LANSING — As MIGOP’s conference on Mackinac Island draws to a close, party insiders leave with the main objective accomplished: keeping their thumbs and whole hands on the scales for the James Craig candidacy. Long considered a foregone conclusion given the disproportionate support he’s gotten from Republican electeds and MIGOP chairs Ron Weiser and Meshawn Maddock for months, James Craig emerged the overwhelming victor of the conference’s straw poll held last night with 58% of the vote.
Naturally, he flocked once again to a chummy national cable show rather than a Michigan program to tout the results, this time Fox and Friends.
Despite the MIGOP’s best efforts to use the poll as evidence of party unity, Republicans in Michigan remain deeply divided — a reality that has already been reflected in the crowded and messy gubernatorial primary field.
Craig’s opponents continue to call him and the party out for attempting to circumvent holding a fair primary, and Michigan reporters also took notice of the slanted nature of the conference:
Emily Lawler (MLive): Officially, the Michigan Republican Party doesn’t play in primaries. But James Craig is onstage saying he’s running for governor of Michigan.
Emily Lawler (MLive): Party favoritism for @chiefjamescraig was a main concern of candidate @GarrettForMI, who is boycotting the conference
Ben Solis (Gongwer): Haven’t tweeted much about the program here in Mackinac because I’ve been busting tail for @GongwerMichigan, but I want to note that James Craig took the stage for an address before Sen. Ted Cruz. Which begs the question, will Tudor Dixon and Ryan Kelley also be invited to speak?
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán (Bridge Michigan): James Craig gave a speech before Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, at the Michigan Republican Leadership Conference. Before leaving the stage, Craig said he’s running for governor, and the crowd started chanting his name. #mipol
Craig Mauger (Detroit News): Ron Weiser, chair of the Michigan GOP, poses for a photo with a group of James Craig supporters.
Emily Lawler (MLive): MRP Chair Ron Weiser shaking hands at a gathering of James Craig volunteers on the Grand Hotel porch
MIRS: GOP Chair Ron Weiser greets James Craig volunteers on the porch of the Grand Hotel.
Craig Mauger (Detroit News): Michael Brown, a Republican candidate for governor, isn’t happy the Michigan GOP let James Craig speak on stage during the leadership conference Friday: “I just thought it was hilarious … It’s the second time that someone has tried to prop him up in the race.”
Gubernatorial candidate Mike Brown: So @MIGOP wheels out Jim Craig @chiefjamescraig and props him up with a stage appearance before the Ted Cruz speech. Purposely disregarding other serious candidates. Hilarious when I saw he needed to be wheeled out. LOL failing with voters @detroitnews @freep @Charlieleduff
Gubernatorial candidate Evan Space: There is a level of unfair playing going on, I should know, I’m the returning Republican Gubernatorial candidate.
Meanwhile, opponent Garrett Soldano held a counter-programming rally in Antrim County, the infamous epicenter of the baseless election fraud crusade. The event was attended by thousands, a crowd count that bested attendance on Mackinac Island over the entire weekend:
Jonathan Oosting (Bridge Michigan): While the Michigan GOP is meeting on Mackinac Island, governor candidate Garrett Soldano is rallying with a couple thousand grassroots and anti-lockdown activists on a farm in Antrim County. “This is our party,” he says. “This is our state. This is our country.”
MDP spokesperson Rodericka Applewhaite issued the following statement:
“Try though they might, MIGOP political insiders won’t be able to astroturf neither genuine excitement nor momentum for a candidate. The fact of the matter is Michigan Republicans have a real primary on their hands — and the grassroots continue to make it clear that they won’t just roll over and accept James Craig as the presumed nominee just because some rigged straw poll told them to. With 11 other candidates in the race and a year to go, all signs point to a primary that will make gaping fault lines out of the splinters already present within this bitterly divided party.”