Barack Obama

It's a "swing-state" edition of It's Just Politics this week. The big political question in the mitten-state currently seems to be "Is Michigan a true battleground - a swing state - in this year's presidential race?" You certainly would not be blamed for thinking so considering all of the campaign love that Michigan got this week.

Vice President Joe Biden was in Detroit on Wednesday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was in West Michigan yesterday campaigning on behalf of fellow Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and, just today, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan visited Commerce Township.

Are we a (politically) fickle state?

This level of attention would seem to suggest that Michigan is a battleground state alongside  those perpetual swingers: Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Colorado. There are certainly reasons to believe why this could be the case, even though Michigan has gone for the Democratic nominee in the last five presidential cycles. But, if you look back even further, the five cycles before that, Michigan voted for the Republican presidential candidate every time.

It would appear that we are a fickle state. Michigan may be blue, but it elects Republicans in statewide races all the time: Governor Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson – just to name a few. And, even while Democrat Jennifer Granholn was governor, Attorney General Mike Cox and Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land were both Republicans.

Interestingly enough, Michigan’s record tilts more heavily toward sending Democrats to Washington D.C.. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow are, of course, Democrats. And, in this election cycle, Republican Senate nominee Pete Hoekstra hopes to alter that trend, like Spence Abraham did –albeit for just one term – in 1994.

What do the polls say?

In this year's race, President Obama’s generally been given the edge in most polls in the state, even though Mitt Romney was born in Michigan and his father was governor here. But, just because he can claim "native-son" status, the Romney name does not always equal ballot magic. Romney's brother, Scott Romney, lost his reelection bid to the Michigan State University and his mother Lenore Romney failed in her U.S. Senate bid back in 1970. A former sister in law, Ronna, who ran with the Romney name also lost a Senate race.

A poll was released this week by Foster McCollum White and Associates for the Fox TV station in Detroit that gave Romney a four point lead over President Obama; and a slight lead for Pete Hoesktra over Senator Debbie Stabenow.

But, then, another poll was released this week that put President Obama and Senator Stabenow in the lead. So, it begs the question - which poll is right? The reality is there’s no objective measure for regular folks to use to judge the credibility of a poll. The only reality to compare it to is… other polls.

Is Michigan a swinging state?

So, aside from the polls - the question remains: are we a swing state or not? It would seem if the presidential campaigns didn’t think Michigan was relevant to them in November then they wouldn't be spending so much time here. But, one can argue that there are a whole lot of other reasons why candidates visit a place. Certainly, persuading voters is a big one. Keeping the base energized is another - especially in a year like this when it seems like most people have made up their minds who they want, or who they don’t want in the White House.

Vice President Joe Biden warns that if Mitt Romney is elected President, the country will return to the “failed policies” that caused a near-economic collapse in 2008.

Biden rallied supporters at Detroit’s Renaissance High School Wednesday. It was a stop on a brief campaign swing through Michigan that also included a fundraiser in West Bloomfield.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney is refocusing his tax plan to strengthen the middle class. Romney was in Colorado Thursday to outline his plan, which included points that have been previously released.

In Michigan and other states the campaign lined up several small business owners to share their support for Romney.

Tyce Holst owns Taylor Rental and Party Plus, a rental store in Holland that employs 10 full time workers. Holst says the recession forced him to lay off two employees.

Student debt by year
Lam Thuy Vo / NPR

Students at Michigan's five largest universities sought more loans to pay for college, according to a Detroit Free Press database

These students will join recent graduates around the country whose outstanding private and federal education debts have topped $1 trillion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. According to the data, as of 2010, students in Michigan have the 11th highest average debt of any state.

user cohdra / MorgueFile.com

If you get an email from President Obama, saying he wants to pay your electric bill, it's best to delete it.

A countrywide email and text message scam in which the sender offers to pay the recipient's utility bills through a new federal program in exchange for sensitive identity information has hit metro Detroit.

And some are taking the bait, reports The Detroit News' Charles E. Ramirez:

The President and the Chief Justice: An ironic history

Jul 11, 2012

Of all of the hyper-partisan episodes in the long political career of President Barack Obama, there is one that strikes me as being historically ironic.

In 2005, the then-junior Senator from Illinois voted against the confirmation of U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. as Chief Justice of United States Supreme Court. It turned out to be Justice Roberts whose actions on that court saved President Obama’s signature healthcare legislation.

Last night I was thinking of a moment in American history not that long ago, when a newly elected conservative Republican President had to choose a new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The president was neither a scholar, a lawyer, nor an intellectual, and his choice filled the legal community with dismay. He picked a former governor and failed vice presidential candidate who had never served a day as a judge.

You may not have realized this, but the best thing President Obama may have going for him in November is that the Detroit Tigers are having a pretty disappointing season.

That may sound nuts to you, but there is documented evidence of this:  Throughout history, whenever the Tigers have done spectacularly well in an election year, the Republicans almost always win. When they’ve disappointed fans, the Democrats usually triumph.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

“This is a defining time for this country. That’s a place where the president and I agree,” the Republican Presidential candidate said in Holland Tuesday night. Thousands of Romney supporters in shorts and sandals rallied on the shore of Lake Michigan at Holland State Park.

Romney’s 20-minute long speech focused on how important a strong American economy and military are to the rest of the world.

“American strength is the best ally peace has ever known. We must strike for a strong America,” Romney said.

Romney says the president’s health care overhaul is hurting small businesses. He says the economy is being dragged down by uncertainty about the federal debt. He says he worries that the United States is headed on the same path as Greece.

publiceye.org / wikimedia commons

A five-day, six-state bus tour by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will wind up next week in his home state of Michigan.

Romney last visited Michigan in May.

The Michigan swing with three stops will cap off a tour of half a dozen states deemed potential battlegrounds by the Romney campaign.

A survey of voters released last week suggests Michigan could be a toss-up between Romney and President Obama.

The president has made almost a dozen trips to Michigan to talk about green energy jobs, or to proclaim the success of the automotive rescue package. His campaign will spend this week calling attention to businesses that benefited from the auto recovery. Romney – who was born in Detroit -- opposed government loans to keep Chrysler and GM solvent through bankruptcy.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

State threatens to pull revenue if consent deal challenge continues

Detroit’s top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, is challenging the city's consent deal with the state of Michigan. State officials want the challenge to stop. The state Treasurer's Office sent the city a letter. From the Detroit Free Press:

The state Treasurer's Office warned the City of Detroit on Thursday that it could lose $80 million or more in state revenue sharing unless Mayor Dave Bing gets a lawsuit dropped by next week that challenges the city's financial stability agreement with the state.

Mayor Bing issued a statement last night saying he'd received the letter. Bing said Crittendon "believes she has the right to file the complaint."

However, as I have said before, this action only impedes our progress and places the City’s fiscal recovery in grave jeopardy. My team is working closely with the State to mitigate any negative impacts on my administration’s plan to financially stabilize the City. We want this matter resolved expeditiously for the sake of the citizens of Detroit.

Michigan House panel aims to put limits on abortion

A set of bills going through the legislature will put more restrictions on abortion providers in the state. A state House panel passed them yesterday, and now the bills are on the way to the state House floor. More from the Detroit News:

A House committee on Thursday advanced a three-bill package to the floor requiring abortion clinics to be licensed surgical centers, imposing new requirements for disposing of the remains of aborted fetuses and making it a crime to coerce a woman into terminating a pregnancy.

One of the bills includes a ban on late-term abortions for unborn children 20 or more weeks developed, with a narrow exception when the mother's life is at risk, said the bill sponsor, Rep. Deb Shaughnessy, R-Charlotte.

Polls show it's close between Obama and Romney in Michigan

Michigan is looking more and more like a swing state for either candidate. From the Huffington Post:

A poll released on Thursday by Lansing-based pollster EPIC-MRA has President Obama and Mitt Romney running neck and neck in Michigan, with Romney leading with 46 percent to Obama's 45 percent.

In a release, the Michigan Republican Party touted the results as evidence of Romney's growing strength in his home state. That would represent a shift from other polling conducted in the state, as well as EPIC's polling in April, which gave Obama a 4-point lead.

Small business owners and hopeful entrepreneurs are in Detroit today to get advice on  starting or improving a business.

The Urban Economic Forum, held by The White House Administration, hopes to help entrepreneurs in Detroit connect to resources and network with other business leaders.

The White House Administration said it is committed to supporting the Detroit area’s small businesses.

CBS Detroit reports:

Among the topics of discussion were the resources available to minority and urban entrepreneurs who are trying to access capital for their businesses. Mentors were also available to provide advice to business owners.

In a press, release the White House Administration wrote that other Urban Economic Forums will be held in Chicago, Illinois, and Columbus, Ohio.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

In this week's edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta and I take a look at the politics of taking credit for a good economy. Governor Snyder says Michigan's economy is improving but that's not the story that Mitt Romney wants to tell.

Zoe Clark: Rick, I have a great idea for this week's show!

Rick Pluta: Actually, Zoe, I think maybe it was someone else’s idea first.

Mitt Romney: “So, I’ll take a lot of credit...”

RP: That’s our cheap setup for the fact that Mitt Romney paid a visit to Michigan this week.

ZC: Indeed, he campaigned this week at Lansing Community College.

RP: Prior to hitting the ground here in Lansing, Romney gave an interview with an Ohio TV station, where he said President Obama really followed his plan - the Romney plan - for the bailout of the auto industry.

ZC: And, so, there’s this disconnect. Was the bailout bad? Or, wasn’t it? Governor Rick Snyder – a Romney supporter -- says it’s time to just stop talking about it.

Rick Snyder: “I think too much time is spent on the whole bailout question. It worked, it's done, it's over with. There's  other ways it probably could have been done. But, the point is it was successful."

RP: So, move on, folks. There’s nothing more to see here. Let’s change the subject. And this speaks to the sometimes awkward dance between governors and presidential candidates -- when they are from the same political party.  Rick Snyder is telling people things are looking up.

Snyder: “Now, if you look at where we're at, we’re the comeback state in the United States today.”

RP: The “comeback state,” outpacing the nation in job creation, manufacturing on the rise. And Mitt Romney?

Romney: “These last few years have been hard on the people in Lansing and frankly they've been hard on the people of America. “

ZC: Not hearing that relentless positivity there.

RP: This guy’s harshin’ my mellow. 

ZC: Rick Snyder does say there’s more work to be done. That Washington needs a healthy dose of what’s working in Michigan. But that’s not Romney’s message.

RP: Right. Where Rick Snyder says life is good and getting better, Mitt Romney says you’re worse off than you might have been. It’s not good, and whatever might be good is going to head south without some change.  

ZC: This dichotomy is not new. In the 1990s, the economy was booming John Engler was the Republican governor of Michigan, Bill Clinton, the Democratic president. When it came to that success…

RP: Credit for a good economy wasn’t a problem for Governor Jennifer Granholm. With George W.Bush in the White House, the economy was bad and it was a battle of blame. And it became mutually assured political destruction - we saw that by the time the time both of them office - Bush in 2009, Granholm on January first of 2011 - they were both pretty unpopular.  

ZC: That speaks to a few things, but one of them is people seeking office will cast a lot of blame for the bad, lay claim to the good, but there are really a lot of things outside their control that will decide the state of the economy and the state of their popularity.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

George Orwell once said that those who control the past, control the future. If you can revise history to fit your point of view, it gives you power. So, it should be no surprise that presidential candidates are struggling over some recent history - the auto bailout.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Democrats were waiting outside of Mitt Romney’s speech, ready to criticize the Republican presidential contender.

Michigan Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer says Romney's policies will take Michigan in the wrong direction.

“Romney wants to go back to the days of George W. Bush,” says Whitmer, “We need progress in the state of Michigan.  Thank god we had someone like President Obama when the autos needed help.”

Democrats also claim the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s budget plans would hurt college students, like those in his audience at Lansing Community College.

Mitt Romney
(courtesy of MittRomneyCentral.com)

Mitt Romney will make his first visit to Michigan this week since the state’s February presidential primary. The apparent Republican presidential nominee will deliver a speech in Lansing.

Mitt Romney won a narrow victory over Rick Santorum in the Michigan Republican primary.

Romney will speak at Lansing Community College tomorrow afternoon. His speech is expected to focus on the economy, and he will say President Obama’s policies have failed to sufficiently lift middle class families.

The visit is a hint that Republicans may consider Michigan a battleground state.

World Resources Institute

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has created no shortage of controversy recently. And as Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams reported last week, debate over this controversial method of extracting oil and gas from deep inside shale deposits has made its way to the Michigan statehouse.

(courtesy of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams)

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow say a Senate subcommittee has significantly increased the recommended annual funding for a planned $600 million physics research facility at Michigan State University.

The Michigan Democrats said Tuesday that the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water has budgeted $30 million in the 2013 fiscal year for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.

That's up from $22 million that President Barack Obama recommended Feb. 13 in his budget proposal. About $55 million in funding was stipulated by the original agreement.

Michigan State won a national competition to land the project in December 2008, and design work is under way.

Levin and Stabenow say construction of the facility will create about 5,000 construction jobs, with 400 permanent jobs after completion.

user chascar / Flickr

The U.S. Army's Fort Knox Summer Concert canceled an appearance by Michigan-born rocker Ted Nugent.

The announcement was made on the U.S. Army's Fort Knox Facebook page:

The artist lineup for the Fort Knox annual summer concert scheduled for June 23 changed today. Co-headliners REO Speedwagon and Styx remain scheduled to perform. However, after learning of opening act Ted Nugent's recent public comments about the president of the United States, Fort Knox leadership decided to cancel his performance on the installation.

Nugent was paid a visit by the Secret Service last Thursday after he told a crowd at an NRA convention "if Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year."

He followed his comments with a pause, telling the audience how serious he was about his statement.

There was a video of his comments at the NRA convention, but it was recently pulled down.

Nugent said last Thursday's meeting with the Secret Service went well. From the Detroit Free Press:

Although the Secret Service didn't issue a statement following Thursday's meeting, Nugent called it a "good, solid, professional meeting concluding that I have never made any threats of violence towards anyone. The meeting could not have gone better."

Nugent was cleared of being a threat to Mr. Obama.

Pete Souza / White House

This photo of President Barack Obama sitting on the Rosa Parks Bus at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn is making the rounds on Facebook today.

WDIV's Guy Gordon posted the photo, saying:

No matter your politics, a compelling picture of the President at Henry Ford Museum yesterday. An emotional moment for him. A nexus of history. — at Henry Ford Museum.

Mr. Obama was in Dearborn yesterday for a fundraiser at the museum and then later at a private dinner  hosted by Denise Ilitch.

The Detroit Free Press reports Obama described his visit to supporters:

"I actually had the chance to sit in Rosa Parks' bus," Obama said. "I just sat there for a moment and pondered the courage and tenacity that is part of our very recent history, but is also a part of that long line of folks -- sometimes nameless, oftentimes didn't make the history books -- but who constantly insisted on their dignity, their stake in the American Dream."

The bus was brought to the Henry Ford Museum in 2001 after the Museum outbid others, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.

Obama is sitting across the aisle from where Ms. Parks sat on that historic day in 1955.

Here's more on how the bus was found and restored.

President Obama made a broad, impassioned case for his re-election in Metro Detroit Wednesday.

The President resurrected the “change” theme of his 2008 campaign.

He said change is a slow process. But he touted some milestones of his first term, including health care reform and the resurgence of the US auto industry.

“If we work on behalf of our higher ideals…we will finish what we started in 2008,” the President told a crowd of enthusiastic supporters.

The President also paid homage to his surroundings—the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. He said it shows that “part of what makes us great is making stuff.”

“That’s what this museum reminds us of," Mr. Obama said. "Of what it means to build. It’s time we start taking the money we’re spending on war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use half of it to build our nation here at home.”

The President contrasted that with what he called Republicans’ “you’re on your own economics.”

“Their philosophy is that we’re better off if a few are doing well at the top, and everybody else is fending for themselves," Mr. Obama said. "And they’re wrong.”

The Henry Ford  hosted the first of two Metro Detroit fundraisers for the President. He then moved on to a private fundraiser at the Bingham Farms home of businesswoman Denise Ilitch.

The top price for a ticket there: $40,000.

Jeffrey Simms Photography / Flickr

President Obama is setting his sights on oil-market speculators. The President laid out a plan this week that would make it easier for the government to regulate oil trading markets.

There’s concern in the Obama administration that speculators are artificially driving up the price of oil. The President’s plan would increase spending to provide better oversight of energy markets. It would also increase penalties against those who engage in illegal trading.

Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin is in favor of the President's plan. He thinks more regulation of the markets is needed. "This is not a situation where the market is governing – where the usual rules of supply and demand govern. As a matter of fact, if supply and demand were the driving force here, gas prices would be going down. Not up," Levin says.

The President concedes that his plan will not immediately lower gas prices. But he says it will prevent market manipulation which, in turn, will help consumers.

President Obama last came to Michigan in January when he visited the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to give a speech on college affordability.

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported, today's trip will be a short, but organizers hope it will be lucrative:

The President will hold the first of two fundraisers at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.

That happens to be where Republican rival Mitt Romney launched his first Presidential campaign in 2007.

Then Mr. Obama will head to a private fundraiser hosted by Detroit businesswoman Denise Ilitch.

Organizers hope the two events will help raise more than $1 million in campaign funds for the President and other Democrats.

So far, Mitt Romney has raised more cash than Obama in Michigan. That could change after today's visit.

CBS Detroit reports around 600 people are expected at Mr. Obama's event at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, and attendees are paying "$5,000 to have dinner with the president and get a photo, $1,000 for a VIP rope line to shake his hand and $250 to attend."

The Denise Ilitch event will feature Michigan products, including white fish, vegetables, home brews, and Motown music. Participants will pay $40,000 for a cocktail reception and $10,000 per person for a dinner and candid photo.

Ifmuth / Flickr

Every Wednesday, we take a look at the week's state politics with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry. This morning: state lawmakers are back in Lansing after a two-week spring break, an overhaul of the state's Personal Property Tax could be coming, and President Obama is set to spend this evening fundraising in Southeast Michigan.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said something that wasn’t true yesterday. Not anything that could get him removed from office or disbarred, mind you. But something untrue nevertheless.

He was speaking, not as attorney general, but in his capacity as state chairman of the Romney campaign. He said that this state was up for grabs in the election, adding “Michigan’s a jump ball state, and it’s not been that way since 1988.

Well, it is true that for now, anyway, both sides are pledging to wage tough, vigorous and expensive campaigns here.

President Obama never mentioned Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum or the other Republican presidential candidates by name in his speech before the United Auto Workers Tuesday.

He didn't need to; everyone knew whom he had in mind when he accused some critics of the federally financed auto industry bailout of peddling distortions.

Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant.
Chrysler

Publicus Tacitus, the Roman senator, is given credit for coining the phrase, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.”

He’d feel right at home during the Michigan Republican primary campaign.

Over the past few weeks, candidates, their opponents and those who played a role have been debating just who should get credit for the auto industry bailout.

It’s a long-overdue discussion of what happened a little over three years ago, and the conversation shows just what a political hot button the situation still is for people in Michigan and the Midwest. Here’s a list of credit takers and how they make their cases.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, when Mitt Romney speaks today at the Detroit Economic Club, he will be met by protesters and a banner that reads: Romney Said Let Detroit Go Bankrupt. That was the headline on a 2008 opinion piece that Romney wrote opposing a taxpayer bailout for two of the Detroit car companies, GM and Chrysler.

And Democrats are missing no opportunity to remind voters of that, as we hear from Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is finishing his last stop in West Michigan Monday evening.

At a rally in Muskegon Monday afternoon Santorum mostly criticized President Obama, rather than his republican rivals in the presidential primary.

“Ladies and gentlemen this president is doing everything he can to shut down the manufacturing sector of this economy; from an environmental, energy, regulatory, and tax position,” Santorum said.

Santorum spent a lot of time talking about producing more energy in the United States by drilling for oil and natural gas. Santorum criticized President Obama for voting against a pipeline that would’ve sent crude oil from Canada to the southern U.S. for refining.

“(Obama and environmentalists) see an opportunity to go out and scare people. ‘Oh look at what’s going on - they’re producing all this dangerous stuff near you and they’re drilling wells. Oh and they’re going to pollute this and pollute that,” Santorum said sarcastically. “It’s a bunch of garbage.”

wikimedia commons

Republican candidate for president Rick Santorum says he thinks he would appeal to Democrats and independents in Michigan if he is on the November ballot.

Appearing on public television’s “Off the Record,” Santorum said he was able to attract votes when he ran for the US Senate in his Democratic-leaning home state of Pennsylvania. And he said, if he is the Republican nominee for president, independent voters will appreciate his honesty.

“You know what policies I’m going to be out there advocating for, I’m someone you can trust, I’m someone who is open to listening but who has a very clear vision for where I want to take the country,” Santorum said.

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