Democratic presidential candidates are targeting Michigan, vowing to retake a state Donald Trump won in 2016 by a razor-thin margin.
Several of the latest Democratic contenders to enter the crowded primary field have already hit the campaign trail in the Wolverine state.
Trump won Michigan and, indeed, the White House itself by vowing to bring manufacturing jobs back to middle-class workers he said had been forgotten.
Democratic presidential candidates say their party won’t give even the appearance of ignoring those voters again.
That includes U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) who officially launched her bid for the White House over the weekend.
Gillibrand taped a town hall meeting this week in Auburn Hills, near Detroit, for later broadcast on MSNBC.
Gillibrand said she had traveled across the country and repeatedly heard concerns that Rust Belt states often felt abandoned by the Democratic Party.
“These are the places that very much felt left behind in the last election, that they didn’t hear their stories being talked about enough,” Gillibrand said. “And so they didn’t feel like the Democrats were going to help them.”
Gillibrand said a progressive Democratic agenda could help cure the woes of the working-class.
She predicted the Democrats’ Green New Deal would bring far more trade and jobs to Michigan than the tariffs used by the Trump Administration.
“Michigan has a history in building things, creating things, manufacturing things and innovating. If you say to every manufacturer ‘When you create energy-efficiency (such as) an energy-efficient engine you are gonna get a massive tax benefit,’ that’s how you compete with China. That’s how you compete with places overseas,” Gillibrand said.
Gillibrand is challenging for a spot in the Democratic primary debates.
She gained a reputation in Congress for fighting sexual misconduct but has also been criticized for her handling of harassment allegations against one of her former aides.
Newly-minted Democratic presidential contender Beto O’Rourke is also receiving his share of criticism, even as he draws large crowds while stumping for the presidency.
And O’Rourke made Michigan one of his first official stops along the campaign trail, mixing with customers at a Macomb County café and visiting a training facility operated in part by a carpenters’ union in Metro Detroit.
O’Rourke told the union members that if he is elected president, he would make the right to organize workers a part of any future U.S. trade deal.
The current occupant of the White House is also apparently keen on keeping working-class voters in his corner.
In recent days President Trump has pressed General Motors to reopen a plant slated for closure in Ohio, a state he won in 2016.
And the President plans to return to Michigan at the end of the month for a campaign rally in Grand Rapids.
Click on the audio link above to hear the full conversation between WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter and Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand
And here are two excerpts from Gillibrand’s town hall meeting in Michigan, which aired on the MSNBC program “All In with Chris Hayes”