PONTIAC, Mich. — Donald Trump Jr. led a cavalcade of #MAGA celebrities into a key midterm election battleground to fire up the Republican base and stave off a Democratic tide poised to flip control of the House of Representatives.
The “Protecting the American Dream” rally near Detroit, with appearances by musicians Kid Rock and Ted Nugent, was organized by John James, the Republican hoping to upset Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. But President Trump’s eldest son delivered a message that was about much more than an uphill Senate race. Trump Jr. sounded the alarm about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., with the speaker’s gavel and looked ahead to his father’s 2020 re-election bid.
“In 2016, you all believed in my father, Michigan believed in my father,” said Trump Jr., with girlfriend and campaign companion Kimberly Guilfoyle at his side. “Well, guess what? He’s delivered time and time again.”
“We need you guys to fight with us, we need you guys to stay energized, we need you guys to bring friends, to make calls, to stay in this game, because I want to keep this winning going,” Trump Jr. said.
Less than three weeks before Election Day, Republicans are under pressure in Michigan, a state that voted GOP for president in 2016 for the first time in decades.
There are few signs that the compelling and charismatic James, an Army combat veteran and small business owner, is threatening Stabenow; Republican gubernatorial nominee, state attorney general Bill Schuette, is an underdog — and two GOP-held House seats in the Detroit suburbs, the 8th District, held by Rep. Mike Bishop, and the open 11th District, are in danger of falling to the Democrats.
Trump is fighting back, embarking on a near-daily swing across the country, holding #MAGA rallies in critical states to fire up the faithful and turn them out on Nov. 6, and dispatching his team of top surrogates, led by Trump Jr., to additional battlegrounds. The president and his party are working aggressively to counter the super-charged Democratic enthusiasm that has been a hallmark of the 2018 campaign.
“When you go to vote, you’ve got to identify some complacent neighbors,” Chris Cox, the leader of “Bikers for Trump” said as he warmed up the crowd in Pontiac. Cox said his grassroots organization was headed to Missouri next to turn out votes for the Republican Senate nominee there, state attorney general Josh Hawley.
“This is the most important election in our lifetime,” said Bishop, who joined the warm-up act of speakers ahead of Trump Jr., Kid Rock, and James’ keynote speech. “Stop Nancy Pelosi … Stop California and New York from trying buying this state.” The congressman is facing a stiff challenge from Democrat Elissa Slotkin, a veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency.
But as seen across the country, Republicans here are more engaged and interested in participating on Nov. 6 than they were just after Labor Day, before they were awakened by the partisan confirmation of newly minted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The James rally, originally slated for a theater in downtown Pontiac, was moved nearby to a larger venue to accommodate the intense interest. His campaign said it received 5,500 RSVPs for the event. A reliable crowd estimate was unavailable, but the allotted space was largely filled, and the crowd, many wearing Trump paraphernalia, was boisterous and stayed until the end.
In interviews, voters said they were more than pleased with Trump’s accomplishments. Some conceded that they would prefer the president ditch Twitter and some of his more provocative behavior, but none said his occasionally off-putting demeanor would in any way discourage them from voting for him again. Indeed, they eagerly looked forward to doing so.
Cathleen McCloskey, 58, donning a red baseball cap with “USA” on it, opened her interview with the Washington Examiner by saying: “And yes, I’m college educated,” a reference to the trouble Republicans are facing in the battle for the House because so many college-educated, suburban women are disenchanted with Trump’s leadership.
“He’s done exceptionally well. I think that he’s actually done better than I expected,” McCloskey said. “He fulfills his campaign promises. I always thought, in my lifetime, that a businessman would be better in the presidential seat than anybody else and I think that he has demonstrated that there’s a need for somebody with a business mind versus a politician.”
Trump Jr. tried to appeal to these voters Wednesday night. “What’s the Democrat platform? It’s resistance, it’s outrage," he said. Well guess what boys and girls, I’m more about results than I am about resistance. And results speak for themselves.”