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Donald Trump Jr. says Biden ‘decimated’ Michigan jobs at campaign rally with Kid Rock

HARRISON TOWNSHIP, MI — Donald Trump Jr. argued Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will cause Michigan jobs to leave the country at a Monday rally for his father’s campaign in a key swing county.

Trump drew several hundred people to hear him speak from a floating stage set up in a channel at Bumpers Landing Boat Club in Harrison Township. Michigan-born musician Kid Rock played a small concert for the raucous crowd to end the event.

President Donald Trump won Michigan in 2016 by only 10,704 votes, the smallest margin of any state in the country. Republicans won Michigan for the first time in nearly 30 years, partly because Democrats lost votes in places like Macomb County, which supported the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008 and 2012.

Trump Jr. said Macomb County is the home of working-class “blue dog Democrats” who are leaving the party. He said Biden is responsible for losing more working-class jobs than any politician in history through his support of bad trade deals.

“Joe Biden has decimated American manufacturing,” Trump Jr. said. “He’s going to have you believe that now, after half a century, he’s going to change things. Is anyone that stupid?

“This party doesn’t represent working-class Americans anymore,” he later added. “It doesn’t even represent decent Americans anymore.”

President Trump said he’s running for reelection to “keep jobs in Michigan” during a rally in Freeland last week. Michigan employment rose by 128,577 jobs from February 2017 to February 2020, before dramatic job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The state experienced record-high unemployment in April and May, with nearly a quarter of Michigan’s workforce experiencing a temporary layoffs. Jobs have begun to come back as wide-ranging business closures ordered by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks are rescinded.

As of July, federal data shows Michigan shed 242,873 jobs since Trump took office. The unemployment rate rose 4 percentage points, increasing from 4.7% in February 2017 to 8.7% in July. Economic figures for August will be available later this month.

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, noted that Michigan has lost 57,000 manufacturing jobs under the Trump administration. He touted Biden’s plan to tax companies that don’t bring offshore jobs back to the U.S. and to make large investments in clean energy technology, which the campaign expects will create 1 million jobs in the U.S. automotive industry.

“I think some folks voted for Trump in 2016 because working-class people have gotten the short end of the stick in this country and they don’t feel Washington has delivered for them,” Levin said. “I understand that myself. I understand why they voted for him, but it didn’t turn out to be true and (voters are) going to hold him accountable.”

Levin represents portions of Macomb County, but not Harrison Township, which sits north of Warren and Detroit. The rally was held in Michigan’s 10th Congressional District, a predominately Republican-voting area that supported Trump by a wide margin in 2016.

Businesswoman Lisa McClain won the GOP nomination to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, in August by running as a pro-Trump conservative outsider. McClain said voters know better than government when it comes to COVID-19 safety precautions.

“There’s nothing more important than to open our state up and get our jobs and our economy back open,” she said.

Trump Jr. said Michigan residents can get in more trouble for opening their business “than burning down someone else’s,” referencing violence and looting that broke out in several cities outside Michigan during protests against police brutality this year. Trump Jr. also criticized the media, asserting a lack of reporting on Biden’s opposition to fracking and his son’s dealings with China.

“That’s why this kind of organic support is so important,” Trump Jr. said.

Kid Rock joins Donald Trump Jr. at campaign rally in Macomb County

Paul Johnson, holds an American and Confederate flag with the words “redneck” as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather before a campaign rally where Donald Trump Jr. is scheduled to speak and Kid Rock is scheduled to headline the rally on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 in Macomb County. “The flag represents my lifestyle, I hunt, I fish, I live off the land and I consider myself a redneck, because I love a country lifestyle,” Johnson said, “and I’m a rebel.”Nicole Hester/Mlive.com

The president’s son visited Macomb County with 50 days left until the Nov. 3 election. Last week, an estimated 5,000 supporters attended a campaign rally in Saginaw County, another electoral battleground.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is also dispatching a family member to Michigan — his wife Jill Biden will visit two cities Tuesday — after holding events in Macomb County and Detroit last week. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also visited Grand Rapids on Monday, becoming the latest in a parade of Trump administration officials to appear in Michigan in the last few months.

Doug Steen, a 68-year-old Grosse Pointe resident, said he didn’t feel confident that Trump Sr. would become president four years ago. Steen said he’s feeling more confident this time around due to large crowds appearing at rallies in Michigan.

“I don’t think there’s anything that compares on the other side of the ticket,” he said.

Several hundred people were in attendance inside the boater’s club, while hundreds more stood in an overflow area in a parking lot and neighboring streets outside the venue. Some held “peaceful protester” signs.

The Trump campaign handed out masks and hand sanitizer to attendees. Supporters had their temperature read at a check-in table which displayed a sign stating attendees acknowledge an “inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present.”

Public health officials warn that close gatherings of many people raises the risk of coronavirus exposure. There are 6.5 million confirmed cases in the U.S. and 193,705 deaths linked to COVID-19 as of Monday, according to the CDC, including 6,601 deaths in Michigan.

Macomb County sits within a region designated as a high-risk area by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The designation applies to areas where the number of new confirmed cases is still expanding.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued an executive order limiting outdoor gatherings to 250 people with social distancing, though it includes an exception for events expressing the First Amendment.

Few attendees wore masks. Social distancing recommendations were largely ignored, with most people standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

Several attendees told MLive they enjoyed the party-like atmosphere of Trump campaign events. Supporters broke out into chants of “four more years” and drank beer while waiting for the event to start.

“I’m here for the fun,” Steen said.

Steen laughed at the restrained events Biden held while visiting Michigan last week, which were not open to the public and featured a handful of attendees kept apart in marked off areas. Steen said the crowds Trump drew at recent rallies show strong support in Michigan.

Levin said Biden’s events showed greater regard for public safety. He said the difference between the campaigns demonstrates Biden will be the “public health president.”

“I think a lot of these spectacles on the surface may look good (for Trump), because it seems like a lot of people, but in practice, it’s going to sink his political ship because it shows his disregard for the welfare of the American people, which it’s the president’s sacred trust,” Levin said.

Alexis Kennedy, a 23-year-old Harrison Township resident, said fears related to the pandemic are overblown. Kennedy was a special education teacher who was laid off this summer.

“I think it’s bulls—,” Kennedy said. “I think the government is just trying to scare us. Yes, there is a virus out there, absolutely. But no, it’s not as bad as they think.”

Elizabeth Davis, a 54-year-old Washington Township resident, said she doesn’t trust COVID-19 data released by the state government. Davis, who owns a business temporarily shut down by the governor’s orders, signed a petition to repeal Whitmer’s executive powers outside the venue.

“This virus is here,” Davis said. “If you’re old, stay home if you’re afraid. If you have underlying conditions you should stay home because it’s out there. You’re either going to take a risk or you’re not. I don’t think that mask is going to help you at all.”

The Democratic nominee’s wife, Jill Biden, is scheduled to visit Grand Rapids and Battle Creek Tuesday. She will meet with Hillary Scholten, a Democrat running to replace U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, I-Cascade Township, and Whitmer, a Democrat who serves as a national advisor to Biden’s campaign.

Davis said Biden has failed to produce much change during his long career in government and doesn’t trust him to govern as a moderate. She expects Trump to win by a wider margin compared to 2016.

“I’m saying it’s a landslide, I don’t care what the polls say,” Davis said.

READ MORE ON MLIVE:

Saving the auto industry and ‘so many’ car plants: Trump makes dubious claims at Michigan rally

Joe Biden meets with Detroit-area steelworkers during campaign swing through Michigan

Donald Trump offers ‘total and complete endorsement’ of John James in Michigan

President Donald Trump says he’s running for reelection to ‘keep jobs in Michigan’

Donald Trump’s Michigan rally draws estimated 5,500 supporters to crowded aircraft hangar

Joe Biden says Trump betrayed Americans by downplaying threat of COVID-19

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