With campaign stops from both presidential candidates and their surrogates just days before the election, Michigan’s importance as a possible swing state in the presidential election has never been more apparent.
Both Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will hold rallies in the state on Monday. Additionally, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence will campaign for Trump in Traverse City, and President Barack Obama will be in Ann Arbor for a Get Out the Vote rally for Clinton. Additionally, over the weekend, former president Bill Clinton stopped in Lansing and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) visited Detroit. More Monday visits are expected to be announced.
The high number of visits from candidates the day prior to the election is somewhat unusual in Michigan given that state polls have consistently shown Clinton beating Trump and the state has not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.
Communications Prof. Josh Pasek said as of a few weeks ago, following the presidential debates and the release of a tape recording of Trump speaking about touching women without their consent, Michigan would not have been in play. However, he said an announcement from the FBI about new emails potentially connected to an earlier investigation into Clinton’s emails earlier this month helped tighten the race, The FBI said they had reviewed the new emails and would not reopen the investigation into Clinton Sunday.
“That shifted the map back in many respects to where it had been before the debates,” Pasek said. “From that perspective it is not too shocking that Michigan is in play because, given what we expect in a traditional election between Democrats and Republicans, Michigan would be in play.”
He also said he thinks one of the main reasons the candidates are hosting rallies in the state so close to Election Day is the lack of early voting opportunities. Michigan is one of 16 states that does not offer no-excuse early voting, which could mean candidate visits just prior to the election have a greater impact.
“Those states are much more dependent on the vote on Election Day than any other vote that happens before,” he said. “So attempts to sort of reach out in Michigan and Pennsylvania in particular right before the end have a chance to make a particular impact.”
For both candidates, he said, the state of Michigan’s electoral vote is essential to securing victory.
“If Hillary Clinton wins in Michigan, she is basically locked in to win, save the possibility that Pennsylvania goes the other way,” he said. “But if Trump wins it then he has a pretty good chance at getting into this race.”
LSA junior Collin Kelly, chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, wrote in an email interview that though he believes the surrogate visits indicate the prominence of Michigan in this election, he believes Michigan will still support Clinton.
“Michigan is a blue state — it has been solidly Democratic for the past two decades — and we don’t think that will change,” he wrote. “The amount of surrogates in Michigan just signifies how important Michigan is to the election, but the polls have been consistently favoring Secretary Clinton and we do not expect the results to be any different.”
Pasek said the main motivation for candidates this close to the election is to encourage those who support them but are less enthusiastic to actually get out and vote. Young people traditionally have low voter turnout rates and tend to lean toward Democratic candidates.
Pasek said, given the popularity of Obama, he has a notable ability to encourage students to vote in events like the one planned in Ann Arbor Monday, which would benefit Clinton.
“There is a substantial goal around trying to mobilize a bunch more students to try to vote than might do so otherwise,” he said. “Sending Barack Obama in, who is very popular among the student body, is probably a really good surrogate move in terms of trying to wring some more voters out of the student community.”