GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Were the pundits wrong in September when they assured Hillary Clinton and the rest of the nation that Michigan’s 16 electoral votes were hers for the taking, or could it be the state’s rock-solid Democrat base is suddenly not as happy with her as the experts believed?
Hillary Clinton is scheduled to be in Detroit, Michigan’s bluest and strongest Democratic stronghold, on Friday. It will be her second rally in less than a month in the state that has been seen as a shoo-in for Democratic presidential candidates since her husband’s victory in 1992.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and President Bill Clinton have already stopped in Michigan, with less than a week to go before the election.
Why are the Clintons and the Democrats in such a scramble to shore up support for the Clinton-Kaine ticket in a state that hasn’t gone Republican since George H.W. Bush won its electoral votes in 1988?
Donald Trump is refusing to give it away.
“Clearly this is ground that Clinton doesn’t want to cede, and this is a state that Donald Trump really wants to pick up,” Susan Demas, the owner of Inside Michigan Politics, told the Detroit News.
The Clinton campaign announced Hillary’s rally one day after Donald Trump appeared in Grand Rapids, Michigan’s second-largest city, which is a little Democratic stronghold surrounded by the all-red Republicanism of the western side of the state.
Trump also stopped in the blue-collar Detroit suburb of Warren that day.
Two of the Republican presidential candidate’s children followed him to Michigan. Donald Jr. and Ivanka each made two appearances in the state Wednesday. Ivanka was scheduled to hold another campaign rally in Michigan the next day, while another of Trump’s offspring, his son Eric, was expected to be in Michigan on Friday.
Hillary’s hastily announced trip to Michigan, her third visit to the state since the Democratic National Convention, came as both presidential campaigns announced they had purchased more airtime for a final advertising blitz.
But recent polling shows the fruit hanging lower in Michigan for Trump than any Republican had seen since 1992 when Bill Clinton was elected president.
A Fox 2 Detroit/Mitchell Poll of Michigan survey released Nov. 2 showed Hillary Clinton’s lead — in a four-candidate race including Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein — had been cut to 3 percent in the state because of falling support among men and women who are 65 years of age and older.
Clinton held a 5 percent lead in a one-on-one race with Trump, 49 percent to 44 percent.
Steve Mitchell, CEO of Mitchell Research & Communications, told Fox 2 in Detroit that Clinton had also lost support among voters in her own party. She dropped 5 percent among Democrats. The poll also showed Trump led with men after he trailed Clinton the day before the poll was released.
Mitchell said it wasn’t the revelation that the FBI was investigating emails linked to her private server and Anthony Weiner’s computer that drove Clinton’s polling numbers down. Actually, he said, that did not seem to have hurt the former secretary of State.
“However, the combined pressure on Clinton over the Wikileaks, the Clinton Foundation, and other problems are clearly now impacting her candidacy,” Mitchell said. “Clearly Clinton’s problems are now taking a toll on her candidacy in Michigan and the state is now in play.”
A poll released Tuesday by Strategic National, a Republican-leaning consulting firm based in Grand Rapids, Mich., showed the Clinton-Trump race in Michigan was close to being a toss-up because Trump had finally forged an alliance with the Republican base.
“Trump has a strong lead among Independents, is on the verge of record support in blue-collar areas such as Macomb County, and gains a higher proportion of African-Americans than Republican candidates usually get in Michigan,” John Yob, CEO of Strategic National, said. “We could be headed to a photo finish in Michigan.”
NBC’s Chuck Todd reminded the Clinton faithful in the MSNBC audience of Sanders’ upset of Clinton in the Michigan Democratic primary.
Todd said the Clinton camp didn’t see the Vermont senator winning then, and they should be afraid of making the same mistake this time. So it’s easy to see why the Democrats are doubling down and flooding Michigan with rallies.
“Look, Michael Moore is somebody that has been shouting from the rooftops that he believes that the entire industrial Midwest is more in play than the Clinton campaign thinks, he being a guy from Flint, worked a lot with the blue collar voters,” Todd said.
“I think some of it is simply a little bit of paranoia, but you know what?” Todd added. “You don’t want to say why didn’t I go? You don’t want to have any regrets.”
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN with eight days to go before the election that she believed Michigan was one of the traditionally Democratic states now “up for grabs.”
“It’s also a state,” Conway told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “where Bernie Sanders cleaned Hillary Clinton’s clock, like Iowa, it’s a state that just does not like Hillary Clinton.”
Not to worry, sources close to the Clinton campaign assured The Hill. They said inundating Michigan with rallies less than a week before the presidential election was part of a “thought-out strategy,” kind of like taking out flood insurance even though it doesn’t look like rain.
“We’re going to make sure they have the resources they need,” the source said. “When they say we need this to win, they’ll get it. It’s a state that needs care and feeding. We want to make sure they’re not an afterthought.”
Confidence is nice, but Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes pointed out that Michigan is also home to the so-called “Reagan Democrats” who rebelled and voted for the GOP in the early 1980s.
“A distinct strain of nativism still courses through parts of the body politic here, blue-collar workers in particular. They’ve witnessed first-hand the threat posed by foreign competition and globalization, the cynicism of the coastal elite’s bias (see auto sales figures) against American metal and the companies that build it,” Howes wrote Thursday.
“For all his manifest flaws,” Howes added, “Trump’s messages of economic nationalism leavened with a promise to ‘drain the swamp’ of alleged corruption in Washington are coming at just the right time.”