President Trump returned to Michigan this week to rally support in a state that helped him win the presidency four years ago. Speaking before a crowd of mostly maskless supporters, Trump took aim at one of his favorite targets: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Earlier this year, as the upper Midwest faced an intense coronavirus outbreak, Trump frequently railed against Whitmer on Twitter, referring to her contemptuously as “that woman in Michigan.” But as the Democratic governor stood firm on lockdown orders aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, Trump tweeted to supporters to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” in an all-caps. Subsequently, several protestors stormed the Michigan statehouse, with faces and weapons exposed. Trump later claimed he played no part in the protest, though insisted that the participants were “patriots” and “very good people.”
That was then. This month FBI agents foiled a plot by six members of a self-described militia, who had planned on kidnapping Gov. Whitmer and forcing her to, in their words, “stand trial.” Whitmer later accused the President of stoking fear and distrust in the state government with his “liberate” tweets. Trump showed little remorse, but he did seem to take credit for stopping the militiamen from attacking her.
“It was our people”
“I’m the one, it was our people that helped her out with her problem,” Trump said Tuesday before a cheering crowd in Lansing, Michigan. “I mean, we’ll have to see if it’s a problem, right? People are entitled to say maybe it was a problem, maybe it wasn’t,” Trump said while questioning just how dire the plot against Whitmer was. “And then she blamed me for it,” he added with incredulity.
Earlier in the rally, he mentioned the restrictions that the Michigan government put into place to curb the spread of COVID-19, triggering a refrain of “Lock her up!” from the crowd. The chant was reminiscent of a similar rallying cry from 2016, at the time used against rival Hillary Clinton. Trump made a point of not joining in on the chant.
“See, I don’t comment on that,” he told the crowd, “because every time I make just a little bit of a nod, they say, ‘the President led them.’ I don’t have to lead you.” The crowd continued to chant.
Trump went on to criticize his presidential opponent, Democrat Joe Biden, for endorsing more restrictive coronavirus measures. He told supporters that the choice was between a “Trump boom” and a “Biden lockdown.”
Still, Biden has maintained a steady if not narrow lead over Trump in Michigan at least since May. But while that may look like good news for Biden, four years ago, Hillary Clinton also had a lead in the state in the week before Election Day. In one of Election Night’s biggest surprises, Trump won the state with 47.6% of the vote, against Clinton’s 47.3%. It was the closest result of any state in that election. Stay tuned.