Rust Belt Rumbles: Unpacking Michigan’s Political Landscape Post-GOP Debate

2024 Presidential Elections | AI-powered data on Michigan debate

“If I was at home watching that, I would have changed the channel.”  

Ron DeSantis’ words after the second debate tell you everything you need to know about last night’s Republican faceoff in Simi Valley, California. Perhaps the changing of channels is the only change the debate was capable of producing. 

While the seven Republican contenders battled for screen time on a stage not far from Hollywood, where the writers’ strike was ending, the noticeably absent Trump was over 2,000 miles away addressing the active United Auto Workers strike in battleground Michigan. He was there to win over the blue-collar workers who carried him on their shoulders to the White House nearly 8 years ago. While his primary opponents criticized him for missing the debate, history suggests Trump was right where he needed to be.  

Still, Trump maintains a 43% lead over DeSantis, the second Republican in line. The race is not close, barring Trump’s legal issues. What was close were the results in Michigan during the 2016 general election. Trump won the state by just 10,704 votes — a mere 2/10 of a percentage point, the closest race in Michigan history. The Wolverine State put Trump on Pennsylvania Avenue. Trump understands he will need that Rust Belt magic again if he plans to return. Any other serious contender should take note.  

The Road to the White House: Going Through the Rust Belt 

In 2016, Resonate’s AI-driven voter models accurately predicted the election results by capturing seismic sentiment shifts amongst white working-class voters in key swing states in the final days, including Michigan and Wisconsin — shifts that static research from previous weeks completely missed.   

As we approach the one-year out mark from the 2024 general, the auto workers’ strike and the Trump and Biden visits to Michigan this week had us curious. What is AI saying about the political environment in Rust Belt Battlegrounds today? Using Resonate’s most advanced AI neural network, rAI, we looked at how Michigan voters are feeling almost a year out from the 2024 general. We specifically looked at an online voter audience of nearly 5.8M registered voters.

Michigan: Crime, Election Integrity & the Environment are Moving Voters  

The first thing we saw was that more voters online in Michigan are self-identifying as Democrats than Republicans (13% more). Roughly a quarter of online voters are identifying as Independents. The polls say Biden has a narrow 3% lead over Trump in Michigan. Resonate’s machine learning models are programmed to track these self-party-identification insights in real-time. In Michigan and elsewhere, tracking swing voters will be critical over the next several months.   

Right now, Michigan registered voters online are 26% more likely to vote for a candidate who addresses issues of crime and law enforcement head-on. This should alert candidates in Michigan and beyond. Crime is shaping up to be a significant voter issue in the 2024 election, and regardless of party affiliation, it’s an issue that can’t be ignored.    

rAI also found that if you asked Michigan voters what Biden should be focusing on in the White House right now, they would tell you climate change. Climate is a big issue for Michigan voters, and they’re 23% more likely than the average registered voter to feel this way. This is a telling insight that rAI is flagging early in the election. As Michigan’s number one industry undergoes revolutionary change with the ramping up of electrical vehicle manufacturing, all while the unions are hitting the picket lines, the intersecting issues of jobs and climate change are central to the state’s future. The voters understand that, and their online behavior demonstrates their passion. 

Resonate models have also flagged “Election Fraud” as the number one perceived threat to the country this election cycle amongst online registered voters in Michigan. Compared to the average registered voter nationwide, Michigan voters are 45% more likely to believe the mishandling of elections poses a serious threat to Americans. This one goes without saying. Whoever the candidates end up being, Michigan voters expect a clean, fair and peaceful election. Most swing voters do.  

The Takeaway  

There’s a chill in the air, and the leaves are changing. Soon, children will be ringing doorbells for candy, and fireplaces will be lit below Sunday night football games. It’s officially election season, and Resonate is here to help candidates up and down the ballot to victory with the most cutting-edge voter analysis and targeting tool in the country. 

rAI can see 90% of the entire electorate online. It can identify who they intend to vote for, the issues that matter most to them and what candidates need to say to be worthy of winning their vote. Perhaps most importantly, it can help track, understand and target swing voters in battleground states like Michigan at scale — states where candidates win elections with mere tenths of percentage points. AI-driven strategies will propel candidates to the winner’s circle this cycle. We can show you how.

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