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Monday, November 03, 2003


Posted by DavidNYC

Bring on the Wolverine State (does anyone actually call it that?):

Electoral Votes: 17 (18 in 2000)

2000 Results:

Gore: 51.28%
Bush: 46.14%
Nader: 1.99%
Buchanan: 0.00% (write-in)

Michigan is yet another state which lost an EV after redistricting, a process which, at present, has inflicted a number of papercuts on the Dems. Look at it this way: If the results of the 2004 election are identical to the 2000 contest, the Democrats would lose by 18 electoral votes, rather than just 4. Put another way, last time, we could have squeaked by if we had carried New Hampshire. This time, we'll need a good bit more than that. And as for Michigan, we definitely cannot afford to lose it. But I don't think we will.

I'll start with what I usually think is the most important issue in any state: unemployment. In Michigan, I think this issue will play a monster role. MI not only now has the fourth-highest unemployment rate of any state in the union (7.4%), but it has also experienced the fourth-largest swing since Bush took office (an increase of 2.8%). And as several people have recently noted, the current jobless recovery is not going to improve this situation. If and when Bush campaigns in MI, I can't but imagine that he'll be confronted by large crowds of angry, displaced workers - that is, if they aren't shunted off to those outrageous "free speech zones". I don't think the reception will be quite as bad as, say, Nixon's when he went to South America in 1958, but it won't be good, and Karl Rove can only insulate Bush so far.

Now, why is MI's unemployment situation so bad? If you've read the last few entries here on the SSP, you probably know what I'm going to discuss next: steel tariffs. Unlike PA, which is home to a lot of steel producers, Michigan's traditional rust belt industries are heavy steel consumers. I don't quite understand why Detroit failed to put up a fight when Bush first mooted these tariffs over two years ago, but in any case, the automakers (and other allied industries) are in full battle mode now. A new report (PDF) by the Institute for International Economics (a think tank which I understand is non-partisan and also widely respected - but correct me if I'm wrong on this count) states quite clearly that the tariffs are "unambiguously a drag on the U.S. economy" (emphasis in original). Further, anywhere from 12,000 to 43,000 job losses per year can be directly attributed to the tariffs. Now, that may not sound like a whole lot, but if you're a laid-off auto-worker and you're looking for someone to blame, the tariffs look like a very tempting target. I point this out because, while anyone might blame Bush for the sagging economy in general, it's a lot easier to link him to the tariffs specifically.

So you have union members who are pissed off about job losses on the one hand, and executives who are steamed about shrinking profit margins on the other - not a fortuitous mix for Bush. And D-Day on this matter is coming soon: The WTO already ruled that the tariffs were illegal back in June. The US appealed, but most observers expect the first ruling to be upheld. That appellate decision will be released some time in the next month or two. What happens then? Well, either Bush can come into compliance with the ruling and rescind the tariffs (and obviously anger everyone in the steel industry in PA, WV and OH he was hoping to win over). Or he can defiantly thumb his nose at the WTO - and we know that this Administration is not big on international bodies - and keep them in place. Apart from obviously exacerbating tensions with steel users, this might also trigger retaliatory tariffs from a whole slew of nations. In fact, nearly all of our major trading partners are complainants in the WTO proceeding: China, Japan, Korea, and the entire European Union - which now includes a bunch of countries which are supposedly part of the "New Europe" Bush is so fond of. Headlines proclaiming a trade war with 20 of our closest (or formerly closest) allies would be politically embarrassing for Bush in the midst of an election year. (Though of course, a trade spat with France might play well with the GOP base.)

Changing gears, I want to take a quick look at the subject of Michigan's large Arab-American population. While Arab Americans (most of whom are Christian, not Muslim) went heavily for Bush in 2000, the Administration's foreign policy has caused many to do a serious about-face. Zogby estimates that there are 490,000 Arab Americans living in Michigan, a sizable chunk given MI's population of about 10 million. Losing this demographic makes a difficult job that much harder for Bush & Co.

Also, Michigan elected a new Democratic Governor last year, Jennifer Granholm. While she hasn't been around as long as PA's Ed Rendell, and isn't as well-connected (he was the former chair of the DNC, after all), she does seem to be a rising star in the Democratic Party. Her margin was fairly narrow in 2002 (51-48), however, so it's hard to see how this will play out. Apparently, she remains quite popular (60% approval, but down from 70% in August), despite budget woes. Bush, on the other hand, has seen his popularity slip below the Mendoza Line - it's now just 47% in MI. In short, Michigan seems like a good bet to return to the Dem column - perhaps it's even the "safest" of the Dem swing states.

Posted at 09:12 PM in Michigan | Technorati


I too believe Michigan is a "safe" state. Even if the economy picks up its Arab population will keep it in the Dem column.

Now, a week or so ago there was a story that the Republicans are trying to tie Dems to the Arab vote. I see this as trying to alienate Jewish voters and by shading Dems with the "traitor" issue. A guilt by association deal. You may know most arabs in the U.S. are christian, I may know it, but the Republicans are going to make it their business that no one else knows it.

How do Dems address this?


Posted by: Boulanger at November 4, 2003 10:20 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Do you have a link to this story?

Posted by: DavidNYC at November 4, 2003 11:10 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Matthew Yglesias was ridiculing the idea that Michigan is a swing state in 2004 over at his blog just yesterday.

Posted by: Luis at November 4, 2003 01:12 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment