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South Dakota gov, MyPillow's CEO rally for Trump in Macomb Co.

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Shelby Township — Blue-collar workers and members of the Macomb County Republican Party gathered Thursday to hear from national surrogates of President Donald Trump, advocating for his re-election.

The event, held by Workers for Trump, included speeches from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Trump campaign senior adviser Corey Lewandowski and MyPillow CEO and Trump supporter Mike Lindell.

They said Michigan's leaders were steering people in the wrong direction while Trump would defend them. More than 100 people gathered without masks in the exterior of the Shelby Gardens Banquet Center, chanting "four more years."

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem addresses Trump supporters in Shelby Township on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020.

Terry Bowman, a Ford Motor Co. worker from Ypsilanti and co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, kicked off the event, saying he spent all summer making ventilators and shields at the Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti "because of our great president."

"Not union officials, but rank-and-file workers, blue-collar workers, anyone that goes out and earns a paycheck are fully in support of President Donald Trump and it's pretty easy to see why, when you look at trade deals like the USMCA," Bowman said.

"This is something that union officials and workers have been asking for over a generation to get rid of and it was this president who promised to get rid of unfair trade deals and focus on American jobs and American workers first."

The event was held in Macomb County, once known as the home of Reagan Democrats, but now, Bowman said, home of "Trump Republicans." 

"Joe Biden has come out and endorsed the Green New Deal, which will destroy the manufacturing of the auto industry here in Michigan," he told the crowd. "... He treats the auto industry as the enemy. It's just like what workers heard Hillary Clinton say about the coal mines. Workers understand they need a president who puts their jobs first."

The event was delayed by 30 minutes because organizers would not begin without the Pledge of Allegiance and there was no American flag present. Eventually a Thin Blue Line version of the flag was brought in from someone's car and the crowd pledged to it. 

Mike Lindell, right, CEO of My Pillow and Chairman of the MN Trump Campaign, signs his autograph for Trump supporter Angelic Johnson of Sterling Heights.

Noem said she traveled to Michigan to deliver a message Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has not.

"I think people here are suffering because of her decisions. They need to hear how Republican policies, this president's policies, can impact their lives in a different way," she said, adding that South Dakota took a different approach than Michigan during the pandemic.

"I never defined an essential business, never shut down any businesses. This president gave us the resources we needed to do testing and protect people, but also allowed us to follow the Constitution and to protect people's rights and freedoms."

South Dakota has 2,615 active cases and 193 deaths from COVID-19. The state has had a total of 17,686 cases from 171,523 people tested in a population of 880,000, meaning about of 2% of the state’s residents have gotten the virus. In comparison, Michigan has nearly 10 million people in the state, has conducted 3.5 million tests and recorded 114,692 cases and 6,631 deaths, meaning about 1.1% of residents got the virus.

South Dakota held one of the largest and most prolific events during the pandemic, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It forced the state to have to try to trace back any outbreaks that stemmed from the 10-day rally, which ended on Aug. 16.

Noem touted South Dakota's strong economy, with a 4.8% unemployment rate and a budget surplus despite the pandemic, saying the state has been "back to normal for five months."

"Our No. 1 industry is agriculture, No. 2 is tourism and is up 148%. We've been able to show the nation you can host big events, allow them to have some normalcy to their life, but also protect their health," she said. "So I think that's a testimony when you have a governor that makes very different decisions."

Christian Slater, a spokesman for Michigan Democrats, said the comments made at the event Thursday are "disgusting lies meant to cover for our president's failed record."

"Here's the truth: Our state has lost over 57,000 manufacturing jobs under Donald Trump's disastrous leadership," Slater said. "And while Governor Whitmer was taking steps to save lives in Michigan, Trump was lying about COVID-19 to the American people while he called it a 'killer' behind the scenes. Still, after almost 200,000 deaths in our country, Donald Trump and his Republican party refuse to take this disease seriously and it continues to have fatal consequences for Michigan."

The event followed a Trump campaign rally in Freeland last week, which drew a crowd estimated at 5,000 people. The event was outside in an airport hangar. Masks were supposed to be required, but many attendees didn't wear them. During the event, the president called on Whitmer to "open up your state."

Whitmer called out Trump, saying the campaign events violated her COVID-19 executive orders and "fly in the face of the best science."

The governor made the comments Tuesday afternoon while answering reporters' questions at a small, backyard campaign event in Battle Creek with Jill Biden, the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate.

"The Michigan events have been outside. At least, there's that," Whitmer said of Trump. "What we've seen them doing in other states has been indoors. This is the exact kind of thing that creates potential super-spreader events."

Lindell making the worst decisions. He added he was 99.9% sure he'd be the next governor of Minnesota, replacing Democratic Gov. Tim Walz.

"With one of my foundations based in Detroit, I've spent five years here now (with) the workers in the inner city, everything was moving in the right direction ... ," he said. "These restrictions that are made are restricting them while others in South Dakota are still working.

"Donald Trump didn't do this, China did it."

Lewandowski said the most important rally Trump had was in Grand Rapids on election morning in 2016. More than 13,000 people attended and he won the state by a narrow 10,704 votes. 

"We are here to remind the people of Michigan of the promises he's made and the promises he's delivered on the last four years," he said. "... Rebuilding our military, making sure that our men and women who serve on the thin blue line are supported, which is a sharp contrast to what the Biden-Harris administration wants to do."

Whitmer's office was not immediately available for comment.

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_