As a Whig congressman, Abraham Lincoln took exception to the policies of the portly former Democratic governor of Michigan, Lewis Cass. Noting that Cass more waddled than walked, and thinking his logic akin to that of a foolish goose, always-Honest Abe mashed “Michigan” with “gander,” referred to Cass as “The Great (read: fat) Michigander” and forever confused the issue of what Michigan citizens should call themselves.
Lincoln isn’t the only president with special Michigan ties:
John F. Kennedy
Senator John F. Kennedy was due to stay overnight at the Michigan Union in Ann Arbor, three weeks before the 1960 presidential election. Unwilling to give students a standard campaign greeting despite a late arrival, JFK introduced himself as “a graduate of the “Michigan of the East, Harvard University,” before asking the crowd whether young Americans were willing to contribute their skills and knowledge to developing nations.
Five months later, it was President John F. Kennedy who introduced the Peace Corps, and who, in 1962, would officially name Detroit – “center of a great sports community” – as America’s nominee to host the 1968 Olympic Games.
While Gerald Ford grew up in Michigan, he was actually born in Omaha, Nebraska and moved to Grand Rapids. “Jerry” Ford went on to gridiron success at the University of Michigan, married Grand Rapids dance instructor Betty Bloomer, represented Michigan in Congress for over 20 years, was named vice president in the midst of Watergate and became president after the scandal forced Richard Nixon’s resignation.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan secured the GOP’s presidential nomination, but hadn’t chosen a running mate before heading to the RNC Convention in Detroit. Having lost the 1976 nomination to sitting President Gerald Ford (who in turn lost to Jimmy Carter), Reagan invited Ford to his suite at the Renaissance Center to gauge his interest in forming a “dream ticket.” In the end, no one was comfortable with a co-presidency, and it was George H.W. Bush nominated along with Reagan at Joe Louis Arena.