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Auto Country Looms Large in Presidential Election

Posted by: David Kiley on January 29, 2008


Depending on what happens Feb 5, Michigan could really matter in this year’s Presidential election.

So far, Michigan is known as one of two states—the other is Florida—which attempted to jump ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire in the primary battles. Fearing backlash from those two states, the Democratic National Committee made the candidates sign a pledge not to campaign in those states. The Republican National Committee made no such pledge. And Barack Obama, John Edwards, and a few others no longer in the race when Michiganders voted, had their names pulled from the Michigan primary ballot. The names have not been removed from the Florida ballot. Though, as things stand now, Florida’s delegates won’t count at the Democratic convention and Michigan and Florida will only get half as many delegates as they otherwise would at the Republican convention.

If it sounds like a mess, it is. This is what happens when the national committees dig into a problem and try to fix it.

But here is the deal with Michigan. Michigan politicians and reporters believe a “deal” will be worked out by which the two states’ delegates will be seated at the convention. Michigan has 185 delegates. How’s that? If Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama are in a tight race for delegates going into the convention, Obama’s people will surely threaten to go to court to prevent the DNC from counting Michigan, if not Florida as well. Clinton did not pull her name from the Michigan ballot, and was the only name on the Michigan ballot, and she garnered 55% of the vote. The rest went for “uncommitted.” Michigan has a significant population of African-Americans, Muslim-Americans and strongholds of politically active young people in Ann Arbor and Lansing. All of those groups would likely have broken for Obama had his name been on the ballot.

Obama followed the rules. Clinton did not. DNC chairman Howard Dean is going to change the rules with the nomination teetering on the outcome? That sounds like a worse situation that Florida in the 2000 election. What a mess.

Now, would Obama have won Michigan? It’s hard to day for sure. Obama stumbled badly in Michigan last year when he gave a speech in downtown Detroit laying the blame for a terrible national fuel economy standard at the feet of the Big Three automakers, and, by extension, the United Auto Workers union. The speech was a fiasco in a state that has gone blue the last several elections, but could break red for the right GOP candidate—say Mitt Romney or John McCain, both of whom are very popular in Michigan.

It appears that noone has yet told the Obama campaign that they blew it last year when Obama’s first impression made in Detroit was that of an enemy of the auto industry. Obama could correct his mistake right after Feb. 5 with a new speech in Detroit that admits his rhetoric aimed at the car companies was too harsh, and that he sees an opportunity for the Federal government to invest in bringing “green-technology” to the ailing state economy.

With the Big Three ailing, and Toyota on the cusp, it seems, of passing GM as the world’s biggest automaker, Michigan isn’t known nationally right now for much besides falling real estate values, foreclosures and a sliding auto industry. But pretty soon, Michigan could well be in the eye of the political storm. And God help everyone…politicians in Washington will be the ones deciding just how important it will be.

Reader Comments


January 29, 2008 7:38 PM

I suppose at this point, one could reasonably ask whether or not Michigan is still "Auto Country"--in terms of production numbers of cars and trucks when it comes to sales of vehicles within the US.

Another thought is that Congress should concentrate on cleaning up that foaming cesspit that is DC prior to moving on out of town to raise hell.

Will Builder

January 30, 2008 4:27 PM

Slamma Obama on his Big Three-UAW dump.
The industry have been hugely challenged the past two generations to reinvent itself continually in the face of explosive competition and environmental pressures. How many other basic industries have thrown in the towel and gone overseas?
Saddled with legacy pension costs, huge investments for re-tooling for new generation designs and manufacturing methods, and challenged with strong competion for talented engineers; the industry deserves public support for the global challenge.
Instead of the divisive 'tongue baracking' he gave the industry', he has missed an opportunity to deliver an
inspiring "Kennedyesque" proposition.
"I pledge at this time that, within the next eight years, that Detroit, with the support of America, shall successfully design, develop and
mass-produce a non-oil-based fuel, non-polluting auto affordable by any American with a full-time job."

Robert Laughing

January 30, 2008 5:23 PM

Obama is right; the Terrible Three + the UAW have found it cheaper to pay off the US Govt, with Big Oil's support, so too many Americans drive garbage scows with lousy mileage and NO reliability. Talk about two industries, and a Union, supporting Al Qaeda and OPEC, at America's expense. NO matter how they 'spin it,' they sold out America. You know, we don't drive Detroit garbage scows. Never will again.


February 1, 2008 11:13 AM

I disagree that Obama stumbled in telling the US auto industry the truth. It needed to be said. You could also draw parallels to McCain telling unemployed auto workers that their jobs are not returning- which are not- and his second place showing in the MI GOP primary. The truth hurts- especially in MI. But clearly the old way isn't working. They would do well to listen and not hope in vain for a return to a glorified past that is just that- past.

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