Only three days before in-person polls open for the Nov. 3 presidential election, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and former president Barack Obama held their first joint appearances at car rallies in Flint, Mich., and Detroit on Saturday afternoon. 

The two repeatedly endorsed Michigan Democrats running for re-election this Tuesday, including Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich.; U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Mich.; and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich. 

Obama criticized Trump for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, laying the blame for hundreds of thousands of lives lost at the president’s feet.

“If Trump were focused on COVID from the beginning, cases wouldn’t be reaching new record highs across the country,” Obama said. “ … He’s going around having big events, no masks, no protective gear, no precautions. What’s his obsession with crowds, anyways? He’s still talking about his inauguration crowd being small, though he doesn’t admit it.” 

“Does he have nothing better to worry about? That was four years ago,” Obama added. “What kind of trauma did he go through? Did no one come to his birthday parties when he was a kid? Is Fox News not giving him enough attention?” 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spoke at the event in Detroit, urging people to vote for Biden. 

“The road to the White House goes through the great state of Michigan,” Whitmer said, a message echoed throughout the evening. 

In 2016, the margin of victory by which President Donald Trump won Michigan was the smallest of any state, with only 10,704 votes. Then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton faced criticism for not adequately campaigning in the region. 

While polling shows Biden leading Michigan, Trump’s campaign has said they believe the numbers are wrong and that they can win the state. Trump is scheduled to visit Michigan three times in the two days before the election, after rallying supporters in Lansing, Mich., earlier this week.

On Saturday afternoon, Trump made multiple stops in Pennsylvania, including a large rally with several thousand attendees. The Trump campaign has held large events consistently in previous months, despite experts’ warnings that gatherings of this scale could spread COVID-19. As of Saturday afternoon, approximately 230,000 Americans have died of the virus.

Obama also criticized the Trump administration's attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Obama said Trump and his staff were trying to limit Americans’ access to health care, which he said was particularly egregious during a global pandemic. 

“Republicans love to say right before the election they’ll protect your preexisting conditions,” Obama said. “Joe and I actually protected them 10 years ago with the Affordable Care Act. We didn’t get Republican votes, not one … They promised a new plan for 10 years now, no plan. They still don’t have a plan, when asked about it, nobody can find it.”

Obama then pretended to look around the podium, joking that Trump’s health care plan must be “in the same place with the pandemic playbook that we gave them” in reference to a pandemic preparedness plan developed by the Obama administration that Republicans have denied existed. 

Before the pandemic, the state of the economy had been a point of pride for the Trump administration and a central point of his reelection campaign. Obama said Trump inherited a good economy from Obama when he left office and that the loss in jobs shows Trump’s failures.

“Donald Trump likes to claim he built this economy,” Obama said. “America created one and a half million more jobs in the last three years of the Obama-Biden administration than the first three years of the Trump administration. That’s a fact. That was before he could blame the pandemic.” 

Obama also said manufacturing grew in Michigan by 15% during his years in office and only 1% during Trump’s term. He ended his remarks by urging Michiganders to vote.

“Last time, we were complacent, some of us (were complacent),” Obama said. “We said ‘Eh, I don’t need to bother voting.’ I get why Americans get frustrated sometimes, government’s not perfect (and it) won't solve every problem, but it’ll make things better … You’ve got almost half of eligible voters not voting, and those are some of the same folks complaining.” 

Biden highlighted the Trump administration’s insufficient response to COVID-19. 

“Imagine where we would be if we had a president who had worn a mask, instead of mocked it,” Biden said. “I can tell you this, we wouldn’t have 5 million confirmed cases of COVID in this nation, we wouldn’t have 230,000 deaths … He knew and he hid it from the people, he knew it was so much worse than the flu, he lied to the people. He knew it wasn’t going to disappear.”  

Biden also discussed his economic plan, including his plan to raise taxes on those making over $400,000 per year. He criticized Trump in light of an investigation into the president’s tax returns published by The New York Times, showing the president paid $750 in income taxes in 2016 and 2017. 

“I understand something Donald Trump doesn't,” Biden said. “Wall Street didn’t build this country, you did. People like my parents, ordinary working people in this country, and unions build the middle class, that’s a fact … Why should all of you be paying more taxes than Donald Trump the billionaire?”

Biden continued by discussing Trump’s previous remarks about soldiers and prisoners of war, some of which disparaged American troops. He also noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had put bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and that Trump has not spoken to Putin about the issue. 

“Donald Trump isn’t strong, he’s weak … Donald Trump doesn’t understand sacrifice, he doesn’t understand the courage it takes to wear that uniform,” Biden said in reference to his late son Beau, who served in the military,

Trump commented on Biden and Obama’s remarks in Flint, which were similar to those delivered in Detroit, after the event. He tweeted about the Obama administration’s relationship to the Flint water crisis, criticizing their handling of the water contamination.

“Biden & Obama owe a massive apology to the People of Flint,” Trump tweeted. “The water was poisoned on their watch. Not only did they fail them, Biden proudly accepted the endorsement of disastrous Gov Rick Snyder! Unlike Biden, I will always stand with the People of the Great State of MICHIGAN!”

The event concluded with a final push for Michiganders to vote and move forward. 

“So for God’s sake, please vote,” Biden said. “Everyone knows who Donald Trump is, let’s show him who we are. We choose hope over fear, we choose unity over division, we choose science over fiction, and we choose truth over lie after lie after lie after lie.”  

Daily Staff Reporter Emma Ruberg can be reached at eruberg@umich.edu.

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