Donald Trump campaign closes with late-night Grand Rapids stop

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Writing a final chapter to one of the most divisive and unusual presidential campaigns in American history, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump held a late-night rally before a large and vocal crowd in Grand Rapids early Tuesday, taking the stage after midnight on Election Day to bash Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton and promise an American rebirth if he wins the election.

"We're hours away from a once in a lifetime change," Trump told the crowd. "We're going to bring back the automobile industry bigger and better and stronger than ever before."

Trump promised measures to stop U.S. auto companies from moving jobs overseas, said he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, cut taxes, and "build a wall" on the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration.

Staying mostly on script, Trump pledged to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which he has hammered in recent weeks after news of double-digit increases in health insurance premiums.

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And he promised to halt the Syrian refugee program, which he said will "import generations of terrorists."

"Today is our independence day," the New York real estate developer and reality TV star said to loud cheers.

Crowds lined up for blocks to enter the cavernous convention center, as mounted police from the sheriff;s department rode along Monroe Avenue. The Grand Gallery was full to capacity, which Grand Rapids Fire Chief John Lehman told the Free Press was 4,200 people. But Trump was about 90 minutes behind schedule and a steady stream of attendees headed for the exit as Trump spoke for just over 35 minutes.

"This is awesome," said Patrick Carbone, a nursing aide from Jenison, Mich. who works in a nursing home. "I think it's going to be a blowout" for Trump, he said of today's election.

Carbone likes the fact Trump is outspoken, and "a fighter." He said Trump is "going to make every effort" to bring more jobs to Michigan, but it will take a united effort because the country faces some serious economic problems.

If Trump wins on Tuesday, Carbone said he hopes the country will unite behind him, but "we'll have to wait and see." If Clinton wins, he doesn't think the country will unite behind her, because she is corrupt and "doesn't have any core," he said.

Trump's midnight rally marked a closing chapter in one of the most divisive and unusual presidential campaigns in U.S. history, featuring two candidates with high unfavorable ratings. Many voters have told pollsters they are not so much voting for one candidate as voting against the other. For much of the campaign, controversies over Trump's comments about minorities and immigrants and conduct with women, along with controversies over Clinton's handling of sensitive e-mails while secretary of state, pushed policy discussions to the sidelines.

Michigan was Trump's fifth and final stop Monday. He had three more events planned in Florida on Tuesday, said former Michigan congressman Pete Hoekstra, who emceed the Monday night rally in Grand Rapids.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump's running mate, took the stage ahead of Trump at midnight, saying "the American people have just had enough," and they've particularly had enough of Hillary Clinton, her husband Bill, and scandals surrounding the Clinton Foundation and Clinton's private e-mail server.

Michigan emerged in the closing days of the divisive presidential campaign as a pivotal state, with both campaigns and third-party groups that support them pouring millions into TV ads in Michigan and back-to-back candidate visits.

Earlier Monday, both the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, and President Barack Obama campaigned in Michigan -- her at Grand Valley State University near Grand Rapids and Obama in Ann Arbor. Both attacked Trump as unfit for the office of president.

If Michigan is a national battleground, western Michigan is shaping up as a key political skirmish area within the state.

Obama narrowly won Kent County, which includes Grand Rapids, in 2008, though Michigan native Mitt Romney carried Kent County in 2012. Democrats point to polls they say show Trump under-performing in western Michigan, and Clinton was in bright red Ottawa County Monday to try to exploit that perceived weakness.

"I think Kent County is going to be the turning point for Michigan this time around," and "as Michigan goes, the national election is going to go," said John Inhulsen, chairman of the Kent County Republican Party.

It will all come down to which campaign does a better job of getting its supporters to the polls, he said.

Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, addressed the Grand Rapids rally and noted Monday's visit was Trump's eighth visit to Michigan since the Republican convention, compared to four visits by Clinton.

"He was coming here when the pollsters and pundits said there was no chance to win that state ... because he cares about the people of Michigan," McDaniel said.

Detroit Free Press


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