Trump set to return to Michigan, looks to energize his base for November

Former President Donald Trump is scheduled to return to Michigan Saturday with Republicans in the state hoping he can motivate his base of supporters and help secure Macomb County, a key area the GOP needs to win in November.

Trump will speak at 7 p.m. Saturday night at the Macomb County Community College Sports and Expo Center in Warren. It will be his first rally in Michigan since April 2 and will take place 38 days before the Nov. 8 election.

The event will be helpful to GOP candidates because Trump has a unique ability to activate a segment of the state's electorate, argued Jamie Roe, a Republican political consultant who resides in Macomb County.

"We are in base voter activation mode," Roe said. "And this most certainly will activate Republican voters to get out and vote."

Republican nominee for governor Tudor Dixon, who's challenging Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, is slated to speak at the rally along with GOP secretary of state candidate Kristina Karamo and GOP attorney general nominee Matt DePerno.

Trump previously endorsed all three: Dixon, Karamo and DePerno.

But Whitmer's campaign has maintained a significant fundraising edge over Dixon and a lead in polls. Whitmer was up by 13 percentage points, according to an Aug. 29 through Sept. 1 survey by The Detroit News and WDIV-TV. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The same poll found Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel to have a 6-point lead over DePerno and Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to have an 11-point lead over Karamo.

Trump did a Thursday interview on WOOD Radio's "West Michigan Live." Host Justin Barclay asked Trump if he would run for president again in 2024.

"In my mind, I've made a decision," Trump replied. "I think people will be very happy. ... As far as announcing, it won't be in the very long term."

Trump won Michigan by less than 1 percentage point over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 but lost the state to Democrat Joe Biden by 3 points in 2020. In both contests, Trump won Macomb County, the state's third largest county. In 2016 and 2020, Macomb was a frequent focus on his campaigning.

But in 2018, when Whitmer won her first term over Republican Bill Schuette by 9 points statewide, she claimed Macomb by 3 points.

Eric Castiglia, chairman of the Republican Party of Macomb County, said his hope is that Dixon, a political commentator and businesswoman from Norton Shores, takes the county back in November.

"We are going to set the tone of how to win races,” said Castiglia, whose group that's been involved in a local struggle for GOP power.

Volunteers working with his organization have already knocked on 23,000 doors and made 86,000 phone calls, he said.

If Dixon wants any chance to win against Whitmer, she has to win Macomb County, Roe said.

“I think she’s working to do that,” he added.

But Joe DiSano of the political consulting firm DiSano Strategies, who's a Democrat and a Macomb County native, said Whitmer had already put the work in and would win Macomb.

"It’s just a question of how bad the loss is,” DiSano said, referring to Dixon.

Michigan Republicans are now attempting to turn out the base and stop the bleeding, DiSano said.

In addition to the races at the top of ticket, down-ballot contests for the state House and state Senate in Macomb County could help determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the chambers in 2023 and 2024.

There's also a competitive U.S. House race in recently redrawn District 10 that includes a large portion of Macomb County between former U.S. Senate candidate John James and Democrat Carl Marlinga. James is expected to speak at Saturday's rally.

The Macomb County Community College Sports and Expo Center, where the event will take place, has "seating capacity for more than 4,000 guests," according to its website.

Trump's last rally in April also was in Macomb County, but before a crowd of more than 5,000 people at the Michigan Stars Sport Center in Washington Township. During that speech, the former president targeted Whitmer, Benson and Nessel on issues that included state-ordered shutdowns during the pandemic, the threatened closure of Line 5 and Benson's moves ahead of the 2020 election.

He critcizied Benson for her mailing of unsolicited ballot applications to Michigan voters, signature verification guidance that was overturned by a judge post-election, and the acceptance of third party donations toward election operations. While a judge did overturn Benson’s signature verification guidance on administrative grounds, other courts upheld Benson’s mailing of ballot applications and the acceptance of third party donations.

Trump also brought up how Whitmer's husband tried to use his position to try to get a boat in the water in May 2020 during the early depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. The owner of a Northern Michigan dock company said Marc Mallory placed in the water before the Memorial Day weekend as Whitmer urged residents not to rush to the region.

“I want to see what this guy looks like,” Trump said then of Whitmer’s husband. “He must be a handsome son of a bitch to get away with that.”

Whitmer defended her husband at the time the boat incident became public by saying he "made a failed attempt at humor."

The former president trained his fire on Whitmer and Nessel over Line 5, the 68-year-old pipeline that carries about 540,000 barrels of light crude and natural gas liquids that serve as a propane source to the Upper Peninsula and lower Michigan after it is processed in Sarnia, Ontario.

Whitmer and Nessel have sought to close Line 5 in federal and state courts but have met resistance. Legal proceedings have dragged as Canadian officials have sought talks with Biden administration officials because they argue closing the pipeline would violate a treaty.

“They tried to shut down Line 5 pipeline that provides 55% of all propane gas in the state of Michigan,” Trump said. “They want to close it. What the hell are they gonna do when it's closed? It's crazy.”

Environmental allies of Whitmer have argued that supplies of fuel could be maintained with a minimal increase in price.