For years, Nelson Westrick, an auto worker from Sterling, Michigan, voted Democrat. But by 2016 he’d had enough. “There were these bad trade deals. It was just hurting good, middle-class blue-collar jobs,” he said.
Mr Westrick switched his vote to Donald Trump at the last presidential election, attracted by the Republican’s promise to stop US companies from moving jobs to lower-wage countries like Mexico and China.
He plans on sticking with the president at next month’s election, citing his tough stance on international relations. “Trump is the first president I know of that literally went after China,” Mr Westrick added.
Whether Mr Trump can again win support from former Democrats working in manufacturing, like Mr Westrick, could prove decisive in his attempt to recapture Michigan, as well as other swing states with large industrial bases and, ultimately, the White House.
Since taking office, Mr Trump has attempted to protect US manufacturing by imposing tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium from other countries, albeit with mixed results. Industrial activity is once again declining in the US with dire consequences for states like Michigan, a trend that has accelerated sharply during the pandemic.