ANN ARBOR, MICH. - In a 25-minute-long speech to a crowd full of younger voters, President Barack Obama this afternoon made his closing argument for electing Democrat Hillary Clinton as his successor, calling Republican Donald Trump unfit to be president and saying his administration's successes -- including rescuing the domestic auto industry in 2009 -- has earned him the right to give Michiganders advice on what's best for them and the nation.
"I feel I've earned some credibility here," said a fiery Obama to a crowd of about 7,000 at the University of Michigan baseball stadium that included U-M football Coach Jim Harbaugh. "Plants that were closing when I took office are working double shift now. ... When I tell you Donald Trump is not the guy who is going to work for you, you need to listen. ... Don't be bamboozled."
Calling Trump "uniquely unqualified" to hold the job of being commander-in-chief, Obama said, "The good news is, Michigan, you are uniquely qualified to make sure he doesn't hold this job," to wild applause.
The president may be right: Despite no Republican presidential nominee winning Michigan since George H.W. Bush in 1988, polls, including those done for the Free Press, show Clinton with no more than a narrow edge in the state, as Trump -- a businessman, casino developer and reality TV show star -- has cut into an earlier lead by consolidating support among previously skeptical Republicans.
Trump is set to be in west Michigan again tonight after holding a rally Sunday night at Freedom Hill Amphitheater in Sterling Heights. And Clinton, herself, was set to rally at Grand Valley State University in west Michigan this afternoon. If nothing else, the continued appearances of the nominees and their top surrogates -- including the president -- strongly suggest Trump could have a chance of winning Michigan, which, if he breaks through in other states, could be decisive.
Introduced by Clinton's daughter, Chelsea Clinton, Obama rattled off a list of reasons he considers Trump "temperamentally" unfit to be president. Obama also repeated his campaign line that the office is a place where you want someone of steady temperament, not someone who -- like Trump -- has made racist, prejudiced and sexist statements, suggested that America's allies need to pay more for U.S. support, or intimated that other countries should get nuclear weapons.
Citing a report this weekend in the New York Times, the president said Trump's campaign advisers took away his access to his twitter account in recent days, noting that he has used it to make controversial comments that have hurt his campaign in the past. "If you're closest advisers don't trust you to tweet, how can we trust him with the nuclear codes," Obama said, referring to the codes transported with the president wherever he goes in the event of a nuclear attack.
While Obama, the first African-American president in U.S. history, could have been asked to go to Detroit to pump up the black vote, it was clear that his presence in Ann Arbor was aimed at another audience -- millennials. There has been some indication that younger voters have been slow to warm to Clinton and that Obama -- with high approval ratings -- is a key asset to winning them over.
He began his speech by mentioning Harbaugh and the fact that U-M's football team is 9-0 and ranked No. 2 in the AP poll.
"I bet you're feeling pretty good. ... I'm asking you to pull off another victory this week," he said, referring to the election. "You will choose whether we continue this journey of progress, or whether it all goes out the window."
A father of teenage girls, Obama also -- wisely -- mentioned some of the Disney shows and cartoons some of those in attendance were probably watching when he was first elected eight years ago.
"I had a soft spot for 'Sponge Bob,'" he said to wide applause.
But Obama saved his strongest remarks for reminding the Michigan crowd that when he won office in 2008 the economy -- and especially the American auto industry -- were on the verge of collapse, a situation his administration helped address by putting some $80 billion into General Motors and Chrysler in order to keep them from liquidating. That rescue is widely credited with helping to save the industry nationwide, and saving the jobs of thousands of automakers.
Trump has continued to hammer away at the fact that the auto industry has bled jobs in recent decades -- though last year it sold a record number of cars -- with the Republican blaming trade deals he would overturn. But Democrats, including Clinton, also have called for better trade deals while saying the U.S. cannot turn its back on what is a global economy without forcing prices up and making businesses less competitive.
Obama made note of the millions of jobs created since the depths of the recession and growing incomes for Americans, saying Clinton would continue the trend.
"That happens because people in ’08 decided to choose hope over fear," Obama said. "But Michigan, all that progress goes down the drain if we don’t win tomorrow."
While he praised Clinton as experienced and steady, he criticized Trump for not knowing the "difference between Shi'a" and "Sunni," referring to branches of Islam. "It's a bad thing being arrogant when you know what you're talking about," he said. "But it's really bad being arrogant when you don't know what you're talking about."
Compared to Trump's rally in Sterling Heights on Sunday night, Obama's in Ann Arbor was a Democratic love fest. No sitting member of Congress showed up for Trump's rally, though former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Holland and Paul Mitchell, who is running this year, were there. Democrats, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, as well as U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, Brenda Lawrence of Southfield and Sandy Levin of Royal Oak all spoke at Obama's rally.
In the end, however, it was Obama asking for Michiganders to give Clinton the same boost they gave him eight years ago as he rode to a historic victory.
"Michigan, I ask you to do for Hillary what you did for me," he said. "I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me. I ask you to make her better the same way you did for me."