Craig opens up as campaign begins

Republican candidate for governor James Craig has taken a ton of incoming flak from his detractors for not taking questions from reporters and running to a safe haven known as Fox News, where the interviewers have taken a vaccine that prevents them from asking hardball questions.

Taking questions from reporters, on the other hand, does put any candidate in a potentially challenging situation.

To wit, the following:

Give the former Detroit police chief major credit for doing a 15-minute, no-holds-barred exchange on a whole bunch of issues the other day, which resulted in the media and voters getting a closer look at what makes the guy tick. And (dare it be said) it made some news, to boot.

Item: capital punishment.

You might think the hard-hitting, law-and-order guy would be all-in. He was years ago, but, “when I became a Republican, I evolved,” Craig said (which is his oft-used code word for “I changed my mind,” or, as the media likes to describe it, he flip-flopped).

“I don’t think it’s a call we can or should make,” the police chief said. “I’m pro-life. What if we get it wrong?”

Item: Campaigning with Donald Trump?

The Trump thing is dogging the chief everywhere he goes, because he is traversing a tightrope. On the one hand, he would accept a Trump endorsement. In a crowded GOP primary, with everybody and his uncle and aunt running for the same job Mr. Craig wants, a Trump blessing would be a treasured gift. But it’s not a gift that keeps on giving if a candidate wins the primary.

In the general election, there’s a whole raft of voters who are not Trumpers, and woe to the candidate who makes a big deal about being aligned with the former president. Ask Billy Schuette how his bid for governor worked out on that platform.

Mr. Craig was tip-toeing across that highwire when he asked, “If the former president called and offered to campaign with you, would you say yes?

He said neither yes or no, but tried to split the difference.

“I would meet with him,” the chief offered, while not answering the question.

Asked a second time, he takes another delicate step, minus a direct response: “That’s a possibility, as well, but, no, it hasn’t happened.”

Item: Has governor Whitmer done anything right?

“That’s a great question,” the chief begins, and, after ticking off all the things she has done wrong, he finishes with, “I can’t point to what she has done right. Maybe early on. I don’t know. I’ve not thought about that.”

Reminded that he’s had a chance to watch her performance for about three years, he’s seen nothing good?

“I don’t have an answer for that,” he adroitly stays on message.

Item: Regarding abortion: Do you favor an exemption for rape and incest?

He’s never been asked the question, and you could tell he was wrestling for an answer, because whatever he said had huge political implications.

“I’m pro-life, but that’s an area I’m a little more sensitive in … I also want to give that area some thought,” he offers.

Does that mean he is open to the rape and incest options?

“Possibly. I don’t have a hard-and-fast line on it. I just don’t.”

He then calls upon his 44 years on the front lines of fighting crime and reflects that “rape is a despicable crime, and maybe that’s a situation where, if that’s what the mother wants, choice, the freedom to then have an abortion because she was raped or because of incest, maybe that is the right direction?”

They key word there, of course, is “maybe.”

The Democrats pounced on his response that was not a yes or no. After all, this is hardly a new question.

But the chief will be asked to resolve it one way or the other and, if he embraces both options, he can kiss goodbye any chance for a critical primary endorsement from you know who: Michigan Right to Life, which does not embrace either choice.

It is often said on the campaign trail there are no tough questions, only tough answers. And, for 15 minutes he grappled with just that.


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