With just more than two weeks to go before the United States presidential election, Democratic candidate Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are fighting over a battleground state that will be key to their respective paths to the White House: Michigan.
Biden made two campaign speeches in the midwestern state on Friday, urging voters to come out in strong numbers on November 3 and promising to invest in jobs and critical infrastructure if elected, while Trump held a campaign rally there on Saturday evening.
Stepping off the plane for the event in Muskegon, a city on the western edge of the state, about 65 kilometres (40 miles) from Grand Rapids, Trump was greeted by a large crowd of supporters, many of whom wore red Make America Great Again caps.
Trump struck a confrontational tone, stating unequivocally that he would win Michigan and secure four more years in the White House, and hitting out at some of his usual campaign speech targets: “the Left”, the media, and Biden.
“The radical left is eradicating our history and weak Joe Biden will let them do it,” Trump said.
“If you vote for me, prosperity will surge … and next year will be one of the greatest years in the history of our country,” he said.
In a statement earlier in the day, Biden said all Trump “is offering the people of Michigan is more lies and distractions – no plan to get the virus under control, no strategy for pulling our economy out of this recession, no vision for uniting the country”.
Trump narrowly won Michigan in 2016, edging out then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by just more than 10,000 votes – a margin of victory of only 0.3 percent.
His victory marked the first time the state, which former President Barack Obama won in 2012 by 9.5 percentage points, had been won by a Republican presidential candidate since George HW Bush won it in 1988.
The averages of major polls in the state have Biden leading Trump by 7.2 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics news site.
However, a recent public opinion poll commissioned by US news outlet The Hill showed Biden leading Trump in Michigan by 11 points, with 54 percent of voters saying they backed the former US vice president, compared with 43 percent who said they would vote for Trump.
“President Trump has made a lot of progress in Florida and (is) closing in there but he has a lot of ground to make up in key Midwestern states,” Hill/Harris polling director Mark Penn told The Hill.
“Biden is polling better with suburban and all-important older voters upset about the virus.”
Trump has also been strongly criticised by Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who said the president has fanned the flames of hatred and failed to denounce white supremacist groups.
Whitmer was recently the target of a kidnap plot allegedly orchestrated by an armed group of far-right fighters who law enforcement officials said were angered by Michigan’s COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures.
Biden on Friday called Trump’s reluctance to condemn white supremacists “stunning“, and called the kidnap plotters in Michigan “domestic terrorists”.
Trump rejected that criticism during an election campaign rally that same day, mockingly telling the crowd that, “it’s always Trump’s fault”.