Transcript: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on "Face the Nation," Jan. 21, 2024

Transcript: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on “Face the Nation,” Jan. 21, 2024

On January 21, 2024, an interview with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was broadcasted. Below is a written record of the conversation.

Governor, we appreciate you hosting us here in Michigan.

I am pleased that you are present, Governor Gretchen Whitmer says.

Margaret Brennan asked about your recent reelection, where you won by a 10 point margin and Democrats gained control of the government. Your focus on the issue of abortion was a key aspect of your campaign. To what extent do you believe this issue contributed to the Democratic victory?

Governor Whitmer stated that her fight for fundamental rights mobilized and gained support from non-traditional Democratic voters. She held roundtables across the state to listen to people’s concerns, which she believes is an important skill. She found it interesting to hear from women who were not previous supporters but were now advocating for her because she was fighting for their rights and the rights of their daughters. This was a strong motivator and highlights the importance of fundamental rights.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you believe that there were voters in Michigan who crossed party lines?

Governor Whitmer expressed her confidence in this belief. She also pointed out the examples of Ohio and Kansas, where even conservative states have shown strong support for abortion rights and a woman’s freedom to make decisions about her own reproductive health.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  So there are roughly nine states, maybe more, but battlegrounds like Arizona, where access to abortion may be on the ballot as well this year. Why do you think that that may benefit Joe Biden and his reelection? Why do you think?

Governor Whitmer states that abortion is a topic being voted on in all 50 states, including those with individual state laws regarding the matter. It affects everyone, regardless of location.

Margaret Brennan asked, “Are you saying this theoretically?”

Governor Whitmer stated that if we were to elect Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, or Ron DeSantis, they have all promised to enact a national ban on abortion. This would greatly impact states such as…

Margaret Brennan asked if Donald Trump has signed or stated his plans regarding the six-week timeframe. He only mentioned that it is too long for him.

Governor Whitmer stated that the individual who is currently claiming credit for the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is also the same person who is responsible for putting this issue on the ballot for all of us. This is why it is crucial for us to be actively campaigning in Michigan. Not only did we reject the Dobbs decision, but we also went a step further by increasing access to reproductive rights. However, this progress is at risk if Joe Biden is not elected as the next president of the United States.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You mentioned Nikki Haley’s argument that in order to reinstate the provisions of Roe vs. Wade, Democrats would require 60 votes in the Senate, approval from the House, and the presidency. This is not a feasible solution. So, is it fair to say that the idea of Democrats being able to guarantee abortion rights is giving false hope? Similarly, promising to ban abortion is also an unrealistic promise due to the lack of viable numbers.

Michigan Governor Whitmer believes that it is not fair that one out of every three women in the United States live in a state where they do not have access to reproductive rights, meaning they cannot make decisions about their own bodies. This means that in the case of a partial miscarriage at home or a dangerous condition such as sepsis, these women are unable to receive the necessary medical care. She is concerned that if a candidate like Donald Trump, or any other Republican, were to become president, they would push for a nationwide ban on abortion. Currently, President Trump has stated that he supports reproductive rights and will continue to do so, even without support from Congress. His presidency is preventing a potential national ban on abortion from taking place.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If Republicans were to win control of both the Senate and House, you believe President Biden would veto that legislation. However–


Can you confirm that you believe it is a valid commitment to make to voters? Joe Biden does not frequently discuss abortion and has stated that his faith influences his views on the topic. Do you think he should address it more?

Governor Whitmer believes it would be beneficial if he followed through on his beliefs, which prioritize a woman’s right to make decisions about her health and family with the guidance of healthcare professionals. She supports his ongoing efforts to defend and protect the rights of American women in this regard.

Do you believe he should take on a more active role as the messenger on that issue?

Governor Whitmer believes that using more direct and forceful language could potentially be helpful in showing the president’s determination. While this may not be his preferred approach, it is her belief that it could be a motivating factor for voters in the upcoming election.

Margaret Brennan: Michigan has passed a law protecting access to abortion, with viability being determined by a healthcare professional based on the likelihood of the fetus surviving outside the uterus. As science advances, viability may occur earlier and earlier in the pregnancy. This presents a recurring challenge – will this issue continue to be brought to court repeatedly?

Governor Whitmer believes that the right to choose, which has been in place for most of her life, is now under threat. She is determined to fight to protect this right and believes that the Roe standard, which considers viability, is a sensible approach. Many people in states across the country are also advocating for this right and believe it should be the standard.

Can you paraphrase the following:

MARGARET BRENNAN: It used to be that Roe v. Wade only allowed abortions until the fetus was viable, which was around 24 weeks. But now, with advancements in technology, viability is moving closer to conception. So, even though you had a victory in Michigan, the fight for reproductive rights is not over?

Governor Whitmer: Certainly. I truly believe that we have made significant progress. However, we cannot become complacent and assume that our work is complete. Implementing a nationwide ban would disrupt all of the progress we have achieved here, as well as in Ohio.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you clarify what you mean by a national ban?

Governor Whitmer stated that the current Speaker of the House has made a firm commitment to enacting a nationwide ban and sending it to the President for approval. The ban would apply to pregnancies after six weeks.


MARGARET BRENNAN: He has also acknowledged that the necessary votes are not present. He recognizes the mathematics involved–

Governor Whitmer: Currently.



Governor Whitmer stated that the current situation may not remain the same. Therefore, it is crucial to establish this in law and have a President who would reject any legislation of this nature passed by Congress.

Margaret Brennan: Do you believe that viability should have a clearer definition, either in terms of restricting access or setting a specific date, such as the proposed 15 weeks in Congress? Why do you oppose this idea?

Governor Whitmer believes that it is not the role of Congress or politicians to dictate the decisions of women regarding their reproductive rights. She supports the Roe standard, which allows for a doctor to determine viability, and trusts in their expertise.

In the 50 years that Roe v. Wade has been in effect, there has never been a national consensus on the issue. This is why there have been no laws created. Do you believe that there is now a national consensus on abortion?

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer believes that individuals should have the autonomy to make choices about their own bodies. One of the biggest and most impactful economic decisions for a woman and her family is deciding when or if to have a child. This decision should be left to the person, with guidance from medical experts, as they are the only ones who truly know what is best for them. It is crucial for individuals to have the power to make this decision for themselves.

Margaret Brennan: You mentioned that this is an economic concern, and there are many economic factors involved in raising children. Do you believe that the Biden administration should focus more on promoting the expansion of accessible and affordable child care, which was not addressed in the first administration? There are other problems related to child care that are currently affecting many American women. Why not prioritize discussing these issues instead of solely focusing on the abortion process?

Michigan Governor Whitmer believes that it is important to provide Americans with the resources they need to raise children, including affordable and high-quality child care. She also wants to ensure that children have the necessary support to succeed in school. This aligns with President Biden’s values and they will both continue to advocate for these initiatives. Ultimately, it is not a choice between empowering women and supporting families, but rather a combination of both in order for families to thrive and achieve prosperity.

How can the issue of limited access to reproductive care, as reflected in recent polling data, be addressed? It is concerning that many women believe it is becoming more difficult and dangerous to obtain this type of healthcare. What steps can be taken to address the lack of resources in certain areas of the country?

Governor Whitmer stated that the most detrimental action one can take is restricting access to medical services, particularly in regards to abortion and contraception. Cutting off access to telehealth services also poses a problem, as women from neighboring states, like Minnesota, are forced to seek basic healthcare there due to lack of options in their own state. While nearby states provide some relief, it does not equate to true access or assistance. When women are required to take time off work and find childcare in order to receive necessary healthcare, it reinforces the notion that they are deemed inferior. That is why expanding access to healthcare, including telehealth and medication, is crucial.

Margaret Brennan: Do you believe that the solution should ultimately come from the federal or state government, or should it be addressed by the private sector?

Governor Whitmer believes that everyone needs to work together to address the issue. Women in states without supportive state leaders are dependent on either the government or private sector for assistance. When this support is provided, productivity increases, the economy improves, and American families benefit.

Margaret Brennan asked if you are content with the Biden administration’s communication about issues concerning women.

Governor Whitmer expressed her appreciation for the hard work of this administration and their partnership. She believes that it is important for all Democrats and those who support the issue to use their voices and make their stance known to the American public, amidst all the distractions and challenges people are facing. She understands that many families are simply trying to balance their daily responsibilities and it is crucial for everyone to understand the gravity of the situation and prioritize accordingly. She believes there is always more work to be done in effectively communicating these important messages.

Can the topic of abortion rights compensate for the President’s lack of support among the Democratic base, specifically Black and Hispanic voters, as shown by our polls?

Michigan Governor Whitmer said that before her reelection, many experts predicted that she would not be successful due to the challenges of leading during a pandemic and being a Democrat with a Democratic president. However, she ended up winning by a significant margin and believes that while polls are important, they should not cause panic. She recognizes the urgency of the current situation in the country and is committed to addressing important issues for American families.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Jim Clyburn, a representative from South Carolina, expressed his concerns about black voters turning out for President Biden in the November election, despite positive poll numbers. He has a strong understanding of his state. Are you also worried about Michigan remaining a blue state?

Governor Whitmer believes that Michigan should always be a priority. Elections in this state are typically very close. Despite recent successes in flipping the House and Senate to Democratic control after 40 years, there is still much work to be done. It is important not to make assumptions about future elections based on past ones in a state like this. To be successful, one must actively engage and demonstrate genuine care for the people.

Margaret Brennan: The state remains divided between political parties.

GOV. WHITMER: Absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Michigan is still in contention.

Governor Whitmer: Definitely. I believe it will always be that way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you believe that the once prominent Democratic strongholds in the Midwest have disappeared?

Governor Whitmer stated that they have revitalized the process to some extent and have also simplified it for individuals to take part in elections. This was crucial considering the high turnout in the previous cycle, especially among young voters in Michigan. The governor takes pride in this achievement but remains mindful that it should not be taken for granted.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Let’s discuss the economy. While I understand your skepticism towards polls, our polling reveals that 49% of voters believe former President Trump would be more beneficial for their finances compared to President Biden’s 21%. This highlights a significant discrepancy in opinions about the economy, which is also the top concern for voters. What do you think is causing this perception and how do you plan to address it?

Governor Whitmer stated that the economy in Michigan, as well as nationwide, is experiencing historic lows in unemployment and an increase in take home pay. She also acknowledged that progress has been made with inflation decreasing, but it may take some time for people to fully benefit from these improvements.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The expense of daily necessities remains elevated.

Governor Whitmer believes that the cost of living is still high, making it difficult for many young people to afford a home. However, she is confident that the efforts being made to provide affordable housing and create job opportunities will be a strong selling point for this President’s reelection campaign. He is focused on helping people gain skills and secure good paying jobs, as well as bringing supply chains back to the US and strengthening the economy. Unlike others who have only talked about investing in infrastructure, this President is taking action and voters will see the results when they go to the polls.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When do you anticipate feeling more concerned or optimistic about the polling?

Governor Whitmer stated that she is someone who remains cautious until all votes are counted and verified in a state such as this.

Is there any worry about the same issue arising in the upcoming election in a state like Michigan, given that it was a concern in the last election?

Governor Whitmer expressed her concern about potential attempts to disrupt the election, spread false information, and intimidate election workers. She believes this is still a possibility, based on past experiences, and is not taking any of it lightly.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Half of those polled by CBS expect that whoever loses the election will be the cause of some political violence in this country. That’s a pretty stunning thing for Americans to believe. Are you worried about Michigan in particular, given the experience with extremism you’ve had here?


In my opinion, one of the greatest threats to our democracy and society is the increase in individuals who resort to violence and intimidation towards those who hold differing opinions. This behavior is unacceptable.


Threaten you.


Yes, individuals who are willing to work together from both political parties must address this issue. Currently, we have only seen efforts being made by Democrats. This is a disservice to all of us because it is not exclusive to targeting one individual. We all suffer when this behavior occurs. Therefore, it is crucial for all of us to take this matter seriously.

Margaret Brennan: How are you getting ready for 2024?

Governor Whitmer stated that they have successfully passed several laws aimed at increasing voter participation. These include allowing early in-person voting, pre-registering 16-year-olds to become registered voters when they turn 18, and implementing measures to improve the voting process. These efforts aim to reduce the pressure on election day. Additionally, the government has taken action against individuals who make threats towards election workers, which is a crucial step in ensuring a fair and safe election.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Michigan, a state known for its auto industry, holds significant weight in determining the future of the industry, especially in regards to electric vehicles which President Biden has heavily invested in. The success of this industry transition greatly relies on the outcome of the upcoming election and the federal subsidies that will aid in the shift towards electric vehicles. Are you dissatisfied with the fact that the UAW, the Auto Workers Union, has not yet shown their support for President Biden?

Michigan Governor Whitmer stated that the UAW has new leadership and recently secured a significant contract with major automotive companies, resulting in positive sentiments among its members. She believes that the UAW will eventually endorse the president, but it is commendable that it is not a predetermined decision. She emphasizes the importance of earning support from individuals, whether they are voters, union members, or business executives. The UAW’s process in making this decision makes sense and she is confident that the president will ultimately receive their endorsement.

Did Shawn Fain inform you of that?


Margaret Brennan asked if President Biden has earned the endorsement of the Union yet, as he stated back in September that he would have to do so. She questioned why the endorsement has not been made public if it has not been earned yet.

Governor Whitmer stated that there is a process in place for endorsements, which she respects. She believes it is important for the President or any endorsed candidate to be seen as deserving of the support they receive. That is why she uses the term “earned support.” As someone from Michigan, she has been lucky enough to earn the support of various organizations, and she does not take it for granted.

Can I inquire about the potential reception of the President’s upcoming visit to this state, given its large Muslim American population and the current frustration towards his support for Israel’s military campaign, in light of the possibility of another closely contested election?

Governor Whitmer acknowledges the diversity within communities and recognizes that the state of Michigan has historically attracted people from all over the world for good job opportunities and a high quality of life. The state is home to a strong and vibrant Arab community as well as a thriving Jewish community, who have coexisted peacefully for many years. The recent events in Israel and Gaza have caused pain for everyone, and the governor’s role is to support both communities, work with the Biden administration to bring people home safely, and ensure the safety of those practicing their faith in synagogues and mosques. Governor Whitmer stays in communication with both communities, listens to their concerns, and offers support in any way possible. However, there is still much uncertainty and personal pain surrounding the situation, and the governor hopes for a resolution soon as she continues to support both communities.

Can President Biden expect to encounter protesters during his visit, specifically from a constituent who previously supported him but is now planning to protest due to a disagreement on a particular issue?

Governor Whitmer stated that there is diversity within the community that has supported her over the years and that this diversity will play a role in the upcoming election. Some voters prioritize individual freedoms, the foundation of our democracy, and addressing climate change, among other things. As the election draws near, these factors will likely affect the voting decisions of many individuals. It is important to acknowledge and respect the genuine and unfiltered emotions of people, as everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

Margaret Brennan: I have been informed that we have run out of time. However, I would like to ask you quickly about immigration, as it is a major concern for voters nationwide. On Friday, President Biden was asked if the border is secure and he replied no, stating that it has not been for the past ten years. Do you believe that the White House was tardy in recognizing this as a national emergency?

Governor Whitmer stated that the current immigration system has been a long-standing issue and has not been effective for a while, spanning across multiple administrations from both political parties. In Michigan, it is believed that it is important for individuals to have the opportunity to build their lives in the United States, but it must be done in a responsible manner with proper resources and support. The state has historically welcomed people seeking refuge from persecution, famine, or in search of better job opportunities, which has contributed to its successful economy. However, it is crucial that the federal government implements a responsible plan to allow individuals to legally immigrate into the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your hope is for Congress to accomplish this task.

Governor Whitmer stated that she believes everyone would agree.

Margaret Brennan: Thank you, Governor, for being so gracious with your time and hosting us here in Michigan.

Governor Whitmer expressed her gratitude and extended an invitation to return at any time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s likely that we will return in 2024.