President Trump is skipping the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington D.C., where he would surely be the target of some pointed jokes.
Instead the President is holding a rally in what his campaign believes will be far friendlier territory, Macomb County.
Voters in Macomb County were key in flipping Michigan from blue to red and giving Trump the presidency.
But more than a year later the President elicits a far more mixed reaction in the county.
Two days before he was elected to become President of the United States, Donald Trump made a pledge at a campaign rally in Sterling Heights that would ultimately give him Macomb County, the state of Michigan and, in a very real way, the White House.
“We will stop the jobs from leaving your state,” then-candidate Trump told the crowd. “We’re going to stop the jobs from going to Mexico and China and all over the world. We will make Michigan into the manufacturing hub of the world once again.”
It’s a pledge that still resonates in northern Macomb County’s Shelby Township, at places like the World Class Equipment Company.
“Drive down every street in this area and there’s a manufacturing building going up every other block.” – World Class Equipment Company co-owner Jeff Hinsperger
The facility specializes in robotics.
Co-owner Jeff Hinsperger says he’s doing so much business he cannot find enough workers and would like to double the size of his plant.
And Hinsperger says his company is not alone.
“Drive down every street in this area and there’s a manufacturing building going up every other block,” he says.
Hinsperger and his partner, Mark Matheson, say they plan to attend Trump’s weekend rally to thank a President Matheson says finally put American business first.
“He’s pushing for bringing jobs back to America. Now we have Italian companies, Chinese companies, all in the area as well. They’re moving here. If they’re making the decisions to bring it back to America because of tax cuts or whatever it is, than somebody (in the U.S.) has to support that.”
Matheson says he is concerned about the tariffs Trump proposed on steel and aluminum.
But he says even that could benefit some companies in Macomb County.
“It kind of feels like it’s backfiring a little bit. Because the steel industry, they haven’t been able to raise their prices here in the States. So they import a lot of steel themselves. (But) the local mills, they’re gonna create the even playing field. It’s their opportunity right now to raise their pricing. So they are,” Matheson says.
But the view changes in southern Macomb County.
At a car wash along Gratiot Avenue near Eastpointe, factory worker Marcus Smith says the auto jobs Trump promised to bring back have simply been shifted around from plant to plant.
Smith says he moved to Michigan from New Jersey three years ago.
He says Michigan voters should have realized from Trump’s actions as a candidate what Smith claims people on the East Coast have known for years.
Trump, he says, promises big but often fails to deliver.
“And you guys knew what he was,” Smith says. “We’re digging a hole deeper. He’s giving out false hope. He’s sending out promises that he know he can’t keep.”
Further down Gratiot Avenue, at a convenience store in Roseville, merely mentioning the President can cause consternation.
“I hope he doesn’t make me regret that I voted for him…I worry about his arrogance getting in the way of making the right decision. I wish he would grow up.” – Roseville resident Elizabeth Ehresmann
Tim James lounges by a doorway, a cigarette dangling from his lips, and bristles at a passerby who disparages the President’s beloved proposed wall along the southern border of the U.S.
“Are you kidding me? We had our civil war and cleaned up our country. Why can’t they just clean up their country? They got a military,” James says. “Take care of the drug dealers. But they keep running from it, running it over here. And it ain’t right.”
James says he’s just starting to look for work again after taking time off to help raise his son.
And he says Trump’s efforts will help improve the chance at finding a job.
James says the President is a businessman fighting off personal attacks and truly trying to put America first.
All the President needs to succeed, James says, is a bit more time.
“I think he’s doing good. He’s the only one that’s sticking to his word and everything he said he was gonna do, he’s doing. Which most Presidents don’t. When the next election comes up than they start doing a little more. (Trump) is doing it right off the bat. He’s cleaning house. Bringing the jobs back, fair trade, all that stuff,” James says.
But sitting nearby, construction worker Paul Aguilar has a decidedly different view of the President.
“I think he’s doing horrible,” Aguilar says. “I think he’s a bigot. I’m Hispanic. I don’t like this whole wall thing that he’s got going on. My health care is actually getting screwed up because of some of the things he’s doing…I don’t like him. Period.”
Trump’s approval rating in Michigan as a whole hovers at about 40 percent.
And seniors like Roseville’s Elizabeth Ehresmann say changes made to the health care system under the Trump Administration are a big reason why.
“Medicare pays for less now. We have co-pays on important tests that we have to have done. They keep cutting our pay. I’m driving a 15-year-old car and I’m scared to death when it goes because I can’t replace it,” she says.
Ehresmann says she voted for Trump. But after a year of scandals and little improvement in her own finances, she isn’t sure she would cast that same ballot again.
“I hope he doesn’t make me regret that I voted for him. This thing with Russia? And I worry about his arrogance getting in the way of making the right decision. I know everything takes time. I still have hope for him. However, I wish he would grow up,” Ehresmann says.
Whether a majority of the Macomb County electorate begins to share that growing regret, or instead sees manufacturing jobs and economic progress flow back to the region, could well determine if Donald Trump earns a second term in the White House.