© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trump-Biden Showdown, Senate Race Top Michigan’s Ballot

Scott Pohl
A voter checks in at a precinct in East Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

Joe Biden is seeking to reclaim once-reliably blue Michigan for Democrats, while President Donald Trump is trying to again seize the key battleground.

Tuesday’s election also features the state’s most competitive U.S. Senate race in 20 years — between Democratic Sen. Gary Peters and Republican John James — several closely watched U.S. House contests and a dogfight for control of the state House.

A look at the election:


Trump smashed the “blue wall” in his first White House bid, narrowly winning Michigan and two other states that had not backed a Republican nominee in decades. The margin of victory in Michigan, about two-tenths of a percentage point, was the closest of any state in 2016.

Michigan is critical this time around, too, and turnout is expected to be high.

Biden, determined not to take the state for granted while leading in polls, visited three times in October — once in the final week — speaking at small events with social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic. Running mate Kamala Harris planned to campaign in Detroit on Tuesday afternoon.

Trump campaigned in the state six times since September, including four days in the final week, holding big rallies. He again closed his campaign in Grand Rapids on the eve of the election like he did four years ago.

He focused attention on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is not up for reelection until 2022. Whitmer took aggressive steps to curb the coronavirus in a state that was a hot spot nationally early on and — after she criticized the federal response — drew criticism from Trump, who in March urged Vice President Mike Pence not to call “the woman in Michigan” and in April tweeted, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” He continued to criticize her after authorities announced they had thwarted an alleged plot to kidnap her.


Peters, eyeing a second term, faces a tough challenge from James, a Black business executive and combat veteran who is looking to become just the second Michigan Republican to serve in the Senate in more than 40 years. Democrats likely cannot afford to lose the seat if they are to flip four to take the majority. A deluge of TV ads reflects it is a heavily contested race.


In the 2018 midterm, Democrats Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens flipped Republican-held House districts in suburban Detroit and appear poised to keep them. The battleground has shifted westward.

With five-term Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash’s retirement, Hillary Scholten hopes to become the first House Democrat in 44 years and just the second in over a century to represent Grand Rapids — if she can defeat Republican Peter Meijer in the 3rd District.

In southwestern Michigan’s 6th District, 17-term Rep. Fred Upton looks to fend off Jon Hoadley, who could become the state’s first openly gay congressman.


Democrats must net at least four seats to control the state House for the first time in a decade. A Democratic majority would set the agenda and ease first-term Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s ability to enact legislation. Whitmer has campaigned for candidates in places like suburban Detroit, Kalamazoo and Traverse City. The Republican-led Senate is not up for election.


The Michigan Supreme Court’s recent 4-3 decision to strike down a law that underpinned Whitmer’s COVID-19 emergency orders puts extra attention on the race for two seats. Justice Stephen Markman, author of the opinion, is retiring.

If Chief Justice Bridget McCormack and Elizabeth Welch win, Democratic nominees will be in the court’s majority for the first time since 2010 and could rule on restrictions that were reinstated by the Whitmer administration after the ruling. Republicans nominated Mary Kelly and Brock Swartzle.


Michigan voters are being asked by lawmakers to adopt two amendments to the state constitution. One would change how royalties paid by developers of state-owned minerals — primarily oil and natural gas — can be spent under a popular program that buys land for public use and supports projects such as construction of trails, playgrounds and boat launches. The other would require a search warrant before police examine a wireless phone or other electronic devices.

Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!