"When I met Tudor Dixon, she was not well known, but I could tell she had something very special — it was a quality that few others have," Trump said in a statement late Friday, just days before the state's primary on Tuesday. "She delivered a powerful speech on how she would lead Michigan, fight for Election Integrity, turn around the Economy, and protect the future of Michigan for every child."
Other Michigan Republicans had attempted to block the endorsement, which Trump had telegraphed as early as April when he praised Dixon by name at a rally he held in the state without mentioning the other GOP candidates.
In a letter sent Thursday, nine GOP candidates whom Trump is supporting in races for the Michigan Legislature and U.S. Congress pleaded with the former president to not side with the “establishment” and Michigan’s powerful DeVos family, which is backing Dixon.
The winner of Tuesday's primary will face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November. Trump, who has teased a presidential bid for 2024, has repeatedly criticized Whitmer's handling of the pandemic in the key electoral battleground.
"It’s time for a BIG change, and a BIG comeback!" the former president said in Friday's statement.
Dixon, in a separate statement, called Trump's endorsement a "great honor."
“Our vision for a family-friendly Michigan clearly resonates with voters," Dixon said. "It is the reason our broad coalition is growing."
A former anchor for Real America’s Voice, the far-right network that carries Steve Bannon’s conspiracy theory-fueled program, Dixon has indulged the former president’s false claims that a second term was stolen from him in 2020.
“Obviously there were things that were done in a way that was so sneaky with this money coming in, the absentee ballots,” Dixon told NBC News in an interview after a debate this month in Grand Rapids. “You have Democrat boots on the ground to get out the vote — and how were they getting out the vote? That’s something that we would have liked to look back on.”
Before her gubernatorial bid, Dixon was not much of a known quantity in Michigan but has since taken advantage of a messy primary and marshaled key establishment support — including the family of Trump's former Education secretary, Betsy DeVos — around her campaign. Family members have helped bankroll a pro-Dixon super PAC with a collective $1 million in contributions, according to campaign finance records.
DeVos resigned from Trump’s Cabinet after the deadly Jan. 6 riots, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol. More recently, she said she was among those who discussed invoking the 25th Amendment of the Constitution to remove Trump from office.
Dixon’s GOP rivals and other Republican detractors have sought to use her alliance with DeVos against her. Businessman Kevin Rinke recently aired an ad accusing Dixon of being propped up by “Never Trumpers” — a likely, if misleading, reference to DeVos, whose image appears in the 30-second spot.
“It has come to our attention that Betsy DeVos is claiming that the DeVos family and their affiliated organizations are not working against the Trump-endorsed candidates in Michigan. That is absolutely ridiculous and false,” the Trump-backed candidates wrote in Thursday's letter, obtained by NBC News and first reported by The Detroit News.
Trump seemed nonplussed by the effort. He hinted heavily Friday in a radio interview and on his Truth Social media platform Friday that a Dixon endorsement could be coming soon.
Two early front-runners in the GOP primary, former Detroit police chief James Craig and businessman Perry Johnson, were disqualified from the ballot after turning in allegedly fraudulent signatures. Although Dixon already had the DeVos family’s endorsement, her fortunes took off once the field of candidates narrowed and her allies began airing ads.
Polls in recent weeks have shown Dixon leading the five-candidate field, with Rinke, chiropractor Garrett Soldano and real estate broker Ryan Kelley, who has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from his actions outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, behind her. Also in the race is Ralph Rebandt, a pastor who has polled in the low single digits.