Looking for 2016 repeat, Trump shares dark closing message in Grand Rapids, threatens to fire Michigan GOP chair

By: - November 3, 2020 6:34 am

U.S. President Donald Trump exits a press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on September 25, 2019 in New York City. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday that the House will launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Donald Trump closed out his 2020 reelection campaign in Grand Rapids with a dark message Monday night, looking for a repeat of his upset victory from 2016.

“Joe Biden is promising to delay the vaccine and turn America into a prison state. He’s looking you in the face and he’s locking you in your home while letting rioters, Antifa, the radical left run down your streets, riot in your streets, burn down your stores, beat you over your head – and they’re allowed to do that, but you can’t go to your church, you can’t have dinner with your family, but you’re allowed to protest and riot,” Trump said.

Most of that is false or a misrepresentation. Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has said that he would follow the advice of scientists on developing a vaccine. The GOP president promised a vaccine would be ready before Election Day, which didn’t happen. 

Biden also has repeatedly denounced riots, while Trump blasted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for investigating an incident in Texas in which a caravan of his supporters allegedly tried to run a Biden campaign bus off the road.

“Folks, that’s not who we are,” Biden said on Sunday in response. “We are so much better than this. We’re so much better than this. It’s not who we are.”


Trump spoke into the early hours of Tuesday, marking the start of Election Day in the United States.

It’s a repeat of the end to his 2016 campaign, when he also held a rally in Grand Rapids that lasted until after 1 a.m. on Election Day. 

Vice President Mike Pence referenced that 2016 rally during the event Monday night.

“We’ll never forget being in Grand Rapids four years ago tonight,” Pence said. “The clock ticked past midnight, it was Election Day 2016, the president spoke ‘til about 1:30 in the morning, and he walked up to me after he walked off the stage, he looked at a crowd just like this one, he slapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Mike, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t look like second place.’ And it still doesn’t. Michigan did it before, and I know Michigan’s going to do it again.”

Trump went on to narrowly win Michigan by 10,704 votes in 2016 over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump said he made the call to again end his campaign in the city because he is looking for a repeat of that victory. He also kicked off his presidential campaign there in March 2019.


“It’s funny, though, I kept saying we have to finish off here,” Trump said. “We have to do it. It’s just that we can be a little bit superstitious, right?” 

Trump predicted that he would have a lead with voters casting their ballots on Election Day.

“We’re going to have a red wave,” Trump said. “They call it the great red wave. Like nobody’s ever seen before.”

But that doesn’t account for millions of voters who have already cast absentee ballots – those results will likely take longer for some states to report.

Trump again attempted to undermine the legitimacy of absentee ballots during the rally Monday night, even though he voted absentee in Florida.

“We’re going to be careful, though, because the Pennsylvania decision – oh, you can count the ballots later on and count them whenever you’d like,” Trump said. “No, no, we have to be very, very careful with that, that causes a lot of problems.”


Trump has reportedly made plans to declare victory if it looks like he is ahead on election night, even if millions of ballots are still uncounted, although he’s denied the reports. His campaign has since put out a statement saying that Democrats will try to “create a smoke screen” by not conceding the race until absentee ballots have been counted in an attempt to “delegitimize Election Day results,” even though standard election practice for both parties has been to wait for all votes to be counted in close elections.

Should he lose the election, Trump said he would not return to the Mitten State.

“Look, you can’t let this happen to our country, OK?” Trump said. “I can’t believe this is even happening. It puts much more pressure on me running against a guy like this. You know if you lost to somebody that was good, can you imagine, the concept of losing to this guy? You better, you better get out there and vote tomorrow. I’ll be so angry, I’ll never come back to Michigan; I’ll never come back.”

Trump asked Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox if he would win the state, and added that if he loses “we will fire you so fast.”

Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox with Vice President Mike Pence in Saginaw, Dec. 18, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Trump, who is reportedly concerned about potentially facing increased scrutiny from prosecutors if he loses the election, falsely said that the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the impeachment hearings came back “no collusion, there’s no collusion” which makes him “perhaps the most innocent man anywhere in the history of the United States.”

The president once again attacked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a frequent target of his attacks even after a foiled extremist right-wing plot to kidnap and possibly kill her, on the false premise that Michigan’s economy and schools are not reopened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It would be nice if your governor would open up the state,” Trump said. “Open up your schools, open up the state, get back to business.”

Michigan has not had a stay-home order in place since June, most businesses are allowed to operate, and schools are allowed to have in person instruction should the district choose to do so.


The crowd once again chanted “lock her up” in response to the president’s attacks, a recurring event at the president’s recent rallies in the state.

Trump, who is often highly active on Twitter, said that he doesn’t tweet, he does social media.

“They say don’t tweet, forget tweet, it’s called social media,” Trump said. “If we didn’t have social media, I’d have no voice, we wouldn’t be here, I have no choice. They say, ‘gee, we wish he wouldn’t do so much tweeting.’ I don’t do tweeting, what I do is social media.”

The president added that he often trends on Twitter because he is frequently in the news.

“They have me trending every day on Twitter, trending. They make up these stories, phony stories, they put up stories, or they’ll take an old story, make it as bad – number one trend,” Trump said. “Like, some really boring story, you know, trending is like, got to be cool, right? I’m trending No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, every one negative, negative, negative.”

Pence returned to a similar campaign slogan from the last presidential election, saying that the administration is still working on “draining the swamp” in Washington, D.C.


“It’s going to take at least four more years to drain that swamp,” Pence said. “Oh, we’re draining it. Just, like the president says, a little deeper than we thought it was. We’re draining it, though. We found the plug, and we’re going to pull it tomorrow.”

The Grand Rapids stop was Trump’s fifth of the final week of campaigning. He was previously in Lansing on Oct. 27, Waterford Township on Friday, Washington on Sunday and Traverse City earlier in the day Monday. Pence held a rally in Flint on Wednesday.

Biden was in Michigan on Saturday for drive-in rallies with former President Barack Obama in Flint and Detroit – their first public appearances together of the 2020 election cycle.

Biden’s running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), plans to visit Detroit on Tuesday. 

Polls are open in Michigan from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a regular contributor to the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.