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Pontiac — Donald Trump Jr. came to Michigan on Wednesday to back Republican Senate candidate John James at a packed rally, saying James "is a hero" whom Michigan needs to continue his father's presidency of "winning."

Trump mocked Democrats nationally, extolled his father's record and praised James, who is running against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, as a person destined for a bright political future.

"Think about it: You can have John James or Debbie Stabenow. Debbie Stabenow has been in Washington for 20 years. What has she done for Michigan," Trump said as the crowd yelled, "Nothing." 

"She doesn't put Michigan first. We need guys that have the guts. John James has the guts."

The Pontiac event was yet another high-profile rally for James, who also was joined by Kid Rock, who performed, and former Fox News contributor Kimberly Guilfoyle, who reportedly is dating Trump and spoke with him on stage.

"I want to keep this winning going," Trump said. "The economy is booming. There is not a single economic metric where we are not better off today than we were just two short years ago. Name one. It cannot be done. The economy is so good that Barack Obama is pretending he had something to do with it."

Guilfoyle followed up on Trump rhetoric, saying "That's why you need to retire Stabenow."

"Forget about it ... cause she doesn't put Michigan first," she said. "John James has a slogan that says battled tested, and he is indeed ready to lead. He's a rising star for the country; you guys get the opportunity to have him with you."

After Rock performed, James took the stage with his wife and said that just a year ago, he was barely a candidate and now was feted by a president, his son and musicians to get him elected to the Senate.

"The American Dream not just about economic prosperity. This government is by the people for the people," James said. "Both political parties have failed the United States of America. Both parties have failed Michigan. We need to take our state back. We need to take our government back."

Stabenow, James said, "wants to represent the Democratic Party," not Michigan. "You deserve a senator who will work hard for you. I am not running to beat Debbie Stabenow. I am running to serve you," he said.

Also speaking at the event was Lena Epstein, the Bloomfield Township Republican running against Democrat Haley Stevens to fill retiring Republican U.S. Dave Trott's seat in the 11th Congressional District, and U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, who is in a tight, costly race against Democrat Elissa Slotkin of Holly.

Surprise guest, Michigan-born musician Ted Nugent, played the "Star Spangled Banner" and produced a profane rant about Democrats. 

The Farmington Hills businessman and Iraq military veteran has trailed Stabenow of Lansing in the polls.

Stabenow led James by 18 percentage points, with nearly 53 percent of support, compared with James' 35 percent. About 10 percent of voters were undecided in a survey of 600 likely Michigan voters conducted Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 for The Detroit News and WDIV. The poll had a margin of error of plus-minus 4 percentage points.

In two debates earlier this week, Stabenow, 66, sought at times to link James, 37, to his support of President Donald Trump and his lack of political experience. James in return labeled the incumbent as "hyper-partisan" and having little to show for her decades in Congress. 

"WOW, John James is making headway in Michigan," Trump tweeted Tuesday. "We are bringing jobs back to the State, and the People of Michigan appreciate it. Debbie Stabenow has been no help, if anything, a major hindrance. John James is a star, I hope the voters see it."

Trump campaigned and spoke with African-American leaders in Detroit in 2016 six days before his father won the state by 10,704 votes.

In Sunday's debate in Grand Rapids, James emphasized that being an Apache helicopter pilot in the Army and running a logistics company in Detroit helped him learn how to lead.

If elected, he said, "I'm going to work with anyone from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders to get things done and bring resources back to the state of Michigan," he said.

Rock, a singer from Clarkston, did a June campaign rally in Novi for James during the primary election, where he endorsed the political newcomer. 

lfleming@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2620

Twitter:@leonardnfleming

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