President Donald Trump spoke to thousands of supporters in Lansing Tuesday afternoon, delivering what could be his last pitch to Michigan voters before Election Day, promising he will “make America great again” if given a second term.

“We made America into the single greatest nation in the history of the world, and the best is yet to come,” Trump said. 

In remarks lasting over an hour, Trump teetered between discussing jobs, the need for law and order and the record of Democratic nominee Joe Biden. He also launched a tirade against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the media. Whitmer, who was the target of a foiled kidnapping plot earlier this month, has blamed Trump’s violent rhetoric for encouraging the men who were arrested for the scheme and now face domestic terorrism charges.

Trump boasted about manufacturing job gains before the COVID-19 pandemic and promised a period of growth if reelected. He blamed the North American Free Trade Agreement for the decline in American manufacturing and touted his own U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. 

“Over the next four years, we will make America into the manufacturing superpower of the world — this state right here — and we will end our reliance on China once and for all,” Trump said.

LSA sophomore Lindsay Keiser, event coordinator of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, said she is “not the biggest fan” of Trump, but was impressed by his comments on bringing manufacturing jobs back to the state.

“I just thought that he was very inspiring to a group of people that in recent times have lost their jobs — lost job security and such,” Kizer said. 

While Trump blamed Biden and former President Barack Obama for giving up on Michigan’s manufacturing sector, those jobs rose 1% in Trump’s first term prior to the pandemic, compared to 15% in Obama’s second term. The Obama administration also oversaw a bailout of the state’s auto industry during the Great Recession. 

Currently, Michigan has 51,000 fewer manufacturing jobs than when Trump took office.

In the middle of his speech, the Trump campaign played a compilation of some of Biden’s past statements on a video board to reinforce criticism of Biden’s record on trade, fracking and China. 

“You don’t have to take my word for it,” Trump said. “We have Joe on tape.”

Biden is leading Trump among women by 23 points, which would be the largest gender gap in American history if the pattern holds on Election Day. Trump gained attention last week for asking suburban women, “Will you please like me?” at a rally in Johnstown, PA on Oct. 13. At the rally Tuesday, he said his message of “law and order” resonates with suburban women.

“They want safety and they want security,” Trump said. “I love women and I can’t help it, they’re the greatest. I love them much more than the men.”

Trump and Whitmer have publicly feuded this year over COVID-19 restrictions, responsibility for the pandemic and inciting violence. Earlier this month, the FBI and state police thwarted a militia group’s plot to kidnap and kill Whitmer. 

“We gotta get her going,” Trump said Tuesday, to which the crowd chanted: “Lock her up.”

Trump has faced criticism for the chant in light of the plot, with Whitmer saying he incites “this kind of domestic terroism.”

“Every time I make even just a little bit of a nod, (the media) say ‘the President led them on,’” Trump said. “I don’t have to lead you on.”

Trump cut a 60 Minutes interview short late last week after journalist Lesley Stahl asked him about the “lock her up” chants at his Muskegon rally, referring to the interview during Tuesday’s rally.

“Wasn’t she rude?” Trump said Tuesday. “She just kept asking me questions.”

The United States is entering a third case peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the highest so far. This summer, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, predicted the fall and winter would be “one of the most difficult times we’ve experienced in American public health,” as the coronavirus thrives in cold weather and indoors. 

Trump touched on the pandemic only briefly and to bemoan the media’s coverage of rising cases, wrongly saying that cases are only rising because of increased testing. 

“You can’t watch anything else,” Trump said. “You turn on COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID.” 

While the Trump campaign conducted temperature checks of rally attendees and handed out masks at the entrance, the vast majority were not wearing masks in line nor as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the stage for several hours. 

COVID-19 cases have also hit record highs in Michigan in recent days. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., called Trump’s rally “reckless” in a virtual press conference Tuesday.

“My whole family, including my 94-year-old mom, lives in Lansing,” Stabenow said. “And the fact that he would be so reckless, and so irresponsible to come and be in a place where people are standing shoulder to shoulder with most without masks, and then continue to mock anybody who cares and understands what is happening to our lives and our livelihoods.”

John James, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, opened the rally with a stump speech. James lost a surprisingly close Senate race to Stabenow in 2018, and said Tuesday that Republicans were too complacent after Trump’s 2016 victory.

“We have seven days,” James said. “We need to show up. Democrats are showing up. You want to talk a big game, you’ve got to show up, and that’s what we’re here to do.”

Thousands of Trump’s supporters lined up at the Capital Region International Airport, many enduring low temperatures in the early morning hours. 

Despite most polls showing Biden leading Michigan, state Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, who represents the district Trump visited, said he expects Trump to win the state. 

“I’ve been involved in politics most of my life, and I’ve never seen the enthusiasm for a candidate the way there is for President Trump,” Barrett said. 

East Lansing resident Steve Dean, in line several hours before Trump’s arrival, said he wasn’t always Trump’s biggest supporter. While Trump’s unconventional speaking style turns off some, Dean said he isn’t bothered and “became a huge Trump fan” the more he heard him talk.

“Trump was a New York Democrat for many years — he talks like one,” Dean said. “Most of the people I know from New York talk pretty rough.”

Trump trails Biden among young voters, but Bruno Frank, a Michigan State University freshman, came five hours early to see Trump speak.

“We’re gonna be the ones voting for the next few years and years to come, so we need to come out and make our voices heard as soon as possible,” Frank said. 

Trump encouraged the crowd to go vote and not “let the radicals win.”

“This is the most important election in the history of our country,” Trump said. “On Nov. 3, we must finish the job and drain the swamp once and for all.”

Daily Staff Reporter Calder Lewis can be reached at calderll@umich.edu

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