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Could Flint sway this election?

Sep 28, 2016

If Donald Trump is to be elected President, he almost certainly has to win either Michigan or Pennsylvania.

If Trump carries every state Mitt Romney won and adds Ohio, Florida and Iowa, he still loses – unless he can take Michigan or Pennsylvania away from the Democrats.

So far this year, polls show he may have a better chance here.

Hillary Clinton leads in Michigan, but by less than in Pennsylvania and by far less than President Obama won the state either time. But Republicans in Congress are now doing something that may torpedo any chance Trump has of flipping this state this year.

They want to include money for Louisiana flood victims in a short term funding measure to keep the government running past Saturday, but not any money to replace lead pipes in Flint.

Democrats, joined by a handful of Republicans, are outraged, and are threatening a government shutdown, which is what will happen on Oct. 1 if this measure is not approved. The problem is less in the U.S. Senate than in the more ideological House.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, defended the lack of funding for Flint by saying this was “more of a local government issue.” That earned him denunciation today in an editorial in the Detroit News, which normally supports Republican causes.

The newspaper noted that Senate Democrats intend to block the short-term funding bill because it leaves out any money for Flint. Normally the Detroit News is quick to denounce such tactics, but this time, it is supporting the Democrats.

The newspaper notes:

They say it’s not fair to offer relief for flooding victims [in Louisiana] and leave out $220 million that would go toward replacing lead pipes in Flint. They’re right.

The newspaper added “the federal government has a stake in making amends,” especially because the Environmental Protection Agency also failed to warn Flint about the lead.

... they may be creating their own man-made political disaster.

Perhaps the nay-saying Republicans in Congress think that Louisiana was a natural disaster and Flint a man-made one. But they may be creating their own man-made political disaster.

If Flint isn’t included in the continuing resolution, there will be a lot of anger throughout Michigan.

Trump is going to have to ask us for our votes when his party is doing its best to prevent Flint from getting back on its feet. If there’s a government shutdown that’s perceived as being the fault of the Republicans, that will hurt their candidates across the country.

Up to now, as far as I know, Donald Trump hasn’t said anything about this situation. But he may soon have to.

Congressman Dan Kildee of Flint said yesterday that congressional Republicans were telling the people of Flint “you don’t matter,” and vowed that Democrats would “use every tool we have to make sure [his people] get the help they deserve.”

Republicans ought to be deeply worried about this – especially Tim Walberg and Jack Bergman, who are in tough congressional races here. In recent years, Michigan and Pennsylvania have lit up blue on network election night maps soon after the polls in both states close at 8 p.m. If that happens this year, Hillary Clinton is going to the White House.

And Republicans in Congress may well be partly to blame.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.