President Trump and Vice President Pence are returning to Michigan this week, trying to beef up support in the critical battleground state with less than three weeks to go until Election Day.
Pence’s visit to Michigan on Wednesday marks the first time he or Mr. Trump have been in the state since the president rallied near Saginaw on September 10. On Saturday, Mr. Trump will be traveling to Muskegon in west Michigan. The latest CBS News Battleground Tracker poll shows Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leading Mr. Trump in the state, 52% to 46% among likely voters.
Michigan was part of a trio of states the president flipped in 2016, along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, that helped propel him to the White House. He won Michigan by a razor-thin 10,704 votes, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to win the state since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
The president and vice president will both be visiting west Michigan. Mr. Trump’s visit to Muskegon on Saturday is in a county that is typically solidly for Democrats, but the president did well here in 2016, losing by just 1.5 points in 2016 after Barack Obama won by 29 points in 2008 and 18 points in 2012.
Pence will be visiting Kent County, a longtime Republican stronghold, where Democrats have had success in recent elections due to changing demographics and the rejection of the president’s politics by some independent and suburban voters. But the surrounding areas in west Michigan are still solidly Republican territory and the visits by both candidates give them a chance to bolster support among the base, and they’re hoping to secure the support of some voters who may be leaning away from the president.
With the march toward Election Day and more than 1 million votes already cast in Michigan, one of the factors that could determine Mr. Trump’s fate in the Great Lakes State is whether voters choose to back his re-election effort, even if they don’t like his behavior.
In Michigan, about a third of those who say they are voting for President Trump also say they dislike the way the president handles himself.
Jacque Hinds, who owns Blooms By Jacqueline in Kent City doesn’t like either candidate, but she plans to vote for the president because she opposes abortion rights.
“I don’t know what (Trump) says is true. I don’t know what to believe and I guess sometimes when he speaks things that he says aren’t very polite,” said Hinds. “I’m just not a fan of him as a person.”
The majority of these voters (66%) say things in America are going badly and are more likely to rate the state’s economy as at least fairly bad.
Trump voters who don’t like the way he handles himself are more likely than Trump voters who do like him to be worried about catching the coronavirus. They are also much more critical about the way the president handled his recent diagnosis.
When it comes to recent protests, these voters largely support the president’s response, though most (56%) only somewhat agree.
Overall, these voters are slightly weaker in their support for the president. Nearly two-thirds say their support for the president is “very strong,” compared to 78% of Trump voters overall who say the same.
While they don’t love everything about the president, they do think he is a strong leader who can handle a crisis. However, just four in 10 describe him as honest and trustworthy. They are also less likely to say he cares about people or has good judgment than those who like the way he handles himself.
Like other Trump voters in the state, these people are highly focused on the economy and believe Trump’s policies are helping it recover.
And while the state is deadlocked on whether Mr. Trump or Joe Biden would better handle the economy, Trump voters (even ones who don’t like the way he handles himself) overwhelmingly pick the president. That could help the president with voters who may be leaning towards Biden or remain undecided.
“I don’t like the things that Donald Trump has to say about women, about minorities, about different ethnic groups. I think it’s very inappropriate,” said Kim Hensley, a financial adviser from Sparta Township, who voted for a third-party candidate in 2016 and is undecided. “But I think he is appropriate to lead an economy and grow. He’s a businessman, so I agree with that.”
Tim Shangle, a Sparta resident who works at a local bank, gave his vote to Mr. Trump in 2016, but right now he’s not sure whether he’ll support the president in November. He thinks Biden is more presidential but likes Mr. Trump’s business background.
“I do like the way the economy’s going,” Shangle said. “But (Trump’s) demeanor and his reaching across the aisle I think could be much greatly improved.”
More than 2.85 million Michigan voters have requested absentee ballots for the upcoming election. Michigan’s secretary of state has projected a record 3 million people or more may vote absentee during the general election. The current record was 1.6 million absentee votes, which were cast during the August primary.
Like Trump voters overall, half of his supporters in Michigan say they prefer to vote in person on Election Day, while 39% say they’d prefer to vote by mail or absentee ballot.
“My parents are older and they’ve already voted ahead of time and I understand that,” said Ken Traxler, a Trump supporter from Comstock Park. “I’m going to vote in-person.”