A couple months ago few people put Michigan in the Battleground territory except Mitt Romney, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and this blog. Recent polls demonstrate Obama’s narrowing lead and weakness in suburbs raising GOP hopes in the Great Lakes State. The Wall Street Journal takes a look at Michigan ahead of the Romney bus tour visit on Monday:
Barack Obama breezed to victory in Michigan in 2008 and, until recently, his bailout of the state’s auto industry looked to have armored him well for November. But signs of trouble are brewing in the Great Lakes State. If they grow, they would signal broader problems for the president in the industrial Midwest. Across Michigan, but particularly in several key counties that hug Detroit,veteran GOP strategists point to evidence of ebbing support for the president among independents, despite an improving economy egged on by the booming car sector.
Ramping up and hitting the ground running:
Conservative groups from outside the state are now showering Michigan with television ads, at a cost already of around $3 million, about three-quarters of what the campaign of Republican Sen. John McCain spent here during all of 2008. Their aim is to soften the ground for Mr. Obama’s Republican rival, Mitt Romney, whose own campaign is now staffing up in the state. Recent polls vary widely but generally point to a narrowing lead for Mr. Obama.
Risks to Obama:
An Obama loss in Michigan could imperil the president’s path to victory in the Electoral College, potentially requiring him to win one of the two hardest-fought states, Ohio and Florida. Heading into the fall, signs of weakness in the industrial belt also would require the Obama campaign to pour far more manpower and resources than planned into other states, such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, that Democrats have held in all of the last five presidential campaigns. “If Barack Obama can’t win Michigan, he can’t win the White House,” said Katie Gage, a longtime Michigan political operative and Mr. Romney’s deputy campaign manager. “We will compete there aggressively.”
Economy out front:
With the election likely to hinge on voter sentiment toward the economy, state job numbers released Friday by the federal government offered a mixed picture of the region’s economic health. Ohio gained 19,000 jobs last month and saw its jobless rate drop to 7.3%. But Michigan lost 5,000 jobs and saw its unemployment rate tick up to 8.5%, slightly higher than the U.S. average. Both the campaign and Michigan GOP lawmakers cite several factors that appear to be giving Mr. Romney a boost. The unemployment rate, which topped 14% in the summer of 2009, has eased markedly under Gov. Rick Snyder, a former-businessman-turned-politician. That has allowed Republicans to argue that voters should trust Mr. Romney, who carries a similar resume.