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More Than Kilpatrick

Michigan, the bluest of blue states (two Democratic Senators, a Democratic Governor and a Democratic-controlled state House of Representatives), is a swing state this presidential election cycle. Polling shows the race to be neck-and-neck. This piece has one answer: the impact of the indicted and disgraced Detroit Mayor Kwane Kilpatrick. This explanation goes like this:

I was struck by the number of Democratic operatives in Detroit who suspected that the mayor’s problems didn’t just put his mother’s re-election in jeopardy, but threatened to tarnish the Democratic brand throughout Michigan. And that includes Barack Obama’s campaign in the Wolverine State. One consultant, who worked for one of Kilpatrick’s primary rivals, put it bluntly. “This goes beyond their behavior in Detroit. The behavior pattern of the Kilpatricks threatens to undermine Obama’s candidacy in Michigan,” Detroit political consultant Sam Riddle told me. “Their behavior feeds into how white mainstream voters think of black politicians.”

But there may be much more at work. Michigan is suffering from a depressed economy and lagging job growth. The solution of the Democratic Governor and Democrats in the state legislature (along with a few misguided Republicans): raise taxes in an economic downturn. It turns out that didn’t do the trick. The unemployment rate there is now 8.5%. Governor Granholm has an approval rating of 20%.

So along comes a Democratic presidential candidate promising to raise taxes. Does that sell? Not so much, I would expect. And McCain may be the type of quirky Republican who appeals to the voters of Macomb County, the original home of the Reagan Democrats. (He won the 2000 primary in Michigan but lost to sort-of home-state son Mitt Romney in this year’s primary.)

So if Virginia is an inviting Red state target for Barack Obama, Michigan (with its 17 electoral votes) may be the best chance for a McCain Blue state pick up. Indeed, there may be no better place to argue that a Democratic-dominated government and tax increases are the wrong sort of change.


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