It seems like so long ago when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation to authorize online gambling in Michigan, expected to begin sometime in the first half of 2021.
Whitmer, a Democrat, has been a rising star in national media in recent weeks thanks to COVID-19, a deepening public health crisis that has thrust her further into national prominence. Outside of the New York-New Jersey area, Detroit is among the most extreme hot spots, per official coronavirus data tracked by The New York Times.
The timing was right for Whitmer. The Michigan Democratic Primary was on March 10, just days before the reality set in that coronavirus was going to severely disrupt life in the U.S. and elsewhere. Whitmer already had some serious shine, thanks to endorsing Joe Biden, currently the overwhelming front runner to snag the party’s nomination. Whitmer is one of four national co-chairs for the Biden campaign, and she also gave the party’s response to President Trump’s incendiary State of the Union address in February.
Whitmer, 48, has rocketed up the betting list on offshore illegal gambling platforms, but also on the legal gambling platform PredictIt, where betting is like a stock market. On March 2, Whitmer had a 2-cent price, or a 2% implied probability of being the nomination for vice president, whether the presidential nominee is Biden, Bernie Sanders, or even someone else. Of course, her odds of the VP nomination are practically zero if Biden doesn’t cross the finish line in the primary process.
That implied probability would have put her at a nearly +5000 underdog to join the Democratic ticket. On PredictIt, the cap on any market is $850, a limit that keeps high-stakes gamblers away.
On April 1, Whitmer hit her all-time high of 17 cents, or a little less than +500 against the field. It’s a remarkable surge, one that she’s held onto so far early this month.
Whitmer in the news
The former state legislator has appeared on Comedy Central and FOX News in recent days, relatively unlikely outlets for airtime. She’s been on the receiving end of some trash talk from President Trump, who demeaned her on Twitter by referring to her as “that woman from Michigan.” Whitmer took the opportunity to respond, giving her further momentum toward potentially becoming a household name in 2020. Whitmer went as far as to wear a T-shirt with the Trump quote during her interview with Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah. It’s not unlike Whitmer, who has a history of rolling with the political punches.
The surge has caught the attention of her opponents, who have criticized her for apparently seeking to further her political career during the public health crisis. Some local news outlets have sought to put pressure on her to back off the national ambitions. She’s only been governor since January 2019.
While Gov. Whitmer has abandoned Michigan for auditions to be Joe Biden’s VP, Michiganders and the American people should know that President Trump is looking out for them.
— GOP (@GOP) March 30, 2020
Biden is obviously high on Whitmer, saying recently that she was on his list of 12-15 candidates for VP a couple of months ago, well before the COVID-19 situation. Has her stock actually increased in recent weeks thanks to her handling of the crisis? That could be debated, but her media attention certainly has boosted the perception of her chances in joining the ticket.
“Gov. Whitmer is an outstanding governor,” Biden said on his podcast Sunday. “She is one of the most talented people in the country in my view. She also is a supporter. She was also a co-chair of my campaign. She’s a good friend, but she has been laser focused, laser focused on delivering for her state.”
Despite the hyper-polarized political environment in Washington, D.C., Biden is running on being a centrist who can create more bipartisanship. That may be a pipe dream, but it’s what he longs to do. He admires Whitmer for seeking to work with Republicans in Michigan, which she did on sports betting and online casino gambling, among many other issues. Biden and Whitmer appear compatible politically.
It’s uncertain whether Biden will ultimately have the final say on his running mate. He might not be running for president if the Democratic Party didn’t see him as having perhaps the strongest chance to win back the White House from Trump. It’s widely assumed that Biden, 77, is looking at just a single term as president, if elected.
If he does secure the nomination and defeat Trump, Biden’s VP selection could be the new face of the party.
Cons to betting on Whitmer at current price
Biden, who has already committed publicly to selecting a woman as his running mate, is notorious among many in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party for his conservative policy positions over his career. He’s unpopular among younger voters compared to some of his Democratic rivals.
Whitmer is a moderate in today’s political environment, which might not help Biden with enthusiasm. Though it’s still early in the game, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that only a quarter of Biden’s supporters feel “very” enthusiastic about him. About half feel “somewhat” enthusiastic. Another quarter have little to no enthusiasm toward the former vice president.
More than half of Trump’s supporters are very enthusiastic.
That’s not to say Whitmer isn’t popular, as she is currently at around 60% approval in her home state. It’s just that she might not significantly alter the political range of the ticket like Stacey Abrams, who lost a controversial race for Georgia governor in 2018, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, might be able to do, at least in terms of optics.
Both Abrams and Warren were at about the equivalent of +1100 on PredictIt as of Monday.
Of course, Whitmer on the Biden ticket would give him a bump in the Wolverine State, which Trump won by a razor-thin margin in 2016. It’s unclear if Whitmer would help him in Wisconsin, Ohio, or Pennsylvania, however. It’s also unclear how Whitmer would help him with black voters, though an official endorsement from former President Barack Obama is on the horizon. Some have said that the vice presidential nomination must go to a black woman, in order to generate the kind of support among a different segment of the Democratic base to impact the election. A simple Obama endorsement might not be enough.
According to Pew Research, the black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in 2016, falling below 60%. Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton.
U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, an influential Democrat from South Carolina who is credited with saving Biden earlier this year in the primary thanks to his his coveted endorsement, is on record stating he thinks black women needed to be “rewarded” for their loyalty to the party. He has urged Biden to pick a black woman.
For what it’s worth, one Biden aide told Axios recently that they would likely go with Clyburn’s recommendation for completing the ticket.
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, is the current favorite at the equivalent of about +270. She is one of the most qualified in terms of a political résumé for VP, but she’s from a coastal deep blue state and is a moderate. She also blasted Biden on race in an early primary debate.
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