The functional head of the Michigan Republican Party grabbed firm hold of a third rail in partisan politics this week by endorsing two statewide candidates running in competitive races for the party's nomination.
MRP Co-Chairwoman Meshawn Maddock — former President Donald Trump's go-between in Michigan — is throwing her support behind Trump-backed secretary of state candidate Kristina Karamo and attorney general candidate Matt DePerno in the run-up to the April 23 GOP endorsement convention.
Let's say this again for emphasis.
A key leader within the MRP is publicly endorsing prior to a competitive convention fight? This, my friends, doesn't happen … except now in the world of Trump, it does.
Maddock, a former Michigan co-chairperson for Trump's 2016 election and 2020 re-election campaigns, noted that Trump has endorsed both "of these winners" and "Trump is fixing Michigan through these powerful endorsements."
Today's move caught the rest of the Republican field dumbfounded. Party officials always stay away from endorsing in primaries except in cases of incumbency or non-competitive races, like U.S. Senate hopeful John James a couple years ago.
Ron Weiser,who chairs the state GOP, said the endorsement was for Maddock personally and is not reflective of the state party, in general. Weiser, for his part, said he's not endorsing for attorney general or secretary of state because "I don't think it's appropriate for me to do it."
But it's OK for Maddock?
She joined Karamo, DePerno and a handful of other candidates on a private jet owned by gubernatorial candidates Perry Johnson and flew to Mar-a-Lago for a DePerno fundraiser. At the event, Maddock encouraged Karamo, Johnson and the other candidates at the event to take the stage with Trump.
But Tom Leonard, Ryan Berman, Beau LaFave and Cindy Berry — the other candidates for attorney general and secretary of state — weren't invited and didn't attend.
Both DePerno and Karamo launched their campaigns on the believe that widespread voter fraud cost Donald Trump the presidency. Both have since backed away from that contention, adopting instead the company line that there's fraud in Michigan's elections that need to be weeded out.
The move left the traditional wing of the Michigan Republican Party dumbfounded. Weiser was eviscerated by the conservative grassroots when he donated money to the campaign accounts of incumbent members of Congress, like U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, earlier in the cycle.
Now, Maddock is sending around fliers with her pictures arm in arm with DePerno and Karamo.
"Maddock's people are the same ones who complain about 'establishment' favoring one candidate or the other. Hypocrisy," wrote state Rep. Gary Howell on a Facebook post. "This is the kind of thing that led to my decision to refuse to run for the state committee after 10 years of participation."
Asked to respond to this post this morning, pro-Trump state Rep. Steve Carra said, "What I think is hypocrisy is the people like Mitt Romney or John Kasich or Fred Upton who told us with John McCain … that it was time to unite and get behind him for the General Election, which I did … .
"But when President Trump comes along and goes against the grain as a fighter who stands up against the Washington machine, they turn their backs on President Trump."
What's going on here is Maddock working to keep her position as Trump's eyes and ears in Michigan.
She and husband, state Rep. Matt Maddock, R-Milford, are connecting their preferred House primary candidates with Trump endorsements to help them sew up a primary.
In exchange, the expectation is that Matt Maddock will earn their votes for House Republican leader if they're successful down the line.
On these particular endorsements, Maddock is not only pledging allegiance to Trump, but urging other Republicans to pledge allegiance, too.
He's not in office anymore, but these tactical maneuvers are all designed to make it clear to Republicans — and anyone else for that matter — that Trump is still in charge.
(Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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