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Taylor — White House counselor Kellyanne Conway stumped for U.S. Senate candidate John James Sunday night at the Top Gun shooting range in Taylor, singling out the businessman and military veteran at rally with Michigan Republicans.

James would be a “reliable” vote on issues such as military funding, tax cuts and free enterprise, said Conway, who managed Republican President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign before joining him in the White House.

He’s “incredibly charismatic,” Conway added, urging voters to support the Farmington Hills Republican on Tuesday in his bid to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.  “You’ve got to convert that palpable excitement into political engagement.”

Conway, who noted that she was appearing in her personal capacity and not her role as a White House aide, is the latest Trump surrogate to campaign for James as the administration seeks to defend majorities in both the House and Senate.

Eric Trump and Lara Trump both campaigned for James last month, and Trump lawyer Rudy Guiliani joined him Saturday in Holland. The president last visited Michigan in late April and is not expected before Tuesday’s election.

“If you think your vote doesn’t matter, that a slim majority doesn’t matter in the U.S. Senate, then you didn’t live through the Brett Kavanaugh hearings,” Conway said, referencing a combative confirmation process for the newest Supreme Court justice who was accused of sexual harassment.

Stabenow, who rallied with former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden in recent weeks and campaigned Sunday in Metro Detroit, has touted her vote against Kavanaugh's confirmation. But she was "part of a cabal that was so unfair to a decent man,” Conway said, also touting tax cuts the Lansing Democrat voted against.

James trailed Stabenow by double digits in an Oct. 25-27 poll of 600 likely Michigan voters with a margin of error of plus-minus 4 percentage points.

Conway rarely mentioned other Michigan Republicans, making it clear she was there to assist James. It was a make-up event after she was forced to cancel a Thursday night stop because of a malfunction with a plane she was expected to fly on from New Mexico. 

Trump narrowly won Michigan in 2016, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to do so since 1988. James and other candidates noted the margin, urging voters to cast ballots on Tuesday.

“We live in a nation that many have died to preserve for us, to protect for us,” said James, who prompted chants of “USA” after noting a World War II veteran in the crowd. “We have to go vote because it is our sacred duty and our responsibility. We have an obligation, not an option, to have our voices be heard.”

Conway criticized Stabenow’s lengthy tenure in politics, which she said should be viewed as an “expiration date,” not experience. James argued she has been “campaigning on the same promises she’s made for 20 years,” accusing Stabenow of “ineffectiveness and hyper-partisanship.”

Taylor is the most populous community in the Downriver area south of Detroit. The city is represented by a Democrat in the state House, but Trump performed well in the larger region in 2016.

While mid-term elections typically do not favor the party that controls the White House, Republicans urged supporters to create a “red wall” to combat any “blue wave” for Democrats.

“These races are going to be close,” said attorney general candidate Tom Leonard of DeWitt. “And we need places like Downriver, we need Macomb County, we need northern Michigan,  the places that delivered this state for the first time in nearly 30 years for our president in 2016. I have no doubt that you will all deliver again, but we don’t only need you there.”

Leonard fired up the pro-Trump crowd by noting Democrat Hillary Clinton lost her bid for the White House two years ago, prompting chants of “Lock her up” that Trump encouraged at rallies in 2016.

Bill Schuette, the current attorney general who is now running for governor, has trailed in every public opinion poll of the race. But he noted pundits got it wrong two years ago.

“A funny thing happened on the way to the White House, and two days from now, we’re going to win it all right here in Michigan,” Schuette said. “We can’t go backward. We’re going to make sure we go forward for more jobs, more people and bigger paychecks here in Michigan.”

Speaking on the floor of a shooting range typically used for archery practice, Schuette called himself a proud member of the National Rifle Association.

“I was your Second Amendment attorney general,” he said. “I will be your Second Amendment governor.”

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gretchen Whitmer is crisscrossing the state on her "fix the damn roads" bus tour and rallied with Democrats on Sunday afternoon at union halls in Detroit and Warren. 

joosting@detroitnews.com

 

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