If Joe Biden wants to oust President Donald Trump from the White House, he must win the support of Michigan, Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris said Tuesday.
"I do believe a path toward victory in this election runs straight through Michigan," Harris said from a parking lot outside the Pistons Performance Center in Detroit. "We will keep coming back because so goes Michigan, so goes the rest of the country, as far as we are concerned."
The event served as the keynote for the California senator's trip to Michigan, a day spent encouraging residents to vote and listening to Black business owners. She visited Flint earlier in the day.
She spent much of her speech at the Pistons practice facility on the Democratic campaign's highlights:
She criticized Trump's leadership on coronavirus, noting his interview with journalist Bob Woodward where he admitted to downplaying the severity of the virus that causes COVID-19
She noted the administration's efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, specifically stressing Biden helped craft the landmark and controversial health care legislation
She emphasized that Russia did interfere with the 2016 presidential election in an effort to foment dissent
Harris used those issues to underscore the importance of voting. She encouraged Michiganders, and Black residents especially, to think about why powerful people "make it difficult or confusing for us to vote?"
"They know when we vote, things change. So let us not let anyone take our power from us," Harris said.
Recent polls show Biden leading Trump in Michigan by 8 percentage points. But his support among Black voters dropped 13 percentage points from July to September — this did not translate to more support for Trump, but it's a signal that should concern the campaign.
Democrats hope Harris, the first Black woman and person of Asian descent on apresidential ticket, will drive Black and Asian supporters to the polls.
In 2016, when Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, Black turnout was down 12% compared with 2012, when Barack Obama won the state.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, all Democrats, joined Harris at the Pistons event. So did Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Pistons leadership and former NBA great Ben Wallace.
"We are going to turn Michigan out on the right side of this election, together," Whitmer said.
Before leaving Michigan, Harris visited Lawrence's congressional office in Detroit to help distribute campaign signs to local supporters. With Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson and Lizzo playing in the background over loudspeakers, she handed out the signs in a "car parade," with cars pulling up to take a sign from a volunteer.
The effort came roughly one week after a Time magazine story deemed the Biden campaign "invisible" in Michigan, based in part on a survey of campaign signs.
"We can get this done!" Harris yelled to screaming supporters.
Speaking at Headliners Barbershop on the west side of Detroit earlier in the day, Harris discussed the need for additional mental health resources and to reimagine public safety. But that can't happen — at least Biden couldn't lead any change — if people do not come out and vote, Harris said.
"The election is in 42 days. Michigan starts voting in 48 hours, and the outcome of this election will determine, I believe, the course of our country for generations to come," Harris said, sitting in a barber's chair outside the shop.
The Black-owned businesses she visited in Detroit and Flint were chosen because the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted such businesses and Black people, the campaign said.
Bookstore and barbershop owners greeted Harris in downtown Flint on Tuesday afternoon at the start of her campaign swing.
Harris chatted briefly with the owners of three Black-owned businesses before walking several blocks, waving and stopping briefly to speak with supporters. Former Detroit Shock and WNBA great Deanna Nolan led the tour of the downtown area.
“We don’t lack for good ideas. We don’t lack for entrepreneurial spirit,” Harris said.
Harris ended her Flint visit with a trip to the farmers market, where she bought two ears of corn and some jalapeños.
Harris' visit came against the backdrop of disagreements over the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In March, the majority of Michigan businesses were required to close in accordance with coronavirus-related orders from Whitmer. While many businesses have since reopened, at least on a limited basis, hundreds went out of business and unemployment figures ballooned.
Free Press Editorial Board: Joe Biden is the anti-toxin America needs
Whitmer's supporters, including Biden, credit the governor with saving lives and ensuring ongoing safety with her actions. But critics, including some small business owners, say they needed to be allowed to operate sooner without more financial assistance from the state or federal government.
In May, Harris introduced a bill with Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Massachusetts, that would provide up to $250,000 in federal pandemic relief to businesses with fewer than 10 employees. The plan came with a $125 billion price tag but assurances from the lawmakers that the funding would focus on saving small businesses and nonprofits, especially those owned by someone from underrepresented groups, as reported by Vox.
Both presidential candidates visited Michigan earlier this month. Trump hosted a large rally in Freeland, a small city outside of Saginaw. Biden held an event in Warren with UAW members.
Election Day is Nov. 3, but Michigan voters may apply for absentee ballots now. Eligible voters may register and cast a ballot through 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Contact Dave Boucher: email@example.com or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Kamala Harris urges Michigan voters to use their 'power' at ballot box