Trump predicts victory in election battleground Michigan as thousands defy coronavirus safety rules

Trump predicts victory in election battleground Michigan as thousands defy coronavirus safety rules

FREELAND, Mich. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump predicted at a rally in Michigan on Thursday that he would win the election battleground state as thousands of cheering, largely maskless supporters defied state guidelines aimed at containing the novel coronavirus.

“This is not the crowd of a guy who comes in second place,” Trump told men, women and children – many wearing red “Make America Great Again” T-shirts and hats – as he stood in front of the presidential aircraft Air Force One at an airport near Midland, Michigan.

Trump campaign officials say that in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election, they are planning to spend “massive amounts” of time in Michigan, an industrial state that along with Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, helped propel Trump to victory in 2016.

Trump campaign deputy national press secretary Samantha Zager said Trump was tapping into “organic enthusiasm from those who are disillusioned with career politicians like Joe Biden,” and would attract new voters to “expand an already broad coalition of support.”

Biden visited Michigan on Wednesday, hammering Trump over his taped comments to Washington Post writer Bob Woodward in which he said he was purposely downplaying the threat of the virus to avoid public panic.

Biden also unveiled an “offshoring tax penalty” on profits from products made overseas and sold in the United States, taking a page out of Trump’s trade playbook.

The two politicians have widely divergent views on nearly everything, but both agree on the need to bring back manufacturing supply chains to the United States from China, and Biden is likely to keep many of Trump’s tariffs in place initially if he were elected.

Trump criticized Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions, saying she “doesn’t have a clue” about reopening the state’s economy, drawing cheers from the crowd.

Whitmer’s office had no immediate comment on the size of the crowd, which appeared to violate state rules here against gatherings of more than 50 people.

Greg Fernandez, 63, who works in real estate, said he was not wearing a mask at the rally because he had “already had” the virus, “so I’m good.” Fernandez said he expected Trump to win Michigan handily, adding: “No more globalists, no more new world order. We need a businessman to run our country, and he’s done a great job.”

Reuters