Hillary Clinton at GVSU blasts Trump's 'dark, divisive' vision

Hillary Clinton held a rally Monday, Nov. 7, at Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus.

ALLENDALE, MICH. - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, visiting suburban Grand Rapids on the eve of Tuesday's election, told a college crowd that she often doesn't recognize the country described by her opponent, Republican Donald Trump.

Trump has "a dark and divisive vision for America," Clinton said at the Grand Valley State University Fieldhouse in Allendale, a few hours before Trump was scheduled to visit nearby Grand Rapids, with Michigan emerging as a pivotal state in the final days of a bitter campaign.

"I know we've got problems," Clinton said, but "since when do we become pessimistic?" and decide Americans can't solve problems together, she asked.

"Our core values are being tested in this election. But my faith in our future has never been stronger," she said. To heal the country after Tuesday, "we've got to start listening to each other, respecting each other."

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The university arena where Clinton spoke for 35 minutes seats a little more than 4,000 people. Some bleachers were not in use to allow for a press area. But with the seating area full, more than 1,000 supporters filled the floor area. Many in the crowd were students who chanted "Hillary" and hoisted signs in support of Clinton.

Clinton got some of her loudest cheers Monday when she voiced her support for LGBT rights, clean energy and "equal pay for women's work," and relief from the high cost of tuition and student loan debt.

"I'm proud of the campaign Bernie Sanders and I ran," Clinton said of the Vermont senator who challenged her for the Democratic nomination and drew huge support among young people. "When it was over, we actually got together."

As Michigan was emerging as a critical state in the presidential election, some observers said western Michigan -- where both Clinton and Trump were campaigning Monday -- could determine whether Clinton or Trump wins the state and its 16 electoral votes.

Though western Michigan is generally thought of as a Republican stronghold, it's not monolithic. The City of Grand Rapids has a strong Democratic base, and in 2008 President Barack Obama won Kent County, which includes Grand Rapids, defeating Republican John McCain there by about 1,500 votes. In 2012, Michigan native Mitt Romney won Kent County with about 53% of the vote, compared to 46% for Obama.

Though she was only a few miles from the Grand Rapids border, Clinton campaigned in Allendale, which is in Ottawa County, a much more solidly Republican area than Kent: McCain beat Obama 61% to 37% there in 2008, and Romney beat Obama by an even wider margin there in 2012, 67% to 33%.

No Republican presidential candidate has won Michigan since George H. W. Bush in 1988.

Clinton pledged not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year and promised tax cuts for small businesses. She criticized Trump's tax plan as one that would mostly benefit the wealthy.

One self-described undecided voter was hoping to attend both the Clinton and Trump events Monday before casting her vote on Tuesday.

"What are the chances of having both presidential candidates in Michigan on the same day?" asked Mary Redford, 25, a law student at Western Michigan University who was waiting in line to see Clinton.

She said she planned to attend the Trump rally, scheduled for 11 p.m. in Grand Rapids, "if I'm awake."

Redford said both candidates "have pros and cons."

She said it's important that Clinton is the first female presidential candidate from a major party, and that she's experienced and knowledgeable.

But she also likes the fact that Trump is "business savvy and different," she said.

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon, a former state representative from Grand Rapids, said Monday that polls suggest Trump is not performing as well as he needs to in western Michigan, and the Clinton campaign hopes to take advantage of that.

"This area has been trending a little bit more Democratic in the last few cycles, and you have a large contingent of college-educated women" who could find it difficult to back Trump, Dillon said.

Also, Trump's economic message -- focused on the loss of manufacturing jobs and the need to renegotiate international trade deals -- may not play as well in western Michigan, where the economy is booming, as it does in some other parts of the state, Dillon said.

John Inhulsen, chairman of the Kent County Republican Party, said "I think Kent County is going to be the turning point for Michigan this time," with Trump winning big in Macomb County and Clinton winning Oakland County, and western Michigan needing to ring up votes for Trump to give him a chance for victory.

Also, "I do think that as Michigan goes, the national election is going to go," Inhulsen told the Free Press Monday.

Inhulsen said it will come down to the ground game and which party does a better job of getting its supporters to the polls. As for Trump's economic message, workers in some parts of western Michigan have been hurt by the loss of manufacturing jobs, he said.

Trump has an 11 p.m. rally scheduled at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.

Detroit Free Press


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