ALLENDALE, Mich. (WOOD) — On the eve of the presidential election, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton brought her campaign to West Michigan, presenting a stark contrast between the America she says Donald Trump would create and her vision for the future.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan’s senior senator, warmed up the crowd of about 4,600 at Grand Valley State University’s Fieldhouse in Allendale. She encouraged supporters to get out and vote, saying that not voting was tantamount to giving up their power as citizens.
“Hillary, Hillary, Hillary,” the crowd chanted as the former secretary of state arrived on the stage.
“Are you ready to vote tomorrow, Michigan? Are you ready to help get your friends to vote tomorrow?” Clinton asked as the crowed cheered in the affirmative.
Clinton painted the election as one “between division and unity in our country.”
“It’s between strong and steady leadership or a loose cannon who could put everything at risk. It is between an economy that works for everyone or one that’s even more stacked at the top,” she continued.
>>Watch: Clinton’s remarks in Allendale
She invoked the name of West Michigan native President Gerald R. Ford, who she said she knew as a college student while interning in Washington. She said that though she hasn’t always agreed with other elected Republican, she never doubted their fitness to serve.
“That’s why this election is so different and it’s why so many Republicans have spoken out to endorse me and support me and who have taken very courageous stands against the nominee of their own party — because they believe that we must put country ahead of party when it comes to this election,” Clinton said.
She said that she didn’t recognize the “dark and divisive” country that Trump described during their three presidential debates.
“I know we’ve got problems. … We’ve got challenges, but America’s always had challenges. And since when do we become pessimistic and not able to think about what we can do to overcome those challenges and solve those problems together?” Clinton wondered.
She said voters could choose a “hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America that will set the stage for an even better future.”
Clinton said her America will protect the middle class, making “the biggest investment in good-paying jobs since World War II” — including in roads and bridges, ports, airports and water infrastructure.
“These are jobs we need doing in America and they are jobs that cannot be exported. They’ve got to be done right here in Michigan and across our country,” Clinton said.
She also promised to create high-skilled advanced manufacturing jobs, as well as jobs in clean, renewable energy “as a way to fight climate change.”
She said she witnessed jobs leaving upstate New York when she represented the area in the U.S. Senate.
“Anger is not a plan,” she said. “You’ve got to come together and figure out what it is we’re going to do to bring jobs back and create more opportunity for people.”
She said she would work to bring down the cost of child care and create a paid family leave program.
“I think it is way past time to guarantee equal pay for women’s work,” she added. “This is not just a women’s issue. It’s a family issue. If you have a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter who’s in the workforce, you want to her to be paid what she deserves to be paid to help your family.”
Clinton said that when she brings up those issues, Trump says she is ‘playing the woman’s card.’ “If that’s the case,” she said, “then deal me in!” she said as the crowd chanted along with what has become a rallying cry for her campaign.
SUPPORT FROM YOUNG VOTERS
In addition to the about 4,600 inside the Fieldhouse for Clinton’s speech, there was an overflow crowed of several hundred more outside. People lined up hours beforehand to attend Clinton’s 4 p.m. rally.
“We’re with her and she’s with us. We figured it would be a good idea to represent in line for her,” said John Martin, one of those who waited.
“I wanted to be one of the first people in line. I really want to see Hillary Clinton. I want to see what she’s saying, what she’s going to stand for and it’s something I’ve always felt passionately about and I just hope to see she wins the election,” said GVSU freshman Hannah Sage of Hudsonville, who is a first-time voter.
“I’m voting tomorrow,” Kenyana Jones, another GVSU student and Clinton supporter, said. “I’m just happy to see what Hillary’s going to say.”
A recent Harvard Institute of Politics poll showed Clinton leading Trump by 28 percent among voters between ages 18 and 29.
Brody Helms, also a GVSU student, went to the rally, but said Clinton would not get his vote regardless of what she said during the event. He said he went because the event was “a historic thing.”
“You get to be close to this person even if you support them or not,” he said.
>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of Decision 2016
The Monday visit marked Clinton’s first visit to West Michigan since she earned the Democratic presidential nomination. She last visited the area on March 7, when she toured Atomic Object on Wealthy Street SE before visiting Yesterdog to order lunch.
She’s hoping to pick up votes from Bernie Sanders supporters, who filled the same venue on March 4 to cheer him on during his presidential run. Since losing the primary, Sanders has thrown his support behind Clinton.
During her speech, she said that she worked with Sanders after she won the nomination to come up with a plan to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for everyone who makes less than $125,000 per year and debt-free for everyone else.
She said she would also help those already in debt “pay it down and pay it off.”
“It makes no sense at all,” that tuition interest rates are so high, she said. “That is outrageous. The federal government should not be making money off of sending kids to college.”
The crowd, which included many students, responded with raucous cheers.
Clinton concluded her remarks with an urge for her supporters to vote or volunteer with her campaign in the last hours of the campaign.
“When your kids and grandkids ask what you did in 2016, when everything was on the line, I hope you’ll be able to say that you voted for a better, stronger, fairer America,” she said. “An America where we build bridges, not walls. And an America where we prove that, yes, love trumps hate!”
ANALYSIS: WHY THE LAST-MINUTE CAMPAIGNING?
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 percent margin of error.
Real Clear Politics switched Michigan to a “toss up” state shortly after Friday’s poll was released, leaving 166 Electoral College votes up for grabs. Clinton currently holds 208 votes to Trump’s 164 votes. The candidate who captures at least 270 Electoral College wins the White House.
For both Clinton appearing at GVSU and Trump later wrapping his campaign in downtown Grand Rapids, the eleventh-hour campaign stops in Michigan are about turning out the vote, according to 24 Hour News 8 political reporter Rick Albin.
This was not the time to unleash a new concept or vision for America. The candidates reiterated what they have said for months. Clinton talked about affordable college, an economy that works for everyone — not just the rich — and equal opportunity and pay. Trump promised to build a wall along the border with Mexico, lower taxes, generate jobs and undo Obamacare. But their promises were laced with a tone of finality.
The campaigning was about securing Michigan’s electoral votes and getting to 270. Michigan likely won’t likely be the ultimate deciding factor in the race, but right now it’s clear that it’s going to be pivotal when the results come in Tuesday night.
A big crowd in Ann Arbor for President Barack Obama has Democrats feeling confident. Another big crowd greeted Clinton in Allendale. A packed house in Sterling Heights for Trump Sunday night and another in Grand Rapids Monday encouraged some Republican operatives who spoke to 24 Hour News 8.
Cate O’Connor was at the Clinton rally and, even though she said she had firmly decided to vote for Clinton, also intended to be at Trump’s event later in the day.
“I just want to get the feel for both rallies and see the differences and similarities and just be a part of history,” O’Connor said.
–24 Hour News 8 political reporter Rick Albin and Leon Hendrix contributed to this report.