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President Trump will hold Tuesday rally in Whitmer's home city

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — President Donald Trump will be back in Michigan on Tuesday, a week before the pivotal Nov. 3 election,focusing on the home city of one of his frequent foes, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Republican will appear at a 2 p.m. rally at the Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, his campaign announced Friday. Doors to the event open at 11 a.m.

The visit will be a new chapter in the feud between the president and the governor of a battleground state. It will also be Trump's second visit to Michigan this month.

The president spoke at an Oct. 17 rally that drew thousands in Muskegon. And at one point, the crowd chanted "lock her up," referring to Whitmer.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a rally at Muskegon County Airport in Muskegon on Oct. 17, 2020.

“It’s a curious location for a Trump rally,” said David Dulio, a political science professor at Oakland University, about Lansing. 

Trump lost Ingham County, the most populous county near the airport, by 27 percentage points to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. However, most of the surrounding counties voted for Trump.

In August 2016, he held a rally in Dimondale in nearby Eaton County, which he ended up winning by 5 percentage points in the election. The Lansing airport is located on the edge of Clinton County, which voted for Trump by 13 points.

Not far from Lansing is "Trump country," Dulio said. The airport could serve as a central location for supporters who will show up on Tuesday. The event will help fire up the president's base and provide an opportunity to continue the "barbs back and forth" with Whitmer, Dulio added.

In Muskegon, the crowd chanted "lock her up" as Trump repeated criticisms about Whitmer's restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19. Trump responded, "Lock 'em all up."

"You’ve got to get your governor to open up her state," Trump said to cheering. "And get your schools open. … The schools have to be open.”

Whitmer's administration has eased many restrictions on businesses in the state, although most can't operate at full capacity. And it's up to schools to decide for themselves whether to reopen to in-person instruction. The "lock her up" chant came less than two weeks after authorities revealed an alleged plot to kidnap the governor, who resides in Lansing.

To the chant, Whitmer responded on Twitter: "This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials’ lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow Americans. It needs to stop."

Trump and Whitmer, who is the national co-chairwoman of Democrat Joe Biden's presidential campaign, have clashed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The president has criticized her stay-at-home order and other restrictions. The governor has called for a national strategy to respond to the virus.

In June, Whitmer said she would consider trying to stop a Trump rally in Michigan during the pandemic. 

In a "60 Minutes" interview that is yet to officially air, Trump denied claims he had ever advocated to have Whitmer locked up. 

"I never said lock up the governor of Michigan," he said, arguing it was a "vicious thing" to suggest. "I would never say that. Why would I say that?"

The airport, which has a Lansing address, is located about five miles from the Michigan Capitol. According to its website, the airport located in Clinton County's Dewitt Township with small areas of its property in Lansing, Watertown Township and Delta Township.

Nearby Ingham County saw surges in COVID-19 cases in September among Michigan State University students. Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, who represents Ingham County in the Michigan Senate, said the county is trying to avoid the spread of the virus through social distancing and mask-wearing.

"I haven’t seen any of that required at any of those rallies," Hertel said about Trump's campaign events.

Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes in 2016, his smallest margin of victory nationally. On Sunday, Biden's vice presidential running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, will visit Detroit.

Trump's scheduled Tuesday visit is well-timed for Republicans in the state after Thursday's presidential debate, said John Sellek of the Michigan consulting firm Harbor Strategic Public Affairs.

"There is nothing more valuable than a candidate's time, so it is clear the Trump campaign is fighting for Michigan because it is matching or exceeding the number of visits by the Biden team," said Sellek, who has previously worked for Republicans.

cmauger@detroitnews.ocm