WATERFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Joe Biden enters the final weekend of the presidential campaign with an intense focus on appealing to Black voters whose support will be critical in his bid to defeat President Donald Trump.
The Democratic presidential nominee is teaming up with his former boss, Barack Obama, for a swing through Michigan on Saturday. They’ll hold drive-in rallies in Flint and Detroit, predominantly Black cities where strong turnout will be essential to return this longtime Democratic state to Biden’s column after Trump won here in 2016.
The memories of Trump’s upset win in Michigan and the rest of the upper Midwest are still searing in the minds of many Democrats during this closing stretch. That leaves Biden in the position of holding a consistent lead in the national polls and an advantage in most battlegrounds, including Michigan, yet still facing anxiety that it could all slip away.
Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat who represents the Flint area, said he had been pressing for a couple of months for Biden or Obama to visit Flint, a city bedeviled by a water crisis that began in 2014 and sickened the city’s residents, exposing stark racial inequities.
“Showing up matters,” Kildee said. “The message is important, no question about it. But there’s a message implicit in showing up, especially in Flint. This is a community that has felt left behind many, many times and overlooked many, many times.”
“It’s a message to the people here that they matter, their vote matters,” Kildee said. “I think that helps.”
R&B legend Stevie Wonder will perform in Detroit on Saturday after Biden and Obama speak.
The press for Michigan’s Black voters comes after voting was down roughly 15% in Flint and Detroit four years ago — a combined 48,000-plus votes in a state Trump carried by about 10,700 votes. Overall, the Black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6% in 2016 after reaching a record-high 66.6% four years earlier, according to the Pew Research Center.
Some Democrats say the dynamic is different this year. Jonathan Kinloch leads the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party, which includes parts of Detroit, and expressed confidence that Black voters will turn out for Biden.
“This is not 2016,” said Kinloch, who is Black. “People are motivated. People are energized and ready to right the wrong of 2016.”
But Trump isn’t ceding Michigan to Biden. He visited Waterford Township, near Detroit, on Friday and held a rally in the state capital of Lansing earlier in the week.
While Biden is expected to win the vast majority of Black voters in next week’s election, Trump has also courted them and hopes to shave into Democrats’ historic advantage in the community.
In his Michigan visits, Trump argued that he’s been a better steward of their interests, while pillorying the state’s Democratic governor over restrictions in the state she’s implemented to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed more than 229,000 Americans nationally and infected more than 9 million.
Trump argued that he had followed through on promoting trade policies that have benefited Michigan’s auto industry over the last four years. And although Obama steered about $80 billion to bail out General Motors and Chrysler, Trump argued that he and Biden didn’t do enough to help manufacturing workers when the Great Recession jolted the auto industry a decade ago.
“At every turn Biden twisted the knife into the back of Michigan workers and workers all over the country,” Trump said at his rally in Waterford on Friday. “In 2016, Michigan voted to fire this corrupt political establishment, and you elected an outsider as president.”
With the election down to the final days, Trump’s closing sprint includes four stops in Pennsylvania on Saturday and nearly a dozen events in the final 48 hours across states he carried in 2016.
Biden will close out his campaign on Monday in Pennsylvania, the state where he was born and the one he’s visited more than any other in his campaign. The Biden team announced that Biden, his wife, Jill, his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, and her husband, Doug Emhoff, plan to “fan out across all four corners of the state.”
The former vice-president campaigned in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin on Friday. Trump also visited Minnesota and Wisconsin in addition to his stop in Michigan on Friday.
Biden campaigned in Iowa for the first time since the state’s Democratic caucuses more than eight months ago. Trump easily won the state in 2016, but polls show a competitive race with days to go.
Biden noted as he spoke at a drive-in rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds that, for the first time since World War II, the iconic state fair had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.
He pledged to enact a plan to halt the spread of the virus and told the crowd, to honks from the cars gathered, “unlike Donald Trump, we will not surrender to the virus.”
Eggert reported from Lansing, Mich., and Madhani reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe in Des Moines, Iowa, and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.
AP’s Advance Voting guide brings you the facts about voting early, by mail or absentee from each state: https://interactives.ap.org/advance-voting-2020/
David Eggert, Aamer Madhani And Kevin Freking, The Associated Press