GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Donald Trump capped off nearly 17-month presidential campaign by speaking to thousands of supporters at a rally in downtown Grand Rapids.
“Today, we’re going to win the great state of Michigan and we are going to win back the White House,” the Republican candidate said as he began his remarks.
Though it was 12:30 a.m. on Election Day — a “crazy” time, Trump said — when he took the stage at DeVos Place, the crowd of thousands didn’t seem tired, cheering enthusiastically.
“There’s no place I’d rather be for my last rally (than) right here in Michigan, late at night and full of energy and life. Boy, do we have energy and life,” he said.
>>Watch: Trump rally in Grand Rapids
“When you step into that voting booth today — it’s now today — there is one core question for your to consider: Do you want America to be ruled by the corrupt political class, or do you want America to be ruled by you, the people?” he asked the crowd.
He called his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, “the most corrupt person ever to seek the office of the presidency of the United States” and said she was “being protected by a totally rigged system.” He said it was “up to the American people to deliver justice at the ballot box.”
“We are finally going to close the history books on the Clintons and their lies and schemes and corruption,” he said. “We will open a bright new chapter focused on you, the American people.”
He promised again, with the crowd chanting along, that he would “drain the swamp” of what he described as corrupt politicians in Washington.
THE ECONOMY AND AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY
Trump hit on several of his common talking points, notably the economy and the outsourcing of jobs to other nations.
“After we win, I’m going to be coming back to Michigan a lot,” he promised. “I’m going to be coming back every time we open a new factory or a new automobile plant. … We’re going to bring back the automobile industry to Michigan, bigger and better and stronger than ever before. You’ve been mistreated.”
He spoke out against the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, blaming the lost jobs in Michigan on NAFTA and saying the Clintons were responsible for the deal. He said the “job-killing” TPP would destroy the rest of the automotive industry.
“Our jobs are being stolen like candy from a baby,” he said. “Not going to happen any more, folks. There are going to be consequences.”
He listed companies that were moving manufacturing jobs from Michigan to elsewhere, including Ford Motor Co. moving jobs to Mexico.
“It used to be that cars were made in Flint and you couldn’t drink the water in Mexico. Now the cars are made in Mexico and you can’t drink the damn water in Flint. What the hell?” he said, a line he also used while stumping in metro Detroit Sunday night.
“A Trump administration will stop the jobs from leaving America and we will stop the jobs from leaving Michigan. That I can tell you, 100 percent,” Trump said, promising that companies that moved jobs to other nations and then shipped their product back would have to pay a 35 percent tax.
REFUGEES AND IMMIGRATION
Trump opposed a federal plan to increase the number of refugees from war-torn Syria coming into the United States.
“(Clinton’s) plan will import generations of terrorism, extremism and radicalism into your schools and throughout your communities,” he said, reiterating a promise to suspend the Syrian refugee program until a method is devised to more closely vet the refugees.
“A Trump administration will not admit any refugees without the support of the local community where they’re being placed. A Trump administration will also secure and defend the borders of the United States and, yes, we will build a great, great wall,” he added.
“Build the wall, build the wall, build the wall,” the rowdy crowd chanted in response to that promise.
“Who is going to pay to build the wall?” Trump asked the crowd.
“Mexico!” the crowd shouted in response.
He said his agency would “stop illegal immigration, deport all criminal aliens and dismantle every last criminal gang and cartel threatening our wonderful citizens.”
‘ONE MAGNIFICENT CHANCE’
“The election is now,” Trump said as he wrapped up his speech. “You can make every dream you’ve ever dreamed for your country and your family come true. You have one magnificent chance to beat this corrupt, rigged system and to deliver justice for every forgotten man and forgotten woman and forgotten child in this nation.”
He said he was fighting for a government that served the people rather than donors or special interests, promising to encourage unity if he is elected.
“Just imagine what our country could accomplish if we started working together as one people under one God saluting one American flag,” Trump said.
He said that if supporters got out and voted, “we are just hours away from the change you’ve been waiting for your entire life.”
“To all Americans tonight, in all of our cities and in all of our towns, I pledge to you one more time: Together, we will make America wealthy again, we will make America strong again, we will make America safe again, and we will make America great again,” he concluded.
GOV. PENCE OPENS FOR TRUMP
Republican presidential candidate Mike Pence spoke before Trump, starting by announcing to the crowd that it was one minute after midnight on Election Day.
“Donald Trump has been winning hearts and minds every day, and he’s going to win all the way to the White House,” the Indiana governor said.
He presented the choice before voters as one between two futures for the country.
“I choose to stand with Donald Trump and every American who knows we can make America great again,” he said.
Pence questioned the ethics of Hillary Clinton and her husband, President Bill Clinton, and said that the world was less safe for Hillary Clinton having been secretary of state.
He slammed the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, citing anticipated increases in health care premiums in the coming year. Trump also talked about repealing and replacing Obamacare.
He promised that a Trump administration would rebuild the military, stop Islamic State militants in the Middle East and protect the United States from terrorist attacks.
He also said Trump would appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who will adhere to a strict interpretation of the Constitution.
“Vote! Bring a friend. Friends don’t let friends vote alone,” Pence urged the supporters gathered at DeVos Place.
THOUSANDS LINE UP TO SEE TRUMP
While there wasn’t immediately an official headcount, one security staffer estimated about 10,000 would fill DeVos Place by the time the rally started.
The line to get inside the convention center for the rally stretched all the way across Gillett Bridge behind the venue to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on the other side of the Grand River. Some people said they had packed food and gotten in line as early as 9:30 a.m. to get a prime spot. The doors opened at 8 p.m.
The event started before 10:30 p.m. with a prayer and chants of “USA, USA, USA” before Michigan Republican Party Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel took the stage to fire up the crowd. She also preceded Trump when he was in metro Detroit Sunday. Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra was the event’s emcee, while other warm-up speakers included big names current U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and former U.S. Ambassador Peter Secchia.
“It’s not about the next four years — it’s about the next 40,” Huizenga said of the election, referring to the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court that the next president will fill.
Musician and Michigan Native Ted Nugent took the stage around 11 p.m., talking to the crowd and playing electric guitar. He started by playing a rock version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He also played “Fred Bear,” one of his biggest songs.
CAN TRUMP TAKE MICHIGAN?
Clinton and Trump are virtually tied in Michigan, according to an EPIC-MRA poll released Friday that was commissioned by the Detroit Free Press. Among those surveyed between Nov. 1 and Nov. 3, 42 percent said they sided with Clinton and 38 percent went with Trump, making the race a tie when you factor in the 4-point margin of error. Real Clear Politics switched Michigan to a “toss up” state shortly after Friday’s poll was released.
Trump supporters waiting in line in Grand Rapids were skeptical of the poll numbers that put their candidate behind in previous weeks.
“I really don’t think anything’s changed for Donald Trump over the last couple of weeks,” said Kathy Dwan of Freeland, who came to Grand Rapids for the rally. “I think the pollsters and the people in the media haven’t gotten it right. I don’t think they’ve sent people out here on the ground. They can make all the phone calls they want and try to pull people, but I’ve personally met people — a 74-year-old man who’s never voted in his life. He’s registered in voting. An 87-year-old woman has voted Democrat her entire life and cast her ballot for Donald Trump. It’s out there, they just didn’t tap into it, trust me.”
When asked why he thought Trump was capping off his campaign in Michigan, supporter Brice Genrich of Grand Rapids said the candidate “believes he’s going to win Michigan. And I think Michiganders support him.”
If Trump does win Michigan, it will be the first time the state has gone red in a presidential election since voting for President George H. W. Bush in 1988. Supporters say he can do it.
“I think the urgency is there and the need is there,” another supporter, Tony Vadino of Ann Arbor, said. “I think there’s 4 or 5 points on the Republican side that nobody’s looking at.”
“I’ve been telling all my friends for six months that this is going to be a landslide,” he added.
For both Clinton appearing at GVSU Monday afternoon and Trump in Sterling Heights Sunday and Grand Rapids Monday night, the eleventh-hour campaign stops in Michigan are about turning out the vote, according to 24 Hour News 8 political reporter Rick Albin. They wanted to secure Michigan’s electoral votes as part of a path to 270 on the nationwide map.
“If we win Michigan, we will win this historic election,” Trump said in Grand Rapids.
It was not the time to unleash a new concept or vision for America. Candidates reiterated what they have said for months. Clinton talked about affordable college, an economy that works for everyone and equal opportunity and pay. Trump’s camp promised to build a wall along the border with Mexico, lower taxes, generate jobs and get rid of Obamacare. But their promises were laced with a tone of finality.
–24 Hour News 8’s Evan Dean and political reporter Rick Albin contributed to this report.