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Rep. Dingell: Clinton Understands What It Means To Be A Working Man Or Woman

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Michigan is a state to keep an eye on today. It's a state which has voted for the Democratic Party's presidential candidate for the past six presidential elections. Still, President Obama was there yesterday campaigning for Hillary Clinton, who's held an edge in most polls in the state. So why would the president be spending time in a reliably blue state?

One reason is that Donald Trump thinks he has a chance to win there and has been making a push for votes. He held his final rally in Grand Rapids last night and told the crowd he'd bring jobs back to the state.

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DONALD TRUMP: Michigan, they're ripping your auto companies apart. They're taking your jobs. They're closing your plants and they're moving them to Mexico and other places, but mostly to Mexico in this case.

MONTAGNE: Trade is a big concern for working-class voters there, as our guest Debbie Dingell knows well. She's a Democratic congresswoman who represents a district outside Detroit. And she joined us from her campaign office in Ann Arbor. Welcome back to the program.

DEBBIE DINGELL: It's great to be with you this morning, Renee. How are you?

MONTAGNE: I'm doing pretty well. Exciting day and want to play you a piece of tape from your conversation with our colleague David Greene last summer, when he asked you why Hillary Clinton struggles to connect with autoworkers and other working-class voters in your district. Here's what you had to say.

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DINGELL: She's got to spend more time with them. People did not - you know that I was one of the only people that saw that Michigan was far tighter than people thought on the primary. But I've been living in those union halls that you're talking about. And, you know, when I heard Donald Trump last August in the fall talk about currency manipulation, I said hooray. Somebody's listening. People are understanding what we're talking about.

MONTAGNE: Now that's just the beginning of your answer. And we should say you've been very critical of Donald Trump, but you did point something out there. So did Hillary Clinton wind up spending more time making her case to voters in your district and all over Michigan?

DINGELL: We've absolutely seen Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton in Michigan, talking about the issues, going directly to working men and women. I am one of those people, just like I was at the primary, that always thought that Michigan was more competitive than polling. So therefore I wasn't surprised by the sudden - everybody being worried in the last week. And I actually think what has happened is a good thing because I think complacency had set in.

But people are paying attention. People are looking at what Donald Trump really does instead of his talk. I think as they really start to think about what the impact of this election is going to be, that many of them are now saying my vote matters and I am going to vote for Hillary Clinton.

MONTAGNE: What do you say to a working-class voter, perhaps maybe especially a man, who is still hesitant to make a commitment even today?

DINGELL: I have had numerous conversations with them. I have been in the bars and in the halls the last week because that's where you talk to people. And I'm very specific. I talk about how it did excite me, as I said on this show earlier, that Donald Trump was talking about trade. But I want somebody with credibility. And not only do I talk about how he's manufacturing all of the materials associated with his current business in Mexico and China and Eastern Europe and other places, and using China steel in the projects that he's building in this country. This is a billionaire. And when people really think about who am I going to trust, that's going to fight for all of us? It's going to come down to trusting somebody who understands what it means to be a working man or woman in this country.

MONTAGNE: Well, just finally looking ahead, regardless of who the next president is, what kind of political environment do you foresee the new president encountering?

DINGELL: This is what I'm going to tell you I'm the most worried about. I have many Republican friends. And I've said to all of them, we've got to make a pledge to each other that we're going to pull together, that we are Americans first. I feel very strongly that one of the candidates in this election has tried to divide us in America with fear and hatred. And that the other candidate understands that America's strength is its diversity and are uniting as one community. And I'm going to be very much a part of trying to bring everybody together the day after the election and saying to people, we've got to work to solve America's problems. We are still the greatest country in the world. And we're going to keep ourselves there by working together.

MONTAGNE: Michigan Democrat Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, thanks very much.

DINGELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.