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Rinke downplays Trump's endorsement of Dixon in governor's race: 'He is batting 50%'

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Troy — Hours after his biggest opponent won Donald Trump’s endorsement, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Rinke emerged Saturday morning at his campaign event undeterred, saying the former president’s support doesn’t guarantee a win.

Rinke, standing outside his campaign headquarters in Oakland County where about 75 supporters rallied for him, said most Michigan voters have already made up their minds about their candidate and he doubts Trump’s endorsement will swing anyone at this point.

“The president has lost people across the country where he has endorsed. His candidates — he is batting 50%. It’s not a for sure thing,” Rinke said.

Trump issued a statement Friday night throwing his political weight behind Dixon’s campaign after months of efforts by the Republican candidates running for Michigan’s highest office to get his coveted endorsement. The former president’s support of Dixon now puts him on the same side in the GOP primary as the family of Betsy DeVos, who served as Trump’s education secretary.

The Bloomfield Hills businessman hosted a “Get Out The Vote Super Saturday” event at his campaign headquarters in Troy on Saturday morning, playing music and handing out donuts and coffee to supporters.

“We are three days out and we are on a path to victory,” Rinke said. “This political game is interesting to me. It’s different, it’s got twists and turns. … Candidates win elections, not endorsements.”

Dixon has racked up multiple high-profile endorsements in the race, including the DeVos family, the anti-abortion group Right to Life of Michigan, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Police Officers Association of Michigan and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

Rinke, who has pledged to eliminate Michigan’s 4.25% personal income tax and focus on election integrity, said Saturday he remains the best candidate because he offers truth and intregrity.

“It starts with not owing anybody anything other than doing the right thing for the people of Michigan,” Rinke said. 

The one-time auto dealership owner has not said how he would make up for a loss of $12 billion in tax revenue through the elimination of the income tax. Dixon favors gradually eliminating the income tax over an unspecified number of years.

Rinke’s supporters also were not flummoxed Saturday by news of Trump’s endorsement, saying they were voting for Rinke because of his character, focus on policy issues and vision for Michigan.

“I think he would be the best choice in reviving Michigan’s economy, bringing us back to more common sense government. Ultimately shrinking the size of (state) government,” said Vince Synowicz, 26, of Royal Oak. “I think just making Michigan a better, safer, more prosperous place to live.”

Absent from the rally was Attorney General candidate Matt DePerno, a top Trump ally who was expected to campaign with Rinke Saturday morning in Oakland County.

Asked where DePerno was, Rinke responded: “You’d have to ask Matt DePerno.”

Rinke predicted Tuesday would be an interesting day in Michigan politics with a lot of surprises.

“You folks are going to be wearing an awfully big smile,” Rinke said.

Given than about 40% of voters have already cast absentee ballots, Rinke supporter Jackie Odom of Bloomfield Hills said Trump’s late endorsement won’t carry any impact. 

Odom voiced support for Rinke based on Dixon’s stance on abortion. Dixon opposes abortion in all instances except to save the life of the mother.

Rinke is the only Republican gubernatorial candidate on the ballot who has said he would allow abortion in cases of rape or incest, according to answers the candidates have given at several debates.

His stance was aligned with 68% of likely Republican primary voters in a July 13-15 statewide poll commissioned by The Detroit News and WDIV (Channel 4).

Dixon’s past comments about abortion and a 14-year-old girl being forced to carry a baby to term were bad, Odom said.

“I can’t support that kind of rigidity,” Odom said. “Kevin is balanced, he is a hard worker and he will be great as governor.”

jchambers@detroitnews.com