Jon Rocha was settling down to watch the new “Ghostbusters” with his young daughter in theaters last week when he heard the news that former President Donald Trump had approved his candidacy for state representation in Michigan.
“I was checking my phone to make sure it was on silent, and all of a sudden I got a notification that I was tagged in a tweet” about the approval, Rocha said. . He had no idea that Trump’s support was coming. “Imagine walking through an entire movie with your phone blowing up. “
It’s unusual for a former president to approve in such deep races, especially nearly nine months before the Republican primary. But Trump has backed seven candidates for State House or Michigan Senate seats, an electoral battleground he narrowly lost to Joe Biden last year – more than anywhere else. Most of the mentions, including Rocha’s, have been announced in recent weeks. All of the candidates have one thing in common: They made the administration of elections and last year’s poll survey a central part of their platform.
Trump’s focus on the state shows just how determined he is to take revenge on those who did not support his baseless claim that the last election was stolen from him. It’s also a game for installing allies that could come in handy if he runs for president again in 2024 and finds himself locked in another tight race. The Republican-controlled legislature spent eight months investigating the results of the 2020 presidential election and found no reason to doubt their legitimacy. GOP leaders also refused to accede to Trump’s demands for a scrutiny of the ballot like the one authorized by Republicans in Arizona, which found no evidence of fraud and concluded that Biden beat Trump in the state by even more votes than the certified count showed.
“Michigan needs a new legislature,” Trump wrote in his Nov. 15 endorsement of Rachelle Smit as state representative. “The cowards out there are now too weak to investigate voter fraud. “
Trump also backed candidates for attorney general and secretary of state, a key post in charge of election administration, as well as top GOP challengers against two members of Congress from Michigan who voted to impeach him. in January after his supporters stormed the United States Capitol in an effort to block Biden’s victory. All of his choices called into question the legitimacy of the 2020 election results.
He has yet to approve the overcrowded Michigan Republican primary for governor, but he has met candidates eager for his blessing.
“President Trump is committed to saving America and Michigan by supporting and backing the top-down ballot candidates who will fight for his America First agenda,” said Taylor Budowich, spokesperson for Trump, in a statement to NBC News.
But Trump has made it clear that denying the results of the 2020 presidential election is central to his support, if not his platform.
“There are so many great Trump people in Michigan,” he wrote in his endorsement of Rocha. “I love Michigan. There are some of the best people and some of the worst chosen. “
Trump’s attempt to undermine the last presidential election has met strong resistance from some Republicans in Michigan.
Jason Roe, then executive director of the Michigan GOP, told Politico last year that there had been no fraud and that Trump had only himself to blame for his loss. State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and then Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, who met Trump in the White House after the election, ultimately declined to intervene. State Senator Ed McBroom investigated Trump’s claims before saying he found no evidence of widespread fraud.
But there were also signs of enduring loyalty to Trump. Meshawn Maddock, who later became the state party’s co-chair, helped organize buses to Washington in January and spoke briefly at a rally there before the riot on Capitol Hill. Her husband, State Representative Matt Maddock, garnered Trump’s backing for his reelection bid this month.
“The Trump train is coming and I wouldn’t want to be in the way,” Maddock said in an email, adding two flexing arm emojis to underline his message.
Jeff Timmer, a former Michigan GOP chairman who soured the party and backed Biden last year, said Trump’s focus on the state was the result of his descent “so far down that rabbit hole. »Around 2020.
“What started out as talking points about election rigging has become the only gospel on his mind,” Timmer said. “He actually thinks the election was stolen from him in Detroit and he actually won Michigan. It could propel a lot of that attention. “
Biden’s 3-point victory over Trump in Michigan – a victory of 154,000 votes – has been confirmed by court rulings, state canvassers and risk mitigation audits, which examine samples of the overall vote for confirm if the result is correct. A number of claims that had been circulating about the vote were refuted in the scandalizing Trump report McBroom, which released several statements.
The report, supported by all Republicans on the state Senate oversight committee, was the product of an eight-month investigation, and it concluded that there was no basis or evidence to support the repeated claims of the Trump campaign that the election results did not reflect the will of the voters.
Mike Detmer, a Trump-backed state Senate candidate, challenges incumbent Lana Theis, who endorsed the report. Detmer said he believes if the candidates backed by Trump win seats next fall, “we’ll have at least a coalition of people working for the same goal.”
“I just want to find out the truth,” Detmer said of 2020. “Was that the ‘Big Lie’? Or is there something more?
Detmer, who failed in a US House primary last year, then made local headlines for defending the neo-fascist Proud Boys on Facebook and separately suggesting on Twitter that people should face “firing squads” if they are deemed to have participated in “rigging” or “electoral fraud”.
Trump’s legislative candidates have participated in a number of electoral fraud rallies across Michigan over the past year. Rocha, who was initially running for a US House seat this cycle until Trump backed one of his opponents, was on Capitol Hill on January 6, though he said he “didn’t had never approached the actual steps “and that he was not aware of it. the severity of the riot inside until he left at 3:30 p.m. and found a cell signal.
“We have to restore confidence in the elections because people are not moving,” he said. “They are just as angry today, a year later, as they were a year ago.”
Rocha is the only candidate running in a Democratic-leaning district, while Detmer is the only candidate facing a GOP incumbent. Still, much of the race is subject to change once the redistribution is complete and Michigan’s new electoral maps are finalized.
Lavora Barnes, president of the state’s Democratic Party, said Trump’s endorsements “reflected his wild disconnected and unfounded conspiracy theories.”
“Michigan voters,” she said, “will not be fooled by her support for fringe candidates who are trying to keep the ‘Big Lie’ alive.”
Tudor Dixon, a Republican gubernatorial candidate who has met with Trump to seek approval, sees his interest in Michigan as more about the future – particularly 2024, when he could run for president again.
“Michigan was a huge state for him in 2016, and he sees that, like Michigan does, sometimes goes the nation,” said Dixon, a conservative commentator. “So for him, whether it’s Donald Trump in 2024 or supporting another candidate in 2024, he’s looking to the future.”