With just more than two weeks to go before the United States presidential election, Democratic candidate Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are fighting over a battleground state that will be key to their respective paths to the White House: Michigan.
Biden made two campaign speeches in the midwestern state on Friday, urging voters to come out in strong numbers on November 3 and promising to invest in jobs and critical infrastructure if elected, while Trump will hold a campaign rally there on Saturday evening.
In a statement on Saturday morning, Biden hit out at Trump, who is expected to speak in Muskegon, a city on the western edge of the state, about 65 kilometres (40 miles) from Grand Rapids, at 5pm local time (21:00 GMT).
“All president Trump is offering the people of Michigan is more lies and distractions,” Biden said in the statement. “No plan to get the virus under control, no strategy for pulling our economy out of this recession, no vision for uniting the country.”
Trump narrowly won Michigan in 2016, edging out then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by just more than 10,000 votes – a margin of victory of only 0.3 percent.
His victory marked the first time the state, which former President Barack Obama won in 2012 by 9.5 percentage points, had been won by a Republican presidential candidate since George HW Bush won it in 1988.
The averages of major polls in the state have Biden leading Trump by 7.2 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics news site.
However, a recent public opinion poll commissioned by US news outlet The Hill showed Biden leading Trump in Michigan by 11 points, with 54 percent of voters saying they backed the former US vice president, compared with 43 percent who said they would vote for Trump.
“President Trump has made a lot of progress in Florida and (is) closing in there but he has a lot of ground to make up in key Midwestern states,” Hill/Harris polling director Mark Penn told The Hill.
“Biden is polling better with suburban and all-important older voters upset about the virus.”
Trump has also been strongly criticised by Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who said the president has fanned the flames of hatred and failed to denounce white supremacist groups.
Whitmer was recently the target of a kidnap plot allegedly orchestrated by an armed group of far-right fighters who law enforcement officials said were angered over Michigan’s COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures.
Biden on Friday called Trump’s reluctance to condemn white supremacists “stunning“, and called the kidnap plotters in Michigan “domestic terrorists”.
Trump rejected that criticism during an election campaign rally that same day, mockingly telling the crowd that, “it’s always Trump’s fault”.