Biden and his team have stayed engaged, as Trump’s campaign has continued to visit and otherwise actively campaign in the state. Biden has visited several times, and may be back. In the past week alone, the Biden campaign has sent Jill Biden; Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff; Pete Buttigieg; and the pop star Lizzo all over the state, and Harris and Emhoff were back there today. (Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were also in Michigan this past week.) Democrats’ TV spending has remained high, and issue-specific, such as the campaign ad that started running earlier this month, just in the Traverse City market, highlighting the effect of climate change on fruit farmers. Clinton’s Michigan ads in 2016 mostly focused on calling Trump terrible, without a clear positive message about her or the Democratic Party.
Read: A warning from Michigan
Despite these efforts, Democrats know that much will likely hinge on the Black vote. So in late September, when Harris came to Michigan for her first in-person trip since joining the ticket, she started the day in Flint, another largely Black city that, like Detroit, saw lower turnout in 2016 than it had four years before. Sticking to the campaign’s strategy of speaking directly to local issues, she took a walking tour of Black-owned small businesses with Stabenow and the Flint native and former WNBA player Deanna Nolan, visiting a barbershop, then a bookstore, then a clothing store. At a market a few blocks away, she laughed with farmers as she bought honeycrisp apples, corn, and jalapeños, talking up Biden’s economic-recovery plan to each person she met.
In front of another barbershop that afternoon, in Detroit, Harris laid into the Trump administration for trying to end the Affordable Care Act and health-insurance protections for preexisting conditions. She talked about how “poverty is trauma-inducing,” and called the push for a $15 hourly minimum wage a “floor” that didn’t do anything to build Black equity. “We have an opportunity to declare and demonstrate the power to shape the future,” she said, urging listeners not to be cowed into giving up and not voting. “Let us not let them take our power.”
With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, more than 1.6 million Michiganders have voted, about a third of the expected vote total (which assumes a higher turnout than in 2016). Democrats like those numbers, but they also worry that they don’t actually represent additional supporters—they may just be eating into the votes that in past years came on Election Day.
Even if the Democrats’ Michigan strategy comes together, flipping just this one state won’t get Biden to 270 electoral votes. But the Biden campaign knows that Michigan is central to its chances. “I’m traveling around the country, but I keep coming back to Detroit,” Harris said today at a polling place there. “You know, in 2016, right, we remember what happened? When we got hit by this natural disaster who’s now in the White House, right? In 2016, they won by just on an average two votes per precinct … So let’s make sure that doesn’t happen again, shall we? And that means: Let’s make sure everybody votes.”
* This article previously misstated that absentee ballots were sent to all Michigan voters. In fact, absentee ballot applications were sent to all Michigan voters.