednesday, migop.org, the longtime web address for the state party, does not appear to have been updated to reflect its new leadership. While Karamo is not included on the site’s list of party leaders, neither is Hoekstra. A link to a page titled “From the Chair” navigates to an otherwise blank password-protected page. (An archived version of the page from February 1, however, shows a message from Karamo accusing several state committee members of having “conspired to illegally undermine the entire state committee,” though this message no longer appears on the site) One video promoting a party program still featured on the live site does identify Karamo as the chair. The last update on its news section is dated January 30, a press release about the state GOP committee’s legal action against Karamo.

It’s not just the website. The Michigan GOP’s X account appears to still be under the control of Karamo or someone close to Karamo, with its main page still linking to migop.org. The account, which last posted on March 28, has shared tweets and stories from other accounts that share Karamo’s affinity for conspiracies about election integrity, especially about the 2020 presidential election. It has also posted multiple times about Karamo’s ouster, including a tweet accusing former RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, herself from Michigan, of orchestrating the removal of Karamo and another criticizing Hoekstra’s inability to regain control of migop.org.

Meanwhile, the official website for the Michigan Republican Party can now be found at michiganrepublicanparty.com, with a home page that includes a message from Hoekstra. The site also has a more recently updated news page, with the most recent press release posted on March 2.

Karamo does not appear to have retained access to all of the party’s online spots. The Michigan Republican Party’s Facebook page links to michiganrepublicanparty.com in its info section and posted a message from Hoekstra on March 14.

But it’s clear the official party is still trying to wrest control of the website from Karamo. Over text on Wednesday morning, Hoekstra confirmed both the migop.org website and X account remain in Karamo’s control.

“Legal continues efforts to get control,” Hoekstra said. “The direction is to continue to be aggressive in getting control.”

An email to an address on migop.org requesting to speak with Karamo was not returned.

The contentious intraparty fight risks more than just confused messaging online. Michigan is not only a swing state in the presidential election, but Michigan Republicans are eager to win an open Senate seat as well as a few House seats held by Democrats. Even Hoekstra suggested to the Detroit Free Press last month the dispute with Karamo could extend all the way to Election Day.

“There’s always noise in a political party,” Hoekstra told the paper. “There may be noise all the way through November.”

Biden’s Challenges With Catholic Voters Pre-Dates Faux Easter Controversy

The political flare-up was fairly predictable. President Joe Biden this past Friday issued a White House proclamation honoring Transgender Day of Visibility, just as he did in each of the first three years of his administration. But this year, the 15th anniversary of the annual March 31 celebration coincided with Easter. Prominent Republicans responded by accusing Biden of purposely defiling the holiest of Christian holidays.

“A blasphemous declaration,” declared Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Karoline Leavitt, the presumptive Republican nominee’s national press secretary, added: “It is appalling and insulting that Joe Biden’s White House … formally proclaimed Easter Sunday as ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’” It’s just another example, she argued, “of the Biden Administration’s years-long assault on the Christian faith.”

As alluded to above, Biden did not “proclaim” Easter Sunday to be Transgender Day of Visibility. The president simply continued his practice of observing an annual commemoration founded by a transgender activist in 2009 that has come around every March 31 since then. Because Easter hits on a different date from year to year, this year happened to fall on the holiday. (Ditto Cesar Chavez Day, which Biden also honored with a proclamation.)

White House spokesman Andrew Bates emphasized these and other points in a series of posts on X, formerly Twitter, saying: “A thread for those who ‘celebrated’ Easter by disregarding “You shall not bear false witness.” Not to mention the fact that Biden is a practicing Catholic who attends mass sometimes twice weekly, whether here in Washington, at home in Wilmington, Delaware, or downstate at his posh vacation getaway in Rehoboth Beach. 

And yet.

In a dogfight for reelection with Trump, Biden trails the former president nationally among likely voters who self-identify as “Mainline Protestants” and “Roman Catholics,” as well as those who say they attend “religious services” once a week or more. Who does Biden dominate with? Non-Christians and the less observant. Here is the data from a mid-February Marquette Law School poll:

  • Mainline Protestants: Trump 51 percent; Biden 36 percent; “someone else” 11 percent
  • Roman Catholics: Trump 50 percent; Biden 38 percent; someone else 10 percent
  • “No religion:” Biden 66 percent; Trump 30 percent; someone else 5 percent
  • “Other religion:” Biden 52 percent; Trump 45 percent; someone else 2 percent
  • Attends religious service more than once a week: Trump 59 percent; Biden 22 percent; someone else 15 percent
  • Attends religious service once a week: Trump 57 percent; Biden 32 percent; someone else 9 percent 
  • Never attends religious service: Biden 62 percent; Trump 33 percent; someone else 5 percent

(Incidentally, Trump led Biden among likely voters in that poll, 48 percent to 44 percent, with 7 percent saying they would vote for someone else. Biden’s share of the vote versus Trump has ticked up significantly since this poll was conducted, although the president still lags in the RealClearPolitics average and a fresh Wall Street Journal poll shows him behind in the key swing states poised to decide the November election.) 

Meanwhile, let’s compare the Marquette survey’s crosstabs on support for Biden and Trump among Protestants and Catholics to the 2020 exit polling of a national contest that the president won, 51.3 percent to 46.8 percent. The first thing that jumps out is that the 46th president outpaced the 45th president among Catholics—a cohort that amounts to 25 percent of self-identified religious voters—52 percent to 47 percent. The exit poll did not have a “Mainline Protestant” category, making a direct comparison to the Marquette poll impossible.

However, it should be noted Biden ousted Trump despite losing among “Protestant/other Christian” 60 percent to 39 percent, a 21-percentage-point margin—greater than his deficit with Mainline Protestants in the Marquette poll. That could be a product of the former president enjoying a large lead over Biden in that survey among “Born-Again Protestants,” 64 percent to 26 percent, with 8 percent saying they plan to vote for someone else.

The breakdown in support for presidential candidates among Catholics in particular is hardly immaterial to the outcome of the race for the White House. 

In exit polls of the 2016 campaign, Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton among Catholics 50 percent to 46 percent, with that group constituting 23 percent of voters who claimed a religious affiliation. Trump’s win with that cohort boosted him to victory in the Electoral College despite losing the national popular vote to Clinton. Indeed, dating back to at least the 2000 presidential election, the candidate who wins the Catholic vote tends to win the presidency regardless of the popular vote outcome.

The lone exception? In 2000, then-Vice President Al Gore topped then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush among Catholics 50 percent to 47 percent, according to data from the Pew Research Center. We all know how that race turned out.

Notable and Quotable

“I’m not leaving the Senate. And I’m particularly involved in fighting back against the isolationist movement.” 

—Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a Monday radio interview.

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.