DETROIT, MICH. - Confronted with a shrinking lead in the polls and the possibility of low voter turnout from key constituencies, Democrat Hillary Clinton was back in Detroit Friday to make sure her supporters make it to the polls on Tuesday.
Clinton asked the crowd to think ahead to January 20, 2017, when the next president is sworn into office, and what kind of country it will be.
"On January 20th, America is going to have a new president," she said. "A lot of people say they want change. I’ll tell you this, change is inevitable. The question is what kind of change will it be."
Her rally, which attracted thousands of people to Eastern Market, comes at a time when her lead in the polls has been gone from 11 points in early October to 4 points in a poll done by EPIC/MRA of Lansing for the Detroit Free Press and released on Friday.
It also comes as signs emerge that turnout, especially among African American voters that are key to a victory for Clinton in Michigan and other states across the country, might be lower than in 2008 and 2012, when Barack Obama was on the ballot. Absentee voting in Detroit is down more than 20,000 votes this year, than the 81,000 absentee ballots tallied in the city in 2012.
Her 35-minute speech was studded with reasons why African Americans should get out to the polls and vote for her, from the federal housing discrimination lawsuit filed against Trump and his father in the 1970s, to the full page ad Trump paid for calling for the death penalty for the "Central Park Five," a group of five young African Americans and Latinos who were convicted of a brutal rape, but later exonerated, to his continuing insults during the campaign against minorities, women and the disabled.
"He has a casual disregard for our constitution. We really are a nation of laws, not men," Clinton said. "Time and again, He has shown us who he is, we’ve got to decide who we are."
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has jumped on the shifting landscape of the election, making a trip to Michigan on Monday and sending surrogates, including three of his children and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence, to the state all week.
And there was a recognition that the race is tightening. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan told the crowd on Friday to remember what the country and Michigan was like eight years ago before a Democrat was elected to the White House, noting how the unemployment rate has consistently dropped and the 11 million Americans who have gotten health care coverage.
"There is an awful lot at stake," Duggan said. "This election is very close and for the first time in years, Michigan is in play. Michigan could decide the direction of this country ... Your vote does count and it does matter like never before."
He also blasted FBI director James Comey for announcing last week that the bureau would be reviewing more e-mails found on a computer owned by former Congressman Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
"You never impugn someone's reputation until you know you have probable cause," Duggan said.
Clinton also acknowledged that the race is close, telling the crowd that, "You have to vote. Our progress is on the line. Everything that has happened up to this point is on the line ... Michigan, you can make the difference."
Rachel Frierson, 29, of Detroit, said she hopes that people will come to that realization this weekend.
"I'm a little worried and I really want to make people understand that she should be our president," she said. "Voting for Obama was really important for the African American community and for milennials, but the thing about Hillary is that she's the best at her job. I don't care if I like you, I care about you being the best at your ob. I really hope that we're going to see this weekend that a lot of African Americans and a lot of millennials will realize that they can't live in a country where a bigot is president."
But U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Holland, said Clinton's late visit to Michigan, which has been a reliably Democratic state in presidential years since 1992, proves that Trump is resonating with voters.
“With Obamacare rates set to increase yet again, and the FBI conducting multiple investigations into Secretary Clinton, Michiganders are ready for change," he said in a statement. "Donald Trump is expanding the electoral map and putting Michigan in play by focusing on the issues that matter to Michigan."
Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau