MUSKEGON, Mich. — President Trump told supporters here Saturday that early voting trends in Michigan show that he’s defying polls and will win the state, while he tangled with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the target of an alleged kidnapping plot, calling her an aspiring “dictator.”
“We’re leading,” Mr. Trump said at a campaign rally in this town on the shores of Lake Michigan, calling it an early signal of his comeback. “We’re supposed to be way behind, until Election Day when all the Republicans go and you’re going to have a ‘red wave’ like you’ve never seen before.”
White House officials said Saturday that mail-in balloting and early voting totals in Michigan show that 41 percent of the 1.4 million votes so far were cast by Republicans, and 39 percent by Democrats. Another 20 percent of the vote was by independents.
Democrat Joseph R. Biden leads in Michigan by 7.2 percentage points, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls. Four years ago, Mr. Trump won the state by less than one percentage point.
The president criticized Ms. Whitmer, a frequent foil in his battle over reopening state economies, telling supporters, “She wants to be a dictator in Michigan. And the people can’t stand her.”
Mr. Trump said the governor is a “pure partisan,” and worried aloud that she can’t be trusted to oversee the state’s expanded voting options. “Be careful of her,” he said.
Ms. Whitmer has kept in place some of the most restrictive COVID-19 shutdowns in the country.
But the feud with Mr. Trump took a frightful turn on Oct. 8, when the FBI broke up an alleged plot by militia members to kidnap Ms. Whitmer, put her on trial and execute her. Ms. Whitmer and Mr. Biden blamed Mr. Trump for inciting the plot.
Referring to the alleged plot, Mr. Trump said, “I guess they said she was threatened. And she blamed me!”
“Let’s see what happens,” the president said. “But our FBI has to start looking at Antifa, and some other people that they’re not looking at.”The president told the crowd, “You’ve got to get your governor to open up your state, and get your schools open.”
The audience responded with chants of “Lock her up!” and “We love Trump!”
“Lock ‘em all up,” the president said, smiling.
Michigan is a central battlefield in the race. Mr. Trump won the state by a little more than 10,000 votes in 2016, putting the state in the GOP column for the first time in decades by winning over blue-collar voters.
Mr. Trump urged voters to reject Democrats at the polls, calling them “the party of socialists, Marxists and left-wing extremists.”
“If you’re a moderate Democrat or liberal who knows that you’re party has gone totally off the rails, you have a moral duty to immediately stop this lunacy — you must by law join the Republican Party,” he said.
He said Democrats “demand absolute allegiance or else,” pointing to the NARAL pro-choice group’s demand to remove Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, from her post on the Senate Judiciary Committee after she hugged Republican Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
“They want to destroy the woman. These people are sick,” Mr. Trump said.
He also pointed to a Michigan teacher whom he said was “fired for tweeting that Trump is our president.” “Can you imagine? Whoever you are, we love you,” the president said.
Michigan high school teacher Justin Kucera was fired in July says he was fired after tweeting in support of Mr. Trump, though the school district denied the allegations.
“This is the behavior of fascists,” Mr. Trump said. “The American people will never submit. We will not apologize, we will never apologize, we will not be controlled and we’ll never be broken.”
The president credited his tough trade policies, including rewriting the North American Free Trade Agreement, with bringing back manufacturing jobs to Michigan.
“We brought your plants back. You didn’t have a factory built for 40 years, and now you have a lot of them being built,” he said. “It’s a whole different ball game.”
— Dave Boyer reported from Washington.