Gretchen Whitmer’s Biggest Electoral Test: Can She Deliver Michigan for Biden?

Gretchen Whitmer was planning to speak in Dearborn, Mich., at a feel-good event celebrating a health clinic founded by Muslim leaders.

It was the sort of profile-boosting appearance that Ms. Whitmer, the Democratic governor of the state, stocks her calendar with and that has helped her build a broad base of support in closely divided Michigan. But this was late October, in the first weeks of the Israel-Hamas war, and the governor’s response to the conflict had won her few friends.

First, she posted a statement that did not include the word “Israel,” infuriating some in the Jewish community. Then she said she was “unequivocally supportive of Israel,” which was seen as a betrayal by many Arab Americans.

As word of her Dearborn visit spread on social media, some in that largely Arab American city, usually friendly political turf for Democrats, announced plans for a protest. “WHITMER NOT WELCOME IN DEARBORN,” read one poster circulated by activists, who accused her of supporting genocide.

She called off the speech, a decision that she said recently was probably a mistake.

The episode foreshadowed the electoral turbulence her party faces this year and the difficult role she now occupies as President Biden’s chief ambassador to Michigan, a key battleground.

President Biden with Ms. Whitmer at a United Auto Workers event in Warren this month.Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

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