Thanks to a primary challenge backed by former President Donald Trump, Rep. Peter Meijer (R), who voted to impeach Trump in 2021, faces a contentious GOP nomination fight in Michigan’s 3rd congressional district .
Meijer, heir to a supermarket fortune, has largely exceeded Gibbs while engaging in a very modest amount of self-financing.
But Meijer told HuffPost in a Tuesday phone interview that he had ruled out any sort of campaign to seek the seat independently if he loses to Gibbs in the Aug. 2 primaries.
“My mentality is either ‘with my shield or on it,’said Meijer, referring to a maxim attributed to ancient Sparta encouraging warriors to return from the battlefield either victorious or dead.
“I am a Republican. The Republican Party is where I feel my values are best represented right now,” he added. “The Republican Party has been my home since I started my high school Republican Youth Club during the first term of George W. Bush’s administration.”
Even though Meijer, a military veteran and former risk analyst, wanted to run as an independent in the general election, the deadline to get a place on the ballot for these purposes is passed. If Meijer chose to launch a print campaign, however, he would have until penultimate friday before the general election to inform the state of its plans.
There is precedent for a West Michigan Republican dropping out of the party over loyalty to Trump. Meijer’s House predecessor, Justin Amash, left the GOP and became an independent in July 2019, citing the party’s allegiance to Trump, whom Amash viewed as corrupt and authoritarian.
Meijer first ran against Amash on the grounds that Amash’s independence had become a delivery barrier for the district. But Amash announced in July 2020 that he would retire rather than seek re-election.
HuffPost followed Meijer’s campaign on Tuesday to see if he would commit to endorsing the Republican nominee in his district if he loses against Gibbs. A spokesperson only said they would “expect” him to.
When asked the same question on Tuesday, Gibbs, a computer scientist and former Trump administration official, refused to consider a scenario in which he loses to Meijer.
“Fortunately, that won’t happen. There has never been a single poll showing Meijer in the lead; all showed strong leads for us,” Gibbs said in a statement. “It’s a testament to the hard work my team and I have put in, which will lead to a solid victory for Gibbs next Tuesday.”
The Gibbs campaign released an internal poll earlier this month showing him ahead of Meijer by 18 percentage points.
If Gibbs prevails against Meijer, however, he is expected to have a tough general election fight on his hands. The nonpartisan redistricting made Michigan’s 3rd District electorate more Democratic than it was in the 2020 election cycle. President Joe Biden would have won the new seat by nearly 9 percentage points.
Many Democrats are openly happy with the prospect of Gibbs beating Meijer, as they see the more right-wing Gibbs as the easiest candidate to defeat in November. A internal survey published in June by Democratic candidate Hillary Scholten, an immigration lawyer, showed Scholten leading Meijer by 2 percentage points in a hypothetical general election game, but trailing Gibbs by 9 points.
“We have such a solid two-way path to victory,” Scholten told HuffPost in his campaign office in Grand Rapids on Monday.
The National Democratic Party, however, is not waiting to let events unfold on their own. In an effort to facilitate a Scholten-Gibbs matchup, the House Democrats’ campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is spend $425,000 on a TV advertising designed to boost Gibbs by highlighting his pro-Trump credentials.
Meijer would be the “outsider” against Gibbs regardless of Democrat involvement, according to Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman.
In an interview outside his campaign office in Byron Center, Mich., on Monday, Gibbs dismissed the idea that his primary victory would jeopardize Republican control of the seat.
Meijer ‘can’t win the general [election] because too many Republicans are mad at him because of his impeachment vote,” Gibbs said. “They just won’t vote for him in November. He is therefore absolutely ineligible for the general elections.
Meijer and his team argue that Democrats are correct in viewing Gibbs as the weakest candidate in the general election.
Meijer called Gibbs’ argument that Republicans would rather stay home than vote for him a “galactic brain grab that’s divorced from reality.”
“There is no demonstrated electoral history to back it up,” he said.
Meijer also expressed dismay at the Democrats’ decision to try to back Gibbs.
“Just because I’m not surprised doesn’t mean it’s not infuriating — the staggering hypocrisy of it all, the malevolent cynicism that it represents,” Meijer said. “What do you expect from a party led by someone who is such a cowardly political actor as [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi? That’s fair compared to the Democratic course.
Some Democrats agree with Meijer that the Democratic Party should not view Trump and his fellow Holocaust deniers as a sole authoritarian threat and at the same time seek to elevate pro-Trump candidates to GOP primaries in the hopes that they are easier to defeat. defeat in November.
“I’m disgusted that hard-earned money meant to support Democrats is being used to boost Trump-backed candidates, especially the far-right opponent of one of Congress’s most honorable Republicans, [Rep. Meijer]”, tweeted Rep. Dean Phillipsa Minnesota Democrat.