Four states in the 2016 election were decided by less than 1 percent of the vote. In percentage terms, Michigan was the closest (0.22% percent), followed by New Hampshire (0.37%), Pennsylvania (0.72%), and Wisconsin (0.76%).
Donald Trump won Michigan by only 10,704 votes. Fortunately, he had one volunteer that made 32,133 phone calls.
In early 2016, Larry Salliotte had just recently recently retired. For over 40 years, he had a business in custom home building in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When Trump announced his campaign, Larry moved from Ann Arbor to a house he was building in Onsted, a small village in the Irish Hills region of southern Michigan.
Larry could have decided to enjoy life and travel, but instead he felt that the country needed Donald Trump as our president. On February 1, 2016, he got in his car and drove two and half hours to the nearest Trump campaign office in Grand Rapids.
On his first day, Larry made 500 calls. He paid for a hotel room and the next day the campaign was so impressed with his performance it felt it needed to pay him. It reimbursed him for the $71 he spent on his hotel room the previous night. For the next six weeks, the campaign gave him a hotel room just five minutes away from the office.
By March 8, Larry had already made 11,000 calls when he met Donald Trump. Larry was excited to have his picture taken with him. Larry looked him right in the eye and said, “Hello, Mr. President! I have been working hard for you.”
Larry told me that Trump responded, “I like hearing that. How are we doing in Michigan?”
Larry said, “We’re going to win in Michigan, Mr. President.” As Larry was telling me this story, you could feel how certain he was all along Trump would win.
Larry saw something in Trump that all of the political consultants in Washington could not. Larry sensed a general mood from all those calls to Republicans, Democrats, and independents. He believed people wanted change.
I don’t think anybody can call 12 hours a day seven days a week for a candidate unless he/she believes that candidate can win.
Larry told me that as they were shaking hands, Donald Trump said, “Thank you for all your loyal support, Larry, and keep up the good work.”
“See you in the White House,” said Larry. Larry would work events for the campaign in Michigan as well as Missouri and Ohio where Trump would speak. While he made calls to other states, Larry believes that at least 28,000 of his 32,133 calls were in Michigan.
After the first six weeks in Grand Rapids, Larry would continue to make campaign calls from his home computer. If he had to dial all those numbers by hand, the job would have taken twice as long.
His partner, Pat, attended events with Larry. She was very supportive of the campaign in Michigan, but nobody in that state, or in the country, made anywhere near the number of phone calls he did.
Larry missed the camaraderie of the Grand Rapids office. Eventually, the campaign opened an office in Lansing, an hour away from his house.
Every day he’d drive to the office, work for 12 hours making calls, and then drive another hour to get home. He kept calling until 9 p.m. on November 7th.
Polls closed in Michigan at 8 p.m. on November 8. Larry and Pat went to the Lansing victory party and saw history being made.
When I met Larry and Pat in Washington during the Inauguration, I was stunned by his story. It made me think that any future candidate will have to ask if he can inspire people to work so hard for him.