| Holland Sentinel
NORTON SHORES — President Donald Trump drew thousands at a West Michigan airport on Saturday, holding a raucous rally less than three weeks from Election Day.
Trump, speaking at FlyBy Air near Muskegon, told supporters a win by former Vice President Joe Biden would lead to the end of the “American way of life.”
Trump attacked Biden and other Democrats frequently throughout his remarks, which lasted about 90 minutes.
He said Biden has “lost” the Democratic Party to “radicals” in the party. He claimed large tech companies and media outlets were censoring conservative voices.
“These people are sick,” Trump said. “One of the most sinister weapons of the extreme left is this thing called the cancel, cancel culture.”
Trump criticized government shutdown orders in place because of the coronavirus, protests over racial inequality that took place over the summer, calls for historical monuments to come down and early voting. He also highlighted the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a trade deal that replaced NAFTA in late 2019.
Michigan is again poised to be a crucial state up for grabs for either Trump or Biden. Both candidates have visited the state multiple times in recent weeks.
Trump’s visit Saturday came on the heels of a pair of Biden stops in southeast Michigan on Friday. On Saturday, both campaigns announced additional visits from surrogates, including Ivanka Trump and Pete Buttigieg in the Grand Rapids area Monday and an unspecified visit from Jill Biden on Tuesday.
Trump’s upset win of Michigan in 2016 didn’t include Muskegon County, as then nominee Hillary Clinton carried the county by around 1,200 votes.
But West Michigan, for the most part, is still rife with areas of support for Trump. Rural counties, such as neighboring Ottawa County, swung heavily for Trump in 2016. He carried nearby Kent County — where Grand Rapids, the state’s second largest city is located — in 2016, although Gov. Gretchen Whitmer flipped the county in her gubernatorial race in 2018.
Polls in Michigan show Trump currently trailing Biden, as the Real Clear Politics average gives Biden a seven-point lead.
At the rally, however, individuals were firmly behind the president as expected. Hundreds of “Make America Great Again” hats were visible, along with shirts, scarves and other hats with messages of support for Trump. According to a Trump campaign spokesperson, individuals had begun lining up Friday, a full day before Trump’s scheduled speaking time.
One supporter, Grand Rapids’ Larry Culp, said Trump is the only person he has voted for since Ronald Reagan. He said Trump had kept his promises, although he did not specify which ones.
“I’m not a Republican or Democrat, but I support Trump,” Culp said. “He shares our values. He’s not perfect, nobody is, but I think he’s the best president we’ve had since Reagan.”
A single protester, Jeff Fisher of Muskegon, was visible near the road leading to the line entrance.
Fisher, wearing a face mask with the word “VOTE” across the front, held a styrofoam tombstone with the figure “218,000+” on it, meant to signify the deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. Above the figure, a cutout of Trump dancing at a recent rally was pasted.
Since March, more than 8 million people in the U.S. have contracted COVID-19, with more than 218,000 confirmed deaths — the most of any country in the world.
At the entrance to the rally, temperatures were taken, and clearly visible signs asked attendees to wear a mask. Travel-size bottles of hand sanitizer were free to take.
Inside the rally, the crowd was packed together, many not wearing masks. Medical experts say close proximity puts individuals at a higher risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
“I just want people to remember that none of this is normal,” Fisher said. “What we’re seeing right now is a historic failure of leadership on so many levels.”