Is Michigan a Battleground State?

We have had Michigan in the mix from the beginning, as has the Romney campaign. Political pundits have been split on the state with only a minority arguing it is a Battleground. The Battlecreek Enquirer takes a look at the state to assess what is happening on the ground in the Great Lakes State and provides some interesting data points for observers of all political persuasions:

During presidential election years, Michigan is not a solid blue, like California or New York, despite the fact that no Republican presidential candidate has carried the state since 1988. But it’s not a deep purple like Ohio or Florida, two of the most fought-over electoral prizes. Four of a dozen major media outlets include it in their list of battleground states and eight don’t, according to an analysis by the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics Web site.

Commitment of resources:

Republicans say there’s nothing soft about their intent to win Michigan this fall. The 20 offices the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee have in Michigan is less than the 30 it has in Ohio but close to the 21 it’s operating in Virginia. The [Obama] campaign has 11 offices in Michigan and Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to campaign in the state this week. Outside groups supporting Romney have weighed in, spending more than $5 million in ads against Obama since May, according to the National Journal. But Crossroads GPS and Restore Our Future have spent twice that amount in Ohio.

What does a competitive Michigan mean?

“The Republicans could win without Michigan. I’m not sure if the Democrats could,” said Rhodes Cook, a political analyst and editor of the Rhodes Cook letter. “It would be a big pickoff because this is one that Democrats — from (Bill) Clinton to (Al) Gore to (John) Kerry to Obama — have counted on and all of them have carried it. So if Obama doesn’t carry it, that’s a loss for the Democrats.” Matt Grossman, an assistant professor of political science at Michigan State University, said Michigan is a state where the Romney campaign has been on the offensive while the Obama campaign hasn’t spent a lot of resources on it. “It’s not that they think it’s a clear case,” Grossman said of the Obama campaign’s approach. “They just think if they’ve lost Michigan, they’ve probably lost a lot of other states that would lose them the election as well.”

Polls and turnout

Polls so far favor Obama in Michigan. Obama has led Romney in most of the polls this year, with double-digit leads in some of them. But those polls don’t predict turnout. Four years ago, the 57 percent of the vote that Michigan gave Obama was the best showing of a Democratic presidential candidate in Michigan since Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 landslide. Michigan Democrats also increased their majority in the state House and captured two GOP congressional seats. Two years ago, however, GOP Governor Rick Snyder won 58 percent of the vote while Republicans also took over the state House and expanded their margin in the state Senate. Republicans also picked up two congressional seats. Republicans say the enthusiasm remains on their side.

Bankruptcy and bailout

Romney argued on The New York Times editorial page in 2008 that Washington should reject a bailout of the auto industry in favor of a managed bankruptcy. Bill Ballenger, editor of Inside Michigan Politics, said any advantage Romney has gotten for having been born and raised in Michigan is offset by the pounding he has taken from Democrats over that article. Grossman, however, said that both the auto bailout and Romney’s Michigan roots are playing a surprisingly small role in the presidential campaign in Michigan.

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