Lengthy early voting lines in Michigan and two stops by President Donald Trump on Monday marked the eve of a pivotal election that will cement the path of the nation for the next four years.
Trump won the state by 10,704 votes in 2016, his closest margin of victory nationally. But he and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden have both invested heavily in Michigan. The president made the final stop of his campaign in Grand Rapids late Monday night, and Biden’s running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, is scheduled to spend a portion of her Election Day in Detroit.
“We want the same result as we had four years ago from Michigan,” Trump told thousands of supporters in Traverse City on Monday evening. “And we fulfilled all of our promises.”
People wait in line to vote early at City Hall in Pontiac, November 2, 2020. (Photo: David Guralnick, The Detroit News)
Hours before the president took the stage in northern Michigan, On’Tre Little, 21, of Kentwood waited about 30 minutes in a line to cast his absentee ballot early. It was his first vote in a presidential election. He supported Biden.
“Right now, this is the best option,” Little said of backing the former vice president.
Lines to vote early were reported in cities and townships across Michigan on Monday, including in Royal Oak in Democratic-friendly Oakland County and Sterling Heights in Trump-friendly Macomb County. In Grand Rapids, the state’s second-largest city, election workers and voters said the wait to cast a ballot was about an hour and 45 minutes.
The line to vote wove back and forth in a parking garage with people wearing coats as temperatures hung in the 40s.
Jeremy Mullan, 28, of Grand Rapids was among the voters in the line. “I think this election is pretty important,” he said. “Both candidates might not be the best, but still, you should come out and vote.”
Monday’s early turnout set the stage for an election that is expected to shatter Michigan’s prior election turnout record of 5.08 million voters in 2008.
By 10 a.m. Monday, 2.9 million Michigan residents had already cast their absentee ballots, according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. That’s about 60% of the 4.8 million votes that were registered in the presidential race in 2016. Experts predict as many as 5.9 million voters could cast ballots.
In polling, Biden has performed better among early voters while Trump has led among Election Day voters. The question on Tuesday will be how many people turn out to vote in person, said David Dulio, a political science professor at Oakland University.
“The more turnout for tomorrow, I think it’s better for the president,” Dulio said.
Trump in Traverse City
As the sun set over Traverse City on the eve of the election, Trump continued his theme in Michigan speeches of warning about the economic dangers of a Biden presidency for the Great Lakes State.
“He sold you out” to China, Trump said of the former vice president and his running mate, Harris, he said, would “collapse our economy and send our nation into a very steep recession.”
The rally in Traverse City was the fourth of five planned rallies Trump held in Michigan in less than a week, repeating familiar themes from his other speeches warning of regulations, increased taxes, outsourced jobs, fracking bans and Biden’s history of support for the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“If we win Michigan, it’s over,” Trump told the crowd at Cherry Capital Airport.
As the crowd repeated his 2016 promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., Trump noted the task was more than he anticipated and argued Biden was among the “decrepit and depraved political class.”
“It’s a deep sucker,” Trump said of the swamp. “I thought we’d knock it out fast.”
Biden was part of the Obama administration that helped the auto industry rebound from the Great Recession and has said he wants to create 1 million auto jobs by promoting electric vehicle research and development.
Trump and Congress replaced NAFTA in January with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which requires automakers to produce cars with 75% of parts originating from the U.S., Canada or Mexico to qualify for duty-free treatment. The requirement is an increase from 62.5% under the NAFTA rules.
Wrapped in a Trump flag, Jeremy Smith showed up at the rally Monday mid-afternoon with a friend. Smith said he plans to cast his vote in person Tuesday for Trump.
“To be honest, my stocks have gone up more in the last few years than I can ever remember,” said Smith, 20, a communications student at Lake Superior State University in the Upper Peninsula. “It’s so great.”
Glenn and Christal Frantz waited in line for a couple of hours on a blustery but sunny afternoon before they could enter the stage area where Trump spoke.
“I like that Trump’s not a part of the normal way of doing things. He does what he says he’s going to or tries to,” said Frantz, 69, a retired mechanic and construction worker who lives in nearby Kalkaska. “He doesn’t just give lip service.”
Biden’s final push
Biden dipped into Ohio, a show of confidence in a state that Trump won by 8 percentage points four years ago. He reiterated the central message of his campaign: Trump cost lives by mismanaging America’s response to the worst pandemic in a century.
“The first step to beating the virus is beating Donald Trump,” Biden said in Cleveland.
The former vice president also focused on Pennsylvania, where a victory would leave a very slim path to an Electoral College win for the Republican president. Trump won the state four years ago along with Wisconsin and Michigan, where he is trailing in the polls.
On Monday, the Biden camp sent actress Kerry Washington to make three stops in Wayne County. During a 10-minute speech in Inkster, she told the crowd of nearly 100 people in the parking lot of the Inskter Recreation Complex that she traveled to the battleground state to remind voters in Michigan they matter.
“Everybody is watching Michigan. It is all eyes on Michigan,” Washington said. “You have so much power here, you have so much strength.”
Washington campaigned alongside her husband, Nnamdi Asomugha, a former pro football player and an actor. The two also attended a volunteer canvass launch in Taylor and a voter mobilization event in Detroit.
Washington, the “Scandal” star, livened up the crowd in a brief address, noting she’s told her children “not enough people voted in 2016” because “not enough people knew that they mattered.”
Added Asomugha: “This election is not going to be stolen. We’re going to win it fair and square. We’ve been waiting on this moment for the last four years. It’s here.”
Washington referenced the ongoing worries over the global pandemic, economic downturn, systematic racism and a climate crisis. She argued Trump and his administration want to “stick their heads in the sand.”
“The soul of our nation is at stake,” Washington said. “We know how to get around their evil. We show up.”
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, and state Rep. Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, were among the local leaders who joined Washington in Inkster to energize residents.
“I’m asking all of you to please, show up,” Tlaib said. “We cannot have another four years of Donald Trump.”
On Monday, the state neared 185,000 confirmed cases and more than 7,350 deaths — statistics Biden and former President Barack Obama have blamed on Trump’s lack of leadership. Trump insisted again Monday in Traverse City that the nation is “rounding the corner” on COVID-19, especially with the promise of a vaccine on the horizon.
Biden is headed Tuesday to Philadelphia and Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he once lived, according to the campaign.
Road ends in Kent Co.
But all roads for the Trump campaign led to Grand Rapids, where the president hoped to repeat election eve karma by revisiting his last stop in the 2016 campaign.
He was joined there by top aides, including Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke before him in Traverse City, and daughter Ivanka Trump, who made a stop earlier Monday in Eaton County in mid-Michigan.
Ivanka Trump touted her father’s work on job creation, trade, energy independence and agriculture, calling him a “happy warrior” unafraid to take on the Washington establishment.
The president’s oldest daughter, who also serves as a White House adviser, promised a second term that included tax cuts, 10 million new jobs in 10 months, vocational education at high schools and expanded school choice options for parents.
“Where Washington chooses sides, our president chooses common sense,” she said in Eaton Rapids. “Where politicians choose party, our president chooses people.”
The Republican president has visited seven Michigan communities since the general election campaign began in September — the same number of stops he made during the 2016 campaign. The other locations included Freeland near Saginaw, Muskegon, Lansing, Waterford Township in Oakland County and Washington Township in Macomb County.
Grand Rapids is where Trump spoke at 12:30 a.m. on Election Day four years ago, where he predicted working-class voters would “strike back” at the ballot box and predicted victory.
“Michigan stands at the crossroads of history,” Trump said at DeVos Place convention center on Nov. 8, 2016. “If we win Michigan, we will win this historic election and then we will truly be able to do all of the things we want to do.”
But the long lines of younger, masked early voters in Kent County and parts of Metro Detroit on Monday were giving Democrats optimism that they were pushing back the tides of history.
“Kent County is a different place than it was four years ago,” said Gary Stark, chairman of the Kent County Democratic Party. “It’s become a lot bluer.”
Freelance writer Greg Tasker and the Associated Press contributed.
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