Elissa Slotkin Mum on Biden Ahead of Detroit Visit

Dem congresswoman holds a narrow lead in race for Michigan’s open Senate seat

Elissa Slotkin (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
July 9, 2024

President Joe Biden’s trip to Detroit this week is creating a political dilemma for the Democratic frontrunner in the Michigan Senate race, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who has spent days ducking questions about whether she thinks the president should step aside.

The race for Michigan’s open Senate seat, where polls show Slotkin with a narrow lead against Republican candidate Mike Rogers, is one of the most competitive in the country and could determine party control of the upper chamber next year.

But Biden’s disastrous debate performance and calls for him to resign could damage his standing in the swing state, according to political analysts, potentially hampering support for down-ballot Democrats like Slotkin.

Slotkin’s campaign did not respond to questions from the Washington Free Beacon about whether she supports Biden’s continuation in the race and whether she will appear with him in Detroit next Friday.

She has also avoided questions from local news outlets, telling Bridge Michigan this week she would "do all I can to help Democrats keep the White House" but declined to respond when asked if she specifically supports Biden.

"No one feels good about the debate," Slotkin told the outlet. "The president had a bad showing, as he’s acknowledged, while Donald Trump lied throughout the debate on serious, consequential issues."

If Slotkin declines to appear with Biden in Detroit on Friday, she won’t be the first Democratic candidate to distance herself from the president. Last week, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.) avoided Biden during his trip to her hometown of Madison, choosing instead to hold an event in Green Bay. On Monday, Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.), one of the most vulnerable Senate candidates in the country, said Biden has to "prove to the American people—including me—that he’s up to the job for another four years."

David Dulio, a political science professor at Oakland University in Michigan, said he "wouldn’t be surprised" if Slotkin skipped Biden’s campaign stop in Detroit.

"I think she’s in a pickle," he told the Free Beacon. "When [Biden] was in Wisconsin, the Senate candidate there didn’t show up. So it wouldn’t be unprecedented in recent weeks."

Polls have shown Biden and former president Donald Trump in a dead heat in Michigan, and the surveys have yet to indicate a major drop for Biden in the state following his poor debate performance.

But the president’s numbers have dipped in national polls, and Dulio said the Michigan electorate could follow that trend.

"I find it very hard to believe that Michigan would be much different than the nation," he said.

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, who is viewed as a top contender to replace Biden if he exits the race, has stood by the president and denied any interest in running.

But there has been growing criticism of Biden from other Michigan Democrats. On Tuesday, Democratic state Rep. Phil Skaggs said the "best way [to] prevent a second Trump term is with a new Democratic nominee."

"Here in Michigan, we have a tight U.S. Senate race and several frontline congressional races," wrote Skaggs on X, formerly Twitter. "A collapse at the top of the ticket will seriously endanger a dozen of my colleagues."

Lon Johnson, the former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, called on Biden to step down last week, writing on Facebook that it is "clear the president is suffering from cognitive decline, and the actions by him, his family, and staff since the debate have only reinforced that belief."

Biden’s trip to Detroit on Friday will be his fourth visit to Michigan this year.