ROCHESTER, Mich. — A week after First Lady Michelle Obama visited the state in a get-out-the-vote push for Democrats, Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and former First Lady, spoke at a Democratic rally at Oakland University’s athletics center, the O’Rena, Thursday evening to deliver a similar message.
Clinton visited Michigan to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D–Bloomfield Twp.), who is the Democratic candidate for U.S Senate. Schauer is currently trailing incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in the latest polls by 3.5 percentage points, within the margin of error. Peters, running for the first open Michigan U.S Senate seat in 20 years, enjoys a slightly less tight race, leading his opponent Terri Lynn Land (R) by 9 points. During the upcoming midterm elections in Michigan, Democrats need to turn out voters to win, Clinton said.
“You know, midterm elections, not as many people come out to vote,” Clinton told the crowd. “You never can tell what’s going to happen in an election. You can’t take anything for granted. You just have to get out there and work for it. And trust me, you don’t want to wake up the day after the election and wish you would have done more.”
As candidates for state office took the stage preceding Clinton’s remarks, they also spoke on voter turnout — a common theme for Democrats this election year. In the 2012 presidential election, President Barack Obama won Michigan by 9.5 percentage points but during midterm elections Republicans have typically had an advantage.
“Elections have consequences,” Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, candidate for the U.S House of Representatives, told the crowd. “And I will tell you, four years ago, many of you in this room did not vote. You just sat it out. You said ‘Oh, he’s a nerd. How bad can it be?’ I don’t think I can tell that to anyone now.”
Lawrence was referring to Snyder, who ran on the slogan of ‘one tough nerd’ in his 2010 election. Her message was echoed by U.S. Rep. Sandy Levin (D–Royal Oak), whose brother, Senator Carl Levin’s (D-Mich.) retirement has led to the state’s open Senate seat.
“You can sum it up this way,” Levin said. “2016 can wait. And that’s especially true as to who’s going to be the senator. My brother … he’s up North campaigning for this ticket and we owe him gratitude. He never gives up fighting. This is what all of us face; who’s going to carry on his work of 36 years?”
“We can do much better than we did in 2010, and we’re going to do it in the year 2014,” he added.
During her remarks, beyond urging the crowd to vote, Clinton also touched on several specific policy issues, grouping objectives like pay equity, healthcare and strengthening the middle class under the theme of being pro-family. She cited General Motors CEO Mary Barra, who spoke at the University’s Spring 2014 Commencement, as a woman taking hold of a leadership position.
“Let us remember, this is the state where Rosie the Riveter inspired a country,” Clinton said on pay equity. “You now have leaders like Mary Barra cracking ceilings, showing there’s no job a woman can’t do. So just ask yourself — why is it that women still get paid less than a man for doing the same work?”
She spoke extensively on the auto bailout, which has been a contentious issue this election cycle in Michigan. Peters has emphasized his support for the bailout repeatedly during the campaign — Land, up until this month, has not, something Peters has criticized.
“(Schauer and Peters) decided to take the risk, stand with President Obama, roll up their sleeves and get to work,” Clinton said. “Now, there are some choices that define careers and define what people are made out of. There are choices that shape your whole life. This was a choice that would change the future of an industry at stake and a nation.”
While Clinton did not mention her plans for 2016 — she has been rumored to be a possible candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. President — during the event, many candidates alluded to it, also telling the crowd that a large Democratic turnout in 2014 would build a strong basis for Clinton in 2016.
“I’m so proud that she’s got my back today,” Schauer said in his introduction to Clinton’s remarks. “And whatever the future holds for you, Madam Secretary, I will always be on Team Hillary.”
After the event, Oakland University freshmen Aaron Decarie and Jenna Russell, who will be first-time voters in this year’s midterm election, said Clinton’s speech had been inspiring.
“It lets you know that your votes matter, and it can help (them) win,” Russell said.
Michigan will see at least two more national figures before Election Day — Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, is expected to rally for state Democrats Wednesday in Flint, and President Obama is expected to visit the state in the week leading up to the Nov. 4 election.