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Trump, Clinton surrogates invade UM-MSU tailgates

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

East Lansing — With the presidential election 11 days away, campaigns for major and minor party candidates alike were working the tailgating crowds before the annual Michigan State and Michigan football game to drum up votes.

Dr. Ben Carson, the Detroit native and famed neurosurgeon, was the biggest name surrogate to work the crowd for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as part of a three-city swing through the state.

Carson said public opinion polls are “shifting rather rapidly” in Trump’s favor against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Trump’s campaign told The Detroit News on Friday that the New York businessman is headed back to Michigan on Monday for campaign rallies in Grand Rapids and Warren.

“Having grown up here, one thing I know about Michigan is that there’s a lot people here with common sense,” Carson told reporters. “They’re able to look at the big picture and recognize that we’re really making a decision not between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but about two different visions of what America is.”

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The Clinton campaign had student volunteers canvassing the tailgating crowds between MSU’s Student Union and Spartan Stadium handing out fliers to encourage MSU and UM fans to text “BEATUM” or “BEATMSU” to campaign messaging service in order to get text message updates in the final days of the campaign.

Ron Owens, a MSU campus organizer for the Clinton campaign, said it was a “friendly competition” between students and alumni of both schools.

“It’s an opportunity for us to make sure that we have Hillary Clinton’s message out there, because we believe she is the right person to serve as president,” Owens said of the campaigning during the pre-game festivities.

Owens and other volunteers also were encouraging football fans to vote on Nov. 8. The Clinton campaign plans has been canvassing door-to-door inside MSU dormitories and giving students applications to vote absentee if they’re not registered to vote in East Lansing, Owens said.

“We are really pushing on that,” Owens said of absentee voting.

Rachel Matero, 23, of East Lansing, told Owens she had already cast a mail-in absentee ballot and voted for Clinton.

“I think this country is ready for a female president,” Matero said.

In the tailgating areas on campus, there were a few signs of an election nearing.

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Cole Haupt, a 2013 MSU graduate, and his tailgating buddies displayed a Trump campaign yard sign next to their tailgating tent.

“I appreciate that he’s not part of the political system that we’re used to. I don’t trust Hillary Clinton,” said Haupt, 25, of Chicago. “I think if (Trump) can run this country like he runs his businesses, we’ll be successful as a country.”

Carson said he believes Trump could pull off an upset over Clinton because of his outsider appeal, having spent his career in real estate and business, not elected office in Washington.

“A lot of people are starting to recognize that this election is not about Democrats or Republicans – this is about the political ruling class and their minions in the media and the people,” “As more people realize that, I think you’re going to see them abandoning you know the party loyalty and start thinking about their children and America.”

Campaign volunteers for the leading third-party candidates also were on hand outside of Spartan Stadium, trying to present an alternative to voting for Trump or Clinton.

LuAnne Kozma, state campaign coordinator for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, stood outside Spartan Stadium alongside ticket scalpers holding a Stein campaign sign and telling football fans clad in green-and-white or blue-and-gold that Stein is “the only anti-war candidate” for president.

“The more visible we are, the more people hear about her, the more we’re rising in the polls,” Kozma said.

Stein has constituently polled in the single digits in public opinion polls in Michigan over the last few months of the campaigning trailing Libertarian Gary Johnson.

But Kozma isn’t conceding defeat just yet.

“You know, Bernie did,” Kozma said, referring to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ upset of Clinton in Michigan’s March 8 Democratic presidential primary. “I think a lot of people are dissatisfied with the two choices. They’re getting worse and worse and worse as the days wear on here. When people find out there is another choice, they’re really pleased there is another choice.”

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood