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Barack Obama

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.

GM / GM

From White House pool reports:

President Obama walked into the showroom of the 70th annual Washington Auto Show Tuesday afternoon, where he inspected about 15 new electric and hybrid models from Ford, Dodge, and General Motors.

The president was individually shown the vehicles by Sharif Marakby, director of electrification programs and engineering for Ford Motor Co; Reid Bigland, Dodge president and CEO; and Ed Welburn, vice president of global design for General Motors.

Richardo Giaviti / Flickr

President Barack Obama is expected to visit the Washington Auto Show on Tuesday.

Obama sometimes calls his decision to rescue General Motors and Chrysler a tough choice that saved jobs in an important industry.

The auto show will give him another forum to talk about GM and Chrysler, along with the administration's attention to manufacturers and efforts to boost fuel efficiency standards.

The president's advisers view the auto bailout as a potential point of contrast with Republican Mitt Romney, who opposed Obama's decision to pour billions of dollars into the companies.

During his State of the Union address last week, Obama said the auto industry has hired tens of thousands of workers, and he predicted the Detroit turnaround could take root elsewhere.

American Seating Company

Biden visited a Grand Rapids Public High School back in October to promote the President’s jobs bill. Biden returns this week, this time he’s expected to talk to workers at a manufacturing plant about the administration’s tax plan that’s supposed to boost American manufacturing.

Biden will visit American Seating Company in Grand Rapids on Wednesday. American Seating Company has been making seats for tour busses, trains, and big stadiums for about 125 years. Dave McLaughlin is Vice President and General Sales Manager of Transportation Products Group at American Seating. He’s been working there for 27 years. He says the company is trying not to view Biden’s visit as simply a political event.

“I’m sure there are people that are looking at it as a political event,” McLaughlin said, “We really need help as a nation in rebuilding our manufacturing infrastructure.”

The company employs 500, mostly unionized workers. Most are in Grand Rapids, but all in the United States. McLaughlin says about 75-percent of the company’s goods and services are sourced from companies based in Michigan, Ohio or Indiana.

“We just like to do things here,” McLaughlin said simply. “Now having said that we clearly are in the minority.” He says labor costs are the biggest challenge in staying in the U.S.

So if labor costs are the challenge, what can the U.S. government help manufacturers out with?

  1. Tax incentives: “Certainly a way of mitigating that fact of life could be through tax breaks of one sort or another,” McLaughlin said.
  2. Strengthening the Buy America content provisions: “They could raise that threshold to the point where it’s more difficult for offshore organizations to meet,” McLaughlin said.
  3. Have local, state, national projects buy American made products: “It seems ridiculous to me to see those dollars go offshore when quite often they don’t get reinvested back into the United States,” McLaughlin said.

Unless you’ve been living on Mars, or, at least, somewhere where there isn’t radio, television or the internet, you’ve most likely heard MORE than enough about the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, the “game-changing” South Carolina primary and, of course, who could forget about tomorrow's all-important Florida primary.

Well, maybe you’re like me and Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing Bureau Chief Rick Pluta and you feel like Michigan is getting left out of the conversation. Well, fear not, Pluta joined me on Friday to take a look at  Michigan’s Republican primary, scheduled for February 28th.

Romney has got this thing wrapped up... No, he doesn't. Oh wait, yes, he does.

We've got about a month to go before Michigan voters head to the polls for the state's presidential primary and it seems like one day we're hearing that Michigan's primary REALLY matters - that, indeed, the state will be influential in the Republican nominating process. But, then, just when we thought Michigan was important we hear the political pundits take back their political proclamations - claiming that no, in fact, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has got the state wrapped up. "I guess this is further evidence," Pluta says, "that anyone who is allowed to be a pundit should be required to wear something that says 'Don't follow me, I'm lost.'"

Michigan will matter... Really!

"Just a few weeks ago, we were written off," Pluta says, but, "things have changed so much since New Hampshire, we then had the Newt Gingrich surge... called Newtmentum. So, now... everyone is waiting to see what happens in Florida... and, then, we'll come out of that, and we'll go into Colorado and Minnesota - state's that really aren't as big as Michigan - and then, after February 7th, we have 21 days where there's nothing... and then the Michigan and Arizona primaries. And, Michigan WILL matter because momentum is everything going into Super Tuesday which happens shorty after Michigan and Arizona."

It's all about the "Big-Mo"... (Momentum, that is)

It's called the Big-Mo, or Big-Momentum, at least that's what political scientists and campaign strategists call it, and it's important. "I've talked to Republican strategists and they say, in a primary season, everything is about momentum. People are jumping in with whoever is surging and they're dropping off with whoever is lagging and so that's what you really, really want going into that all important Super Tuesday primary and Michigan is going to set the stage for that," Pluta explains. So, the idea is this: win Michigan and you go into Super Tuesday as a strong candidate with the air of inevitability.

Early primary = Fewer delegates

We reported quite a bit, last year, as the Michigan legislature tried to pick a date for the Michigan primary. Republican leaders wanted an early date for the primary - figuring that the earlier in the year the primary was held, the more influence the state would have in the national Republican campaign.

The only problem: Michigan broke the rules by holding an early primary. The date, "violates [Republican] Party rules and that will very likely result in Michigan's delegation to the Republican National Convention to be cut in half but, the [State] Legislature is really dominated by Romney supporters and what they wanted to do was... give Romney an early victory... that creates momentum going forward. It was actually considered more important for Romney to have that early momentum going ahead than to actually rack up as many delegates as he possibly could coming out of Michigan," Pluta explains.

How does Michigan rank in college affordability?

Jan 27, 2012
Bridge Magazine / http://bridgemi.com/2012/01/college-tax-burdens-students-state

President Obama spoke at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus today.

He spoke about his concerns over the cost of higher education and called for a college affordability report card.

The Center for Michigan's Bridge Magazine published its own report card with the affordability rankings for every Michigan university.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke to Ron French, Bridge Magazine's Senior Writer.

 

Update 12:56 p.m.

President Barack Obama was at the campus of the University of Michigan today, where he laid out his plan for how to make higher education more affordable.

"Shared responsibility" was a big theme in President Obama’s speech.

Mr. Obama called on states to make higher education funding a higher priority in their state; on Congress to extend tuition tax credits, and double the number of work study jobs available; on colleges and universities to do what they need to do to keep costs down.

"So from now on I’m telling Congress: We should steer federal campus-based aid to those colleges that keep tuition affordable, provide good value, serve their students well. We are putting colleges on notice.

You can't assume that you'll just jack up tuition every year. If you can't stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down."

Mr. Obama also introduced a new, $1 billion Race to the Top competition to reward states that come up bigger, more systemic ways to reduce college costs:

"We're telling the states: If you can find new ways of bringing down the cost of college and make it easier for more students to graduate, we'll help you do it. We will give you additional federal support, if you are doing a good job of making sure that all of you aren’t loaded up with debt when you graduate from college."

The President also wants to create a "report card" of sorts for colleges and universities, so that parents and students better understand how a school is doing, how affordable it is, how well its students are going.

And while the roughly 4,000 students in the crowd cheered at Mr. Obama's overall college affordability proposal, not everyone is on board with it.

As Tamar Lewin from the New York Times reports, the President's proposal has "raised hackles in higher-education circles":

“When we hear things like a shift in federal aid, it causes our antennas to go straight up,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education. “Anything that smacks of price controls is of great concern on many levels, especially at a time when states are cutting their budgets — and if the effect of this is to limit tuition, what else would you call it but price controls?”

Ms. Broad said that she and university presidents across the nation shared the president’s commitment to affordable higher education, but that it was not so easy to keep tuition down at a time when institutions must also absorb state budget cuts, increase enrollment and bolster financial aid for the growing number of families who need it.

The President delivered his remarks to roughly 4,000 people, mostly students,  at the Al Glick Field House on U of M's campus.

9:20 a.m.

The stage is up, and the crowd is gathering to hear President Obama deliver remarks at 9:35 a.m. at the Al Glick Field House at the University of Michigan.

You can listen to his speech by clicking our "listen live" link above.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra is at the event and will bring us details of the event later today.

Mr. Obama's speech is part of a nationwide tour where he is adding details to plans he outlined in his State of the Union speech.

Today, standing in front of a sign that reads "An America Built to Last," Obama will talk about his ideas for keeping college education affordable.

This morning, the White House released a "blueprint" for his plan. We'll post more on those ideas soon.

In case you missed President Obama's speech in the Al Glick Field House at the University of Michigan this morning, you can listen to the full audio of the speech above (the introduction by UM student Christina Beckman is included in the audio).

Or you can watch the entire speech below:

*Note - we originally had video clips from FOX 2 News and CNN loaded here. Those have been taken down now that the full video of Obama's speech is available.

Here's the live feed of President Obama's speech today in Ann Arbor.

JOIN THE LIVE CHATVISIT WHITEHOUSE.GOV

White House

In the last two decades, the cost of attending one year of college in a four-year institution has gone from an average of $7,602 in 1990-1991, to an average of $21,189 in 2009-2010.

And for Michigan's 15 public universities, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates have more than doubled in the last ten years -

  • going from an average of $5,056 in 2001-2002
  • to an average of $10,551 in 2011-2012

The public universities in Michigan, as in many states, have been adjusting to big cuts in state funding.

In her "Open Letter to President Obama" last month, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman called Michigan "ground zero" for higher education funding cuts:

Update 2:58 p.m.

We caught up with several folks waiting in line to get tickets to President Barack Obama's speech tomorrow. We asked them if there was anything in particular they wanted to hear the president talk about:

"I hope that they increase the Pell Grant, make it more affordable for people so that we’re not re-mortgaging our house over and over to pay for our kids’ to go to college."

         - Angela Lasiewick. Her daughter is a junior in high school.

"My concern is how we’re going to, what steps he’s going to take help us pay back these student loans. If they’re going to decrease insurance rates, if they’re going to make some sort of allowance for us to be able to live once we graduate with these large debts."

      - Ada Nwaneri has racked up $136,000 in student loans from undergrad, graduate, and law school.

"I want to hear specifically what he wants to do with the rising tuition costs...of debt forgiveness. And another issue I care about is what he's going to do with the banks as far as opening up lines of credit for the

     - Leo Esclamado is a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan.

"I was a little skeptical about attending, but I'm interested in hearing his message, what he has to say about the rising cost of higher education."

     - LaFleur Stephens is a graduate student in political science. She has about $30,000 in student loan debt.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama touched on college affordability, and put colleges and universities on notice when he said:

"If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.  Higher education can’t be a luxury -– it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."

After Mr. Obama's speech, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said in a written statement she "could not agree more with the president that we, as a nation, must recommit ourselves to higher education that is accessible to all."

1:01 p.m.

There were just 3,000 tickets available.

They were free, but people did "pay" for them by waiting in a long line outside the Michigan Union Ticket Office, where the free tickets were given out starting at 9 a.m. this morning.

As the Detroit Free Press' Mike Brookbank reports, the first person to receive a ticket arrived last night:

Teman Evans didn’t intend to do it.

But the 32-year-old turned out to be the first in line at the University of Michigan’s Union Ticket Office.

By this morning, thousands were behind him in a line that snaked for blocks outside the Michigan Union on State Street.

“I got here at 7:30 last night and thought there’d be a whole crew waiting for a month and somehow I was the first one,” said Evans.

People who arrived at 6 a.m. this morning found a long line of people who had been waiting overnight. The line stretched down State Street, down E. William St., and then snaked around to the University of Michigan's Administration building.

Six hours later, 3,000 people had tickets to see President Obama's speech tomorrow at the University of Michigan's Al Glick Fieldhouse. The Fieldhouse is the University of Michigan's football practice facility.

Mr. Obama's stop in Ann Arbor is his second as President. He gave the commencement address in 2010.

This stop is one of many he is making across the country in the wake of his State of the Union speech. He's expected to talk about his ideas for keeping college education affordable.

Two people from Michigan will be the guests of First Lady Michelle Obama at tonight's State of the Union address.

Holland resident Bryan Ritterby and Detroiter Alicia Boler-Davis.

Alicia Boler-Davis

Boler-Davis is the plant manager at GM's Orion Assembly and Pontiac Stamping. She oversees the production of the newly released Chevy Sonic - "the first new small car program from GM to be manufactured in the U.S.," according to the White House.

When President Obama and President Lee of South Korea visited GM's facility, Boler-Davis led them on the tour.

Boler-Davis was the first African American woman to be plant manager at a GM vehicle manufacturing plant, according to DiversityCareers.com.

Bryan Ritterby

Ritterby describes himself as an "Average Joe."

Someone who is not all that political, and who normally wouldn't watch a State of the Union address.

Tonight, he'll be watching with Boler-Davis from the balcony in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Garrett Ellison of the Grand Rapids Press writes about Ritterby's invitation from the White House:

Bryan Ritterby’s crazy week started on Saturday with a ring from Energetx Composities, where he works as a lab technician, telling him the White House might be calling.

Thus began a whirlwind adventure that culminates tonight when Ritterby, 58, of Holland, will be Michelle Obama’s guest in the First Lady’s box for the president’s annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

“For some crazy reason, they liked my story,” said Ritterby, who has spent all day fielding calls from reporters in his hotel room at the luxurious St. Regis Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., a block and a half from the White House.

“I’m so nervous, I’m leaning against the wall so my knees don’t knock.”

user marcn / Flickr

Tonight, we will hear about the "State of the State" from Governor Snyder, next week it's the "State of the Union" from President Obama.

After he delivers the State of the Union address next Tuesday night (January 24), Mr. Obama will travel  around the country with his message.

One of those stops will include Detroit, Michigan.

From the Associated Press:

The White House says President Barack Obama plans to travel to five states critical to his re-election campaign following next week's State of the Union address.

The president will discuss proposals from Tuesday's address in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Phoenix on Wednesday, and in Las Vegas and Denver on Thursday. On Friday, Obama will make remarks in Detroit.

The five states are expected to be heavily contested by both Obama and his Republican challenger this year.

Obama won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, sending him on a path to the White House. Colorado, Nevada and Arizona are three Western states the president's campaign covets while Michigan is expected to get ample attention from Republicans after the economic recession hurt the state's manufacturing base.

The scientific and political communities in this state and country often live in largely separate worlds. Former Congressman Vernon Ehlers, a physicist from Grand Rapids and a classy gentleman, was one of the few who managed to bridge that gap.

Smart scientists know that they usually don’t want to focus political attention on what they are doing. Smart politicians, a somewhat rarer breed, know enough to mostly leave scientists alone.

But there was a development yesterday that united both Michigan’s scientists and politicians in concern.

Barack Obama official Flickr page

The Democratic leader in the state House thinks Michigan Democrats and President Barack Obama can help each other win votes in the election this fall.

House Minority Leader Rick Hammel said lawmakers are coordinating with the president’s campaign efforts in Michigan. Hammel said Democrats could pick up seats in the House based in part on the popularity of President Obama.

“Quite frankly, the fact that he helped resurrect the automotive industry, and Mitt Romney said ‘The heck with it – die on the vine,’ that would have lost millions of jobs in the state," Hammel said.  "Not just automotive jobs, but jobs that are related to the industry, and the president stepped up and did the right thing, and so did Debbie Stabenow. So we’ll see enough energy on the Democratic side statewide, as well as nationally.”

Representatives of the state Republican Party say state Democrats are out of touch with voters and have no message of their own if they are embracing the president this far out from the election.

Hammel said a lack of popularity for Governor Rick Snyder and his GOP counterparts in the Legislature will also help Democrats win in November.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio.

Sales of real Christmas trees are down more than 20 percent for the past two decades. This season Christmas tree growers wanted to collectively start an advertising campaign to try to reverse that trend. But of all things, politics, got in the way. 

Artificial Christmas trees gaining favor

Real trees still outsell fake trees by about three to one. But artificial tree sales have been increasing for several years. Fake trees now have a slightly higher share of the Christmas tree market than real ones. Michigan is the third largest grower of real Christmas trees in the U.S., harvesting around 3 million a year.

Niala Boodhoo / Changing Gears

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before...

"We genuinely believe small business is the backbone of America, it’s going to the key for us to be able to put a lot of folks back to work."

That’s President Obama earlier this year.

Warm feelings about small business come at all levels, and on both sides of the aisle.

Here’s Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Synder this summer:

"Talk about the jobs you’re creating, even if it’s one job – that is the backbone of the reinvention of Michigan."

Or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week at the SmallBizExpo:

"Nothing is more important to our econonmic expansion than the small business of Chicago and the small business of tomorrow that will be in Chicago."

It’s more than just political talk.

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