The final rally in Donald Trump’s grueling re-election battle came to an end early Tuesday morning with the president promising he would once again defy the polls and political wisdom.
His final appearance after a marathon 17 public appearances saw Trump take the stage in Grand Rapids, an industrial city in the midwestern state of Michigan.
It was the same place he ended his campaign exactly four years earlier, ahead of the shock victory that propelled him to the highest office in the country despite trailing opponent Hillary Clinton through the last presidential contest.
“We are going to gain four more years in this very beautiful White House. We wrote a page of history four years ago, and tomorrow we will once again write a page of history,” Trump told an adoring crowd of thousands, some of whom had been waiting since early Monday morning.
Trump’s first presidential campaign pitted himself against a political establishment he derisively branded “the swamp”.
But after nearly four years in office, Tuesday’s vote has in effect amounted to a referendum on Trump’s administration and his bombastic style.
He batted away criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic -- a public health crisis that has claimed more than 230,000 American lives in the world’s worst outbreak -- by noting he had recovered from his own infection.
“I’m here, right?” he asked his audience, most of whom were packed closely together and not wearing masks -- apart from some wearing facial coverings emblazoned with the president’s name.
In his usual style, Trump opted for a long and off-the-cuff speech -- boasting of his accomplishments on the economy, the military, and the pandemic -- instead of prepared remarks.
But in keeping with his four years in office, his final pitch was harsh and full of mockery for his opponent.
He chuckled through a montage broadcast onstage, outside a Grand Rapids airport hangar, that purported to show Joe Biden is suffering from cognitive decline -- a recurring line of attack by Trump’s campaign.
“He’s half the intelligence of 20 years ago,” Trump said of Biden.
After more than an hour on stage, Trump again promised to restore America to greatness, possibly for the final time.
His supporters in Grand Rapids do not appear to have given much thought about what the billionaire should do in case of defeat, with many surprised when the question was posed to them.
“I hope he’ll be a candidate in 2024,” Brad Boone, a 50-year-old real estate agent, told AFP.
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