Michigan GOP convention tests Trump’s approval power in key battleground state

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(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) — Thousands of Michigan GOP leaders are gathering in Grand Rapids on Saturday to decide which candidates will make it to the November ballot in what will be a major test of former President Donald Trump’s grip on the government. State Party.

Trump has made his presence known in the state, endorsing candidates up and down the ballot, mostly focusing on whether or not they believe his baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

In two of the weekend’s most watched races, Trump endorsed Kristina Karamo for secretary of state and Matt DePerno for attorney general. Both have become sounding boards for his baseless electoral claims.

DePerno, a barrister, took legal action to verify the results of the 2020 County Antrim election; however, those efforts were overruled by a Michigan court on Thursday. Karamo was part of the ultimately dismissed Supreme Court lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 results after claims she personally witnessed voter fraud in Detroit.

DePerno takes on state Rep. Ryan Berman and former Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard, who is seeking a rematch against incumbent Dana Nessel after losing in 2018. Karamo is running against state Rep. Beau LaFave and Cindy Berry, a Chesterfield Township clerk.

“It’s true that any former party chairman, you know, would be a very influential endorsement,” Matt Grossmann, a political science professor at Michigan State University, told ABC News. “What’s not at all routine is for the president to make a decision based on people’s opinions on whether the last election was stolen or not.”

In Michigan, party delegates nominate candidates for most statewide offices at party conventions rather than hold primaries. The party will officially nominate these candidates in August.

They are the first Michigan Republicans ever to host the convention as the party seeks to maximize its chances of flipping seats in the battleground state. Trump lost Michigan in 2020 by about 150,000 votes.

“These candidates really need time to explain why you should be elected,” Gustavo Portela, communications director for the Michigan Republican Party, told ABC News. “It also gives the party the opportunity to support them financially.”

The former president’s particular focus on the state sets up a showdown between the two Trump-endorsed candidates and their opponents this weekend. Trump also endorsed 10 candidates for seats in the state legislature.

Some party members have signaled they no longer want to focus on 2020. On April 11, Michigan counties held conventions to choose delegates to represent them at this week’s state convention. In Macomb County, people were seen on video yelling at each other and exchanging insults. The evening ended with a vote impeaching county party chairman and staunch supporter of former chairman Mark Forton.

Amid infighting between the two wings of the party, Portela said Saturday’s decision will ultimately be determined by who has the best chance of winning at the halfway point.

“I understand that the president will always be involved, but ultimately it depends on the delegates and what they have to say,” he said.

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