GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD/AP) — President Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail in Michigan tonight holding his first “Make America Great Again Rally“ since the release of the Mueller Report.
The area around former President Gerald Ford’s hometown has been very good to Trump, helping deliver him to the White House in 2016 with a victory in a blue state he wasn’t supposed to win.
Thursday night’s event is expected to celebrate the completion and findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The Democratic-leaning city and the historically Republican turf surrounding it in Kent County have seen a rise of Democratic activism and electoral success since Trump took office. Democrats also are benefiting from demographic changes, as the area has grown younger and more diverse, and there are signs the improving economy also could be helping them.
Last fall, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer won the governor’s race over a Trump-endorsed candidate with help from voters in Kent County. She was the first Democratic gubernatorial nominee to take the county since an incumbent won it in 1986. Democrats also picked up a longtime GOP-held state Senate seat and made gains on the county board.
But for all the enthusiasm among Democrats, Trump’s supporters could be newly energized by the Mueller investigation ending with no evidence of collusion with Russia.
“Democrats are in a pickle and they put themselves here” by trumpeting the investigation, said Brian “Boomer” Patrick, communications director for Republican U.S. Rep Bill Huizenga. “All the eggs were in one basket on the Mueller report.”
Trump campaign officials acknowledge that they face a battle holding the states Trump swung away from Democrats in 2016, including Michigan and Wisconsin, and that Trump’s likeliest path to victory in 2020 almost requires them to do it.
Still, they insist that the lesson of the 2018 midterms is that Trump’s core supporters are still enthusiastic about him — as evidenced by several victories in races in which the president invested his time. And in 2020, Trump himself will be atop the ballot and actively campaigning.
“There’s nobody that excites and unites voters like President Trump. He brings in new voters that would never be involved in politics,” Republican National Committee spokesman Rick Gorka said. “When you have that bully pulpit, and Air Force One lands in your state, it moves people and it moves numbers.”
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)