GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — An hour after the remarks were set to begin, thousands in red “Make America Great Again” caps still lined the streets of Grand Rapids in hope of entering the DeVos Center to see hear the man who was once the host of “The Apprentice” and as of Wednesday morning, the president-elect of the United States.
At midnight Tuesday morning, then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump walked onto the stage where his then-vice presidential nominee Mike Pence stood giving an introductory statement for what would be the final rally of the campaign.
“If we don’t win, this will be the single greatest waste of time, energy and money in my life,” Trump said in his speech.
Wednesday morning, when he won the presidency, it appeared his year wasn’t in vain.
The concession to the possibility of loss, though, was one of few expressed in the speech. Down in the polls across the country before his unexpected win, Trump’s final rally was nonetheless neither a Hail Mary, nor a particularly reflective moment for the campaign. If anything, it was the same old, same old for Trump — many broad promises without support or specific policies in place. What could have been a moment for a final extreme for the candidate: attacking Clinton with new enthusiasm or making a final attempt to flesh out his promises in a last minute attempt to appeal to voters, did not happen. The rally was full-length and it was normal — by Trump standards.
Pence’s opening remarks as the crowd awaited Trump’s entrance to Michigan were characteristic of the role he has played on the Trump campaign all throughout the race. He focused on the root of the issues many Republicans see at stake in the election: the maintaining of conservative values, the creation of jobs and — for many, most importantly — the vacant Supreme Court seat.
“I literally believe Trump embodies the spirit of America,” Pence said.
Spirits were high Monday night and early Tuesday morning in Grand Rapids, where even after midnight, over four thousand packed inside.
Beaming to the red, white and blue crowd while walking onto the stage Trump prodded at the different levels of sophistication between his and his opponent’s campaign. He joked his campaign did not need the glamour the Clinton campaign has.
“We don’t need Jay Z or Beyoncé, we don’t need Jon Bon Jovi, all we need is great ideas,” Trump said.
In his speech, this appeared to translate outlining the issues rather than solutions, firing up the crowd against Clinton.
“Do you want America to be ruled by the corrupt, political Clintons or do you want America to be ruled by you?” Trump said. “Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person to ever run for the president of the United States.”
Trump called both for his election and removing the Clintons from Washington — prompting the crowd to respond with chants of “Drain the swamp!”
Keeping in mind the state of Michigan, Trump also promised to bring back the “automobile kingdom” the state once had by keeping manufacturing in the United States — and out of Mexico.
“It used to be that cars were made in Flint and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico,” Trump told the crowd. “Now cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the damn water in Flint.”
Addressing the issues in Flint, though, were not at the helm. Trump did promise if elected, he would be visiting Michigan more often with the aim of increasing and maintaining the automotive industry — within the United States.
Trump wasn’t the only candidate to make last-minute stops in Michigan. In the final hours of the 2016 election cycle both candidates focused in on the state as key to their path to winning the national election. Initial polls on Monday put Clinton as the clear winner of the state — 47 percent to 43.4 percent against Trump in the RealClearPolitics aggregate. On campus, Clinton held the consistent majority with 78.84 percent to 13.3 percent in the final Michigan Daily poll.
But as results of the election began to pour in, it became apparent that though Michigan would not be the deciding state for either candidate, it did appear to flip Republican— something which hasn’t happened since 1998, mirroring changes in the states that did hand Trump his win. Results in the state are currently are too close to call, with the vote count appearing to be 47.6 percent Trump to 47.3 percent Clinton.
But nonetheless, the night before Election Day in Grand Rapids, Trump felt the significance.
“If we win Michigan, we will win this historic election and then we truly will be able to do all of the things we want to do,” he said.
Tuesday, Trump said, would be the campaign’s “Independence Day.”
“This is the beginning of a new adventure,” Trump said. “And that adventure is making America great again.”
Even before his inauguration in January 2017, for the 4,000 Michigan residents in attendance, the adventure seemed to have already begun on that Grand Rapids stage.