Update 11:20 a.m.: This story has been updated with a response from the Recall Dunleavy campaign.
Following Alaska Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s right-wing media tour to drum up support against the recall—which included penning an anti-immigration diatribe and sparring with conservatives’ favorite bogeywoman on Twitter—President Donald Trump today came to his defense.
This morning, the president tweeted out a defense of Dunleavy and included a link to the Stand Tall With Mike political group, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money against the recall. The tweets came after Dunleavy reportedly met with Trump this morning in the Oval Office.
“My friend Mike @GovDunleavy of the Great State of Alaska, is being treated very unfairly by the Democrats because he is doing an unbelievable job and fulfilling every one of his promises,” wrote the president in two tweets. “Now they are trying to Recall him because his agenda is the Economy, Jobs and protecting our Military, 2nd Amendment, Energy, and so many other things that the Democrats don’t care about. Please stop the Dems from hurting a very good and hard-working man!”
Dunleavy has generally dismissed the calls for his recall and has been credited for “conciliatory” addresses to Alaska audiences in recent weeks, but has recently turned to national conservative media outlets where he’s likened his situation to the embattled president and called himself a target of special interests.
Trump and Dunleavy have met several times during Dunleavy’s time in office, which included a very odd interaction where Trump marveled over Dunleavy, saying “Look at that man. He’s all man, look at him.” Trump also reportedly directed the EPA to clear the way for the controversial Pebble Mine following a meeting with Dunleavy, part of a timeline that has since been linked to insider trading accusations.
While both Trump and Dunleavy have characterized the recall effort as Democrat-driven, it’s been a bipartisan effort that’s focused on his violations of the Alaska Constitution and of Alaska law and fueled in large part by his draconian cuts that sought to gut the University of Alaska and several social safety net programs. One of the recall effort’s main backers is Joe Usibelli Sr., the owner of the state’s largest coal mine and a Republican.
Recall Dunleavy campaign director Claire Pywell told the Anchorage Daily News that some 60 percent of the recall backers are independent voters with either an undeclared or nonpartisan party affiliation.
Recall Dunleavy gathered nearly 50,000 signatures for its application, nearly doubling the amount needed. The recall petition is currently under legal review by the state with a decision expected next week. The group will need to gather more than 70,000 signatures to call a special election.
The group fired back to Dunleavy’s media tour, saying his interviews with Lower 48 media have been full of “partisan lies.”
“We cannot ignore Governor Dunleavy’s recent push to spread misinformation about us and appeal to media in the Lower 48, rather than speaking with Alaskans about the issues our state
faces. Contrary to what Dunleavy’s telling Outside media, this movement is not fueled by ‘special interests,’” wrote the group in a news release. “We are regular Alaskans; and we are Alaskans before we are Republicans, Democrats, Nonpartisan, or Unaffiliated voters.”
Dunleavy currently ranks among the country’s most unpopular governors, according to polling by The Morning Consult. The group runs a quarterly tracking poll with its most recent results finding Dunleavy had a 43 percent approval rate and a 41 percent disapproval rate.
Why it matters
While the governor and his allies have generally dismissed the recall effort as a fringe partisan effort, the growing effort to oppose it says otherwise. The president’s attempt to funnel resources toward the anti-recall group also comes in a year where resources will be needed everywhere to defend vulnerable Republican senators and not to mention the president’s own re-election effort.
It’ll be interesting to see whether or not this moves the dial for the anti-recall group’s contributions. Trump’s endorsement of Dunleavy during the 2018 election didn’t move the dial much for either his personal campaign or the independent expenditure group, according to a quick review of campaign finance records with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
In case you were curious. Trump’s Oct. 25 endorsement of Dunleavy in 2018 didn’t really move the needle as far as campaign contributions went.
— Spooky Matt Acuña Booxton (@mattbuxton) October 30, 2019