President Barack Obama campaigns for Hillary Clinton at the University of Michigan, and talks about how he rescued the Big 3. Clarence Tabb Jr., The Detroit News


Ann Arbor — President Barack Obama implored Michigan auto workers Monday not to be “bamboozled” by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s blue-collar appeal, using the seven-year-old federal auto industry rescue as his closing argument to help Democrat Hillary Clinton win the state.

The term-limited Democrat warned that Trump’s threat to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, slap 35 percent tariffs on vehicles made in Mexico by Detroit’s automakers and oppose Obama’s proposed Trans Pacific Partnership would hurt the economy.

“The trade war (Trump) threatens to trigger might damage the auto industry all over again,” Obama told a crowd of 9,000 people gathered at the University of Michigan’s baseball stadium. “Do not be bamboozled.”

Obama cited the impact of the federal government’s 2008-2009 bailout of General Motors and the former Chrysler Group in boosting the Michigan-based automakers during the Great Recession and how both companies have posted record profits in recent years.

“I think I've earned some credibility here,” Obama argued.

Obama made a mid-day trek to Ann Arbor to help shore up support for Clinton to succeed him in the White House next year ahead of Tuesday’s election. Clinton supporters packed the stands and field of UM’s Ray Fisher baseball stadium to hear the president who carried Michigan twice by large margins.

The nation’s 44th president was introduced by Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, at a rally designed to boost enthusiasm among college students and millennial voters, many of whom turned out in droves for Obama four and eight years ago.

Chelsea Clinton emphasized the auto bailout, which began under Republican President George W. Bush in 2008 as the economy was crashing during a housing and financial crisis.

“Donald Trump actually said it wouldn't have mattered if the auto industry went bankrupt,” Chelsea Clinton said. “President Obama saved the auto industry.”

Trump said it would not have mattered if GM and Chrysler went through government-expedited bankruptcies, which Obama required the automakers to go through, or normal bankruptcy reorganizations. The Center for Automotive Research and other experts said traditional bankruptcies could have kept the automakers wrapped up in court for years and killed millions of automaker and supplier jobs.

Obama launched attacks on Trump’s credibility, arguing he is “temperamentally unfit to be commander-in-chief.”

The president cited a published report that Trump’s advisers recently took control of his Twitter account, which the New York businessman has used to launch social media attacks on critics throughout his campaign for the White House.

"If your closest advisers don't trust you to tweet, then how can we trust him with the nuclear codes?” Obama asked.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, kicked off the rally just after 11 a.m. by highlighting the hazing and abuse of a 20-year-old Marine recruit from Taylor who died in March at boot camp in South Carolina. The death of Pakistani-American Raheel Siddiqui was ruled a suicide.

Siddiqui was hazed at boot camp “because he was Muslim,” Dingell said. “He was targeted because of his religion.”

Dingell did not name Republican candidate Donald Trump, but she made a veiled argument that the Republican’s heated rhetoric about Muslim immigrants has fomented “hatred” of minorities.

“We are witnessing people in this country try to divide us with fear and hatred and we cannot let that happen,” Dingell said.

Clinton supporters lined up to see the outgoing president — who carried Michigan by large margins in 2008 and 2012 — expressed anxiousness about Tuesday’s ballot box showdown between Clinton and Trump.

“It’s frightening that the Republican candidate is doing as well as he is,” said Melissa Manley, 41, of Ann Arbor, who brought her four children to see Obama speak. “It’s made me a little nervous. Everyone has strong feelings (about the election).”

Denise Ilitch, a University of Michigan regent seeking re-election on Tuesday, said voting for Clinton would “honor President Obama’s legacy.”

“Come on, man, it’s been 240 years. You think it’s about time we have a female president?” Ilitch said, garnering a roaring applause at Ray Fisher Stadium.

Later in the day, Clinton will head to west Michigan for a 4 p.m. rally at Grand Valley State University’s main campus in Allendale.

Aaron Kall, director of debate at UM, attended all three debates, the last of which was Oct. 19 — nine days before FBI Director James Comey dropped a bombshell on the presidential race by announcing a new probe of emails potentially related to Clinton’s controversial private server at the State Department.

Comey issued a second letter Sunday saying no evidence exists in the newly discovered emails to warrant criminal charges against Clinton — a finding Trump dismissed during a rally Sunday night at a rally in Sterling Heights.

“All of the focus got removed from her positive debate performance, to the private email server,” said Kall, who attended Monday’s rally. “Those are nine days of the campaign Clinton can’t get back at this point — you can’t do undo that damage.”

Colleen Smyth, 51, of Plymouth, attended Obama’s rally in nursing scrubs, having just come from her job as an instructor at Washtenaw Community College.

Despite Trump’s late surge in Michigan, Smyth said she remains confident Clinton will extend a Democratic winning streak in Michigan that dates back to Bill Clinton’s 1992 win.

“I still think Hillary is going to win, people are sitting back and waiting and Hillary is going to take the state,” Smyth said.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood

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