Ivanka Trump in Michigan: ‘This is your movement’

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Hudsonville — Ivanka Trump touted her father’s child and dependent care proposals as she campaigned Monday for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump in west Michigan, highlighting the family-friendly plans less than 24 hours before voting precincts open across the state.

Ivanka and half-sister Tiffany Trump joined more than a dozen “women in business” for a morning roundtable discussion in Hudsonville and participated in a community forum moderated by Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel.

“I was in Michigan just a few days ago, so it’s like coming home,” said Ivanka Trump, 35, an executive vice president for the Trump Organization, her father’s sprawling real estate conglomerate. “I felt firsthand the incredible energy. There is incredible enthusiasm, and it really mirrors the best of what I’m seeing all across the country.”

Michigan has emerged as a late battleground in the battle between Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Both candidates were scheduled to rally supporters later Monday in west Michigan, a traditional conservative stronghold where neither fared well in their respective party primaries.

Trump finished third to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in vote-rich Kent and Ottawa counties in the March 8 Republican primary. Clinton lost both counties by wide margins to Vermont U.S. Bernie Sanders, who narrowly won the state's Democratic primary.

Responding to a question from a small business owner about the cost of end-of-life care, Ivanka outlined a dependent care savings account proposal she and her father unveiled this fall alongside plans for an expanded child care tax deduction and paid maternity leave.

Families could contribute pre-tax dollars to accounts, she said, and later use the money for things like adult day care, child care or after-school enrichment activities. For lower income families, Trump said her father has proposed a 50 percent match for the first $1,000 put into the fund each year.

“This is a family issue, not a women’s issue, but women disproportionately are the ones providing unpaid care for adult dependents, so it is impacting women the most,” she said.

Clinton is expected to address supporters Monday afternoon at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, while Trump is scheduled to wrap up his day with a late election eve rally at the DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.

Elsewhere in Michigan, President Barack Obama campaigned for Clinton in Ann Arbor. Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was expected to speak Traverse City at 1 p.m. and later join Trump at the 11 p.m. rally in Grand Rapids.

Ivanka Trump, who said she will also be in Grand Rapids, called her father a “messenger.”

“This is your movement,” she told a crowd of roughly 200 at the Hudsonville forum. “And unlike maybe ever, this is the first time we have an opportunity to have somebody in the White House who’s beholden to nobody.”

Tiffany Trump, 23, recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and said she feels her father’s focus on job creation will serve her generation well.

“He really empowered me, Ivanka and all of my siblings to work our hardest and achieve what we sent out to achieve,” she said. “For millennials, job opportunities and better wages, all of these are things my dad is so focused on.”

Tiffany has not campaigned for Trump as often as Ivanka, but said she made it a point to come to Michigan. She said she spent part of her childhood in Clarkston, where her step-grandfather and grandmother live.

“It’s an amazing place,” she said. “I’ve seen plenty of Lions games. I’ve been around. It’s not snowing yet. I was ready to brace myself for the winter.”

Grace Kramer, a Saugatuck-area real estate agent who attended the forum in Hudsonville, said she thinks the contrast between Trump and Clinton is “enormous.”

“I feel that Trump will bring change, and he will make America great again,” said Kramer, 66, who explained the GOP nominee’s “extreme vetting” proposal for immigrants entering the country resonates with her. “I feel we will be safer with Donald Trump.”

Robert Johnson, a case manager for a program that helps homeless people find jobs, said he thinks Trump is a “true leader” and has been impressed by his hard work on the campaign trail.

While Trump hasn’t held elected office, “he’s been in politics his whole life, essentially,” said Johnson, 33, who grew up in Sterling Heights but now lives in Hudsonville.

“He’s constantly negotiating. He’s a people person. His employees love him,” he said. “His daughter is one of the top people in the business, so he obviously loves women in high places.”