Trump, Michigan Republicans put faith in 'MAGA movement' at Warren rally

Warren — Former President Donald Trump encouraged Michigan voters to support his slate of Republican candidates during a rally in Macomb County on Saturday, saying they could "save the day" in the battleground state.

Speaking inside the Macomb County Community College Sports and Expo Center in Warren, Trump was briefly joined on stage by Republican candidate for governor Tudor Dixon, attorney general hopeful Matt DePerno and Kristina Karamo, the GOP's nominee for secretary of state.

“These people hate our guts because they are terrified of this political movement,” Karamo said as Trump stood nearby.

“There is nothing they can do to stop this MAGA movement," Karamo added.

Trump said his political movement was standing up to "menacing forces." He spoke in front of a crowd of a few thousand people for about an hour and 40 minutes. He criticized Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, calling her a "radical abortionist," he targeted a handful of investigations into his actions and he even labeled some fellow Republicans as weak.

"Too many Republicans are weak and they’re afraid," Trump said at one point. "And they better get strong fast, or you’re not going to have a Republican Party.”

Trump discussed rising prices, energy costs and crime rates. He drew loud applause from the audience when he mentioned his 2016 victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton and his false claim that he won the 2020 election.

"Now, we might just have to do it again,” the former president said, referencing the possibility he could run for the White House again in 2024.

Talking to reporters, Dixon said her campaign was "within striking distance" of Whitmer.

The event took place 38 days before a pivotal election, in which the GOP is hoping to unseat three Democrats who control the executive branch of state government.

Dixon, a political commentator and businesswoman from Norton Shores, spoke for about 25 minutes before Trump took the stage at 7:15 p.m. Dixon used her speech to criticize Whitmer for running what she described as a "basement campaign" and vowed to make Michigan's schools the best in the nation.

"After all of the spending, we’re still within striking distance," Dixon told reporters afterward. "I think it means that our message is resonating and she doesn’t really have a message.”

Karamo said she was planning to use the event with Trump to energize supporters to go out and knock doors and talk to voters in her bid to unseat Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

"It galvanizes the troops," said Karamo, an educator from Oak Park. "It gets people involved. It helps spread the message."

Karamo, Dixon and DePerno, the Republican candidate facing Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel in the Nov. 8 general election, have all been endorsed by Trump and spoke at Saturday's rally.

The Democratic candidates have maintained leads in public polling. 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.

Dixon's running mate, former state Rep. Shane Hernandez, participated in a tailgate in a parking lot outside the rally Saturday afternoon.

Hernandez, R-Port Huron, said Trump's appearance would bring excitement to the Michigan campaigns and get the grassroots of the party involved.

"The message is what people are talking about at their kitchen table: education, public safety, the economy," Hernandez said.

Ads promoting Dixon would ramp up soon, Hernandez predicted. So far, Democrats have spent millions of dollars on TV commercials promoting Whitmer and criticizing Dixon's opposition to abortion in almost all cases, but Dixon's side has been relatively quiet.

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.

Trump has repeatedly made unproven claims that fraud cost him the 2020 race in Michigan. However, bipartisan boards of canvassers, a series of court rulings and investigation by the GOP-controlled state Senate Oversight Committee have upheld the result.

On Saturday night, Trump urged Dixon to be "careful." He claimed the U.S. was headed toward becoming a third-world country.

“If you look at the way they counted the ballots, remember the ballot counter is far more important today in our country than the candidate,” Trump said.

In a statement Saturday, the Michigan Democratic Party accused Dixon, whom Trump has endorsed, of having "a long history of pushing baseless lies about the integrity of the 2020 election."

"For years, Dixon has stoked public distrust in the democratic process and spread lies about Michigan’s elections with absolutely no proof to back up her claims," the party's statement said.

Ammar Moussa of the Democratic National Committee said the event was "a reminder of how beholden today’s Republican Party is to Donald Trump’s MAGA (Make America Great Again) agenda."

"Every single Republican on stage with Trump has endorsed his Big Lie that incited an attack on our Capitol in an attempt to defy the will of nearly 3 million Michiganders," Moussa said, referencing deniers of the 2020 election outcome.

But Jack Lodato of Eastpointe said he came to Saturday's rally to support Trump, whom he described as "my president."

He was wearing a shirt that suggested Trump would run again, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as his running mate, in 2024.

"I believe he's going to run. And I think he's going to win," Lodato said.

Also, waiting to enter the venue Saturday was Sharon Anderson, a retiree who traveled from Tennessee. Anderson said it was her 29th Trump rally and she camped outside three nights in anticipation of the event.

Anderson said she came to support "the best president in the history of this country."

There were other Trump allies from out of state, including My Pillow founder Mike Lindell and Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, in Macomb County on Saturday.

"I am traveling to as many of these rallies and to as many states as I can to support Republicans because I cannot believe what has happened to our country in less than two years," Taylor Greene told reporters.

DePerno predicted the Trump's rally would have a "significant impact" on the Michigan races.

Trump coming to the state would provide "at least a 4-point swing in terms of public perception or polling," DePerno said.

"It will energize the base to get out there over the next 39 days or so and work very hard, knocking on doors, making phone calls, passing out literature and connecting with the voters," DePerno said.

Trump last visited Michigan on April 2 for a rally in Washington Township.