‚??Romney Closes Gap on Obama in Michigan,‚?Ě blared the headline of the Detroit News Thursday, summarizing the newspaper‚??s just-completed poll on the presidential race that has the campaigns and columnists talking throughout the Water Wonderland.
The just-completed poll conducted by the News and WDIV-TV (Detroit) shows President Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney among likely voters by only 47.7 to 45 percent — the closest yet that any poll has shown the two candidates competing for Michigan‚??s 16 electoral votes.
In Michigan, where Democrats usually depend on a big vote from Wayne County (Detroit) to carry the state, Republicans must do exceptionally well in the next three-largest counties to counter those ballots. In all three of those counties — Oakland, Kent, and Macomb — Human Events found enthusiasm for the Michigan-born Romney running high.
“Unemployment here in Michigan went over 9 percent last month,” Henry Payne, editor of the much-read on-line political publication “Michigan View” told us. “And Michigan is the state that, if you count the auto bailout, got the most stimulus money of any of the 50. Voters know this and are upset about it. We also have a large Catholic vote here in Southeast Michigan and Republicans are working it.” He noted that when Paul Ryan spoke at a rally in Oakland County last month, “he had two nuns on stage with him.”
Former Oakland County GOP Chairman Paul Welday as talked to Human Events, saying, ‚??There are two reasons the vote is trending (to Romney). First, the race always closes in favor of one candidate in the final days and, in this state, it happens to be in favor of the challenger, who happens to have been born and raised here. The other reason is Benghazi, and all the uproar about what was going on when the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed. If you read what they are saying about this on the net, you understand people realize some real mistakes were made and they are tired of being treated like children by their government.‚?Ě
Isn‚??t Obama‚??s auto bailout going to finish Romney in the end, we asked? Not so, says Welday. He pointed out that ‚??here at least, Gov. Romney has been able to avoid the slings and arrows of his position on the issue — to the extent that his position is misunderstood. The president has taken it for granted that he would win Michigan on this issue, so all of his fire on the bailout and Romney‚??s position on it is being deployed in Ohio. Now it‚??s late in the game.‚?Ě
As the second-largest county of all 83 in the state and the most populous in terms of Republican voters, Oakland County is key to any Republican carrying Michigan. Although Republican Govs. John Engler and Rick Snyder and other state candidates won Oakland, one has to go back to George H.W. Bush in 1988 to name a Republican presidential hopeful who carried the county.
‚??When you consider the effort we have here and that Mitt Romney and his family are from Oakland County,‚?Ě said Welday, ‚??you understand why that will change.‚?Ě He went on to predict that Romney would ‚??get more than 360,000 votes and carry Oakland in an historic high‚?Ě and ‚??that would be enough for him to carry Michigan‚??by about one and one half percent of the vote.‚?Ě
In neighboring Kent County — another GOP bastion that includes Grand Rapids — Republican National Committeewoman Terri Lynn Land spoke to us between stops while canvassing door-to-door for Romney. Recalling how four years ago Obama became the first Democrat in decades to carry Kent, she said: ‚??That won‚??t happen this time, believe me. We‚??re organized here and where you saw volunteers for Obama everywhere in 2008, I haven‚??t run into anybody here canvassing for him in 2012 except one UAW (United Auto Workers) guy.‚?Ě
Land added that there are several union-backed initiatives on the state ballot, including one that would enshrine collective bargaining in the state constitution, and ‚??voters are turning against all of them.‚?Ě The votes to defeat the controversial initiatives, she feels, ‚??will also help Mitt Romney.‚?Ě
Macomb County, Michigan‚??s third largest county, has long been a haven for national political pundits to study and draw conclusions. George Wallace scored well among blue-collar voters here as an independent and won the Michigan presidential primary with strong backing from Macomb. ‚??Reagan Democrats,‚?Ě the term to describe blue-collar voters who backed the 40th president, originally described Macomb voters.
‚??But it‚??s not the Macomb you know and have written about,‚?Ě Stanley T. Grot, chairman of the 10th U.S. District, which includes Macomb, GOP and Shelby Township Clerk, told us. ‚??Detroit has lost more than one million voters in recent years and many of them have come here, It has changed. As township clerk, I saw a lot of UAW jackets on people when they came to vote early.‚?Ě
Grot, however, believes that Romney will carry Macomb and the five other counties in the 10th District because ‚??despite the population shift, we are still conservative and Macomb did deliver for Romney in the primary (against Rick Santorum). I‚??d be surprised if Romney lost it.‚?Ě
Political strategists watch key counties to determine how a state will vote for president. In Michigan, they‚??ll be eyeing Wayne County to see if the unions and Democratic leaders can deliver the traditional vote for Obama. And they‚??ll also be eyeing Oakland, Kent, and Macomb Counties to see if there are enough votes there to put Mitt Romney over.