Romney’s Play for Michigan

Michigan is one of the more unusual Battleground States this year.  Few people put it in the toss-up category at the start of the campaign, MSNBC (I know) refuses to include it among its swing states and even “conservative” (I know) Joe Scarborough calls the state “fool’s gold” the same way the GOP repeatedly competes fro Pennsylvania only to realize late in the game they wasted time and money. Marc Thiessen takes some time to look at Michigan and Romney’s efforts to convert this once deep blue state that is a deep shade of purple in 2012:

It is no surprise that in the run-up to this week’s Republican National Convention, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan made their first joint campaign appearance in the key battleground state of Ohio. More interesting is that Romney and Ryan took their pre-convention tour to a Midwestern state that went for Barack Obama by double digits in 2008: Michigan.

No GOP presidential candidate has carried Michigan in almost a ­quarter-century, and four years ago Obama won here in a 16-point landslide. This November, however, Romney sees Michigan as ripe for a pickup.

Most polls show Obama leading here narrowly, but Romney strategists point out that their man is nearly tied with the president before the TV ad war between the campaigns has even begun. Michigan is one of 11 states where the Romney campaign is fully staffed with a battleground footprint and money flowing in.

A number of factors suggest that Romney has a shot in Michigan. For one thing, since Obama’s 2008 victory, Michigan voters put the House in GOP hands and have elected a Republican governor, Rick Snyder, who campaigned (like Romney) on his experience in the private sector. Since taking office, Snyder has erased a $1.5 billion budget deficit and cut corporate taxes by $1 billion a year — and Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped from over 13 percent in 2010 to 8.6 percent in June. If Michigan voters are comfortable enough to put a chief executive in charge in Lansing, it stands to reason they would also put a chief executive in charge in Washington.Despite the recent progress, Michigan is not yet out of the woods economically. The state is still in its 48th straight month of above-8-percent unemployment and has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation.

The Romney campaign has also been highlighting two other issues that have particular resonance in Michigan. One is the administration’s contraception and abortifacient mandate, which hurts the president with the socially conservative Reagan Democrats in such places as Macomb County. There are 2.4 million Catholic voters in Michigan, and Obama’s assault on religious liberty has alienated many of them. In May, the Michigan Catholic Conference filed suit against the Obama administration over the Health and Human Services mandate — and Catholic priests will be preaching against it in parishes across the state between now and Election Day. Look for Romney to underscore his opposition to the HHS mandate — and his endorsement by Lech Walesa— with these Catholic voters, many of whom are of Polish and Ukrainian descent.

The second issue is welfare reform. Welfare fraud is fresh on people’s minds here, thanks to the news of a Detroit area woman who was recently caught continuing to collect benefits despite winning a $1 million state lottery prize. Michiganders have a strong work ethic and remain justly proud of their state’s role as a pioneer of welfare reform in the 1990s. The charge that Obama is gutting welfare reform hits a nerve here.

For these and other reasons, some Michigan Democrats are increasingly worried that Obama may be taking victory here for granted.

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