As 2020 presidential hopefuls brace for the second round of the Democratic debates, this time in the Motor City, the head of the Michigan Democratic Party is laser-focused on rallying voters behind whoever wins the nomination.
"What we know we have to do is visit [voters] early, visit them often, talk to them about the issues and why it's important to vote, and then, go ask them to vote when it's time," Chairwoman Lavora Barnes told Cheddar in Detroit Monday.
Barnes seems to have taken away an important lesson from the 2016 presidential race when Trump won the state by a razor-thin margin — just a third of a percent. But in a winner-take-all state like Michigan, that was enough for Trump to grab all 16 electoral votes. Before 2016, the state had gone for the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since 1992.
Nevertheless, something changed in 2016. Voters may have felt the impact of a slowing economy, a water crisis in Flint, and auto manufacturing hardships. But Barnes says that party itself may shoulder some of the blame.
"So the lesson we learned in 2016 is that we've got to be out there talking to voters early, and often," Barnes said.
Barnes says she has encouraged presidential hopefuls to take Michigan seriously when it comes to the campaign and not just focus on the early races, like Iowa or New Hampshire.
"I think that you can look at Michigan as more representative to the nation, then some of those early states," Barnes said. "If you look at the issues that matter to us, if you look at the people here in Michigan, we are much more America, much more Midwest, much more everything, than some of the early states."
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, 20 presidential candidates will take to the podium in Detroit, but will be speaking to a nation.
For Barnes, this debate is about taking Michigan's issues to the national level.
"Let's talk about the fact that people in Flint still don't have clean water to drink, people in Detroit are breathing very dirty air," she added. "Let's talk about those issues that are very Michigan-specific, but let's also speak to the nation, because everybody's got some of those issues going on."