Election 2012

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The Republican candidates for president have taken their messages of energy independence on the road in Michigan. The state’s primary is just a few days away.

Rick Santorum has been the most vocal candidate about energy and environmental issues on his campaign stops in Michigan. He says “radicals” are blocking energy independence and economic growth in the country.

At a campaign stop in west Michigan this week Rick Santorum was asked for his stance on man-made global warming. He responded:

“There is a radical ideology of radical environmentalists, who, in fact, do put the earth above the needs of man, and see them in conflict with each other.”

Santorum says the federal government should focus on the needs of people first – such as the need for more jobs. He says when people have their needs met they are better able to take care of themselves and, in turn, the earth. He says ultimately the responsibility of environmental stewardship is on the individual. But Santorum says radical environmentalists are using global warming to manipulate the federal government.

“And so I never signed on with global warming. I realized…[applause]”

And then Santorum clarified—

“Let me be specific so I’m not taken out of context—manmade global warming. I do believe the Earth warms, I do believe it cools.”

Santorum rejects the science of climate change – though the vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is real and caused mostly by people.

Santorum also says the federal government needs to stop hoarding and protecting the country’s bountiful natural resources. He says natural gas and coal could be used to enrich the United States, lower fuel costs at the pump, and establish energy independence. His rival, Michigan-native Mitt Romney, agrees.

“Coal, oil, gas, nuclear, solar, wind, ethanol – use all those resources, so we have an ample supply of energy ourselves, and don’t have to send hundreds of billions of dollars buying energy every year. And by the way, put in place that keystone pipeline. That’s a no-brainer.”

But environmentalists in Michigan say the proposal to install an oil pipeline from Canada, through the middle of the U.S., is not a no-brainer for Michiganders. The Enbridge pipeline ruptured in the Kalamazoo River two summers ago.

“Yeah, I think Michigan has seen the dangers firsthand that communities around the country face.”

That’s Jordan Lubetkin with the Michigan chapter of the National Wildlife Federation.

“Pipeline spills are not a rare occurrence. In fact they happen hundreds of time per year.”

We're down to five days, now. Five days before the state holds its all-important presidential primary, and two new polls show a tightening race between front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

"An NBC News/Marist Poll released Wednesday shows 37 percent of 1,147 likely Michigan GOP primary voters backing Romney, 35 percent Santorum and 13 percent Ron Paul. Eight percent support Newt Gingrich, and 4 percent are undecided," the Associated Press reports. And, "a new EPIC-MRA poll of 400 likely voters shows Santorum with 37 percent, Romney 34 percent, Paul 10 percent and Gingrich 7 percent. Twelve percent were undecided," the AP notes.

The four Republican candidates debated last night in Arizona, possibly the last debate of this 2012 primary.

About 30 minutes into the debate, a subject close to many Michiganders hearts and pocketbooks - the auto bailout - was brought up.  The AP reports:

All of the GOP presidential candidates say they oppose President Barack Obama's decision to bail out failing automakers... Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul all say they'd have refused giving government money to General Motors and Chrysler. Gingrich says it wouldn't have been a tough decision -- he says that other operations in the auto industry outside of Detroit were doing fine. Romney says that his own approach to the auto industry calling for a structured bankruptcy would have been better. He says that some of the money used in the bailout was wasted.

Paul says he opposes all bailouts and says just because a bailout was successful doesn't mean it should have been done.

Just in case you're craving more post-debate analysis this morning, you can check out the stories below. And, is it just me, or is there a whole lotta fightin' words in these headlines ("duels," "attacks," "jabs," "draws fire")!?

Screen grab from video / guardian.co.uk

The four remaining Republican presidential candidates are set to take the stage tonight for what could be the final debate of the primary season.

While they will likely face a lot of questions from Arizona voters during the event, scheduled to be broadcast from Mesa, the candidates' performances have the potential to make a big impact in Michigan as well.

Once considered to be an electoral cakewalk for mitten-state native Mitt Romney, next Tuesday's Michigan primary has turned into a tight race between Romney and ex-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

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Highland Park school district could close by Monday

Yesterday afternoon Governor Rick Snyder "de-activated" a state-appointed emergency manager for the Highland Park school district after a judge ruled the state did not comply with the Open Meetings Act when appointing the emergency manager.

Snyder says the district will run out of money by Friday, and is asking the legislature to take emergency measures to allow students to transfer to other schools. He's also asking that state aid be allowed to transfer to other schools as well. MPRN's Rick Pluta reports the governor called what's happening a "terrible situation."

“But, I think, given the circumstances, this is a good, strong solution to deal with a tough situation that, unfortunately got complicated by litigation, politics, and everything else. And the kids shouldn’t be the victims,” said Snyder.

Forum organized in opposition to Michigan emergency manager law

Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit) held a public forum last night calling Michigan's emergency manager law (Public Act 4) "illegal, unconstitutional, and anti-democratic," according to Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek.

Conyers is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Cwiek reports "that committee’s staff issued a report finding that Public Act 4 violates the contracts clause of the U.S. Constitution, because it allows emergency managers to breach collective bargaining contracts."

Emergency manager of Benton Harbor, Joe Harris, spoke out in favor of Public Act 4, saying it keeps cities and school districts from declaring bankruptcy - an outcome he said would be catastrophic for everyone.

Republican primary campaign heats up, robocalls flood into Michigan homes

A new poll shows Mitt Romney in a dead heat with Rick Santorum ahead of the February 28 Republican presidential primary in Michigan (Romney 32 percent, Santorum 30 percent - margin of error +/- 4 percentage points).

The campaign is heating up, and the robocalls are piling up on answering machines all around Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press reports some people must be listening.

"They tick off a lot of people, but (campaigns) wouldn't use them if they didn't work," said Lansing-based consultant Craig Ruff.

Campaign calls are exempt from the National Do Not Call Registry.

Michigan GOP looking for a leader

Feb 21, 2012
Photo courtesy of Michigan GOP.

Michigan is just a week away from its Presidential Primary. The GOP candidates are campaigning across the state in preparation for the February 28 event.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke with the chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Robert Schostak.

Mitt Romney is from Michigan, so a lot people believe he will win in his home state, but  Rick Santorum was leading in the polls over Romney. Schostak is  not surprised Santorum is doing well in the state.

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a couple campaign stops in southeast Michigan before traveling to Arizona for a debate with the other Republican candidates. Romney told people at a town-hall-style meeting in Shelby Township that the federal government is not working for Michiganders.

“We know what it takes to get Washington to work so that America can work, so that Michigan can work, so that people here can have confidence that the promise of America – and that is hard work and education – will be the promise of prosperity and security, that that promise is one that we will live and we will fulfill, and I’ll get that job done if I’m your president,” said Romney.

Romney also weighed in on Michigan’s ongoing debate over compulsory union membership.

“My view is, every person in America ought to have the right to choose whether to join the union or not, so I’m in favor of Right-to-Work legislation,” Romney said.

Governor Rick Snyder – who endorsed Romney – says he thinks the right-to-work debate is divisive and he has no interest in pushing right-to-work legislation in the near future.

mittromney.com

There's nothing like a good political pony race, and Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are in a close one in Michigan.

Much has been made of Rick Santorum's lead in Michigan. How could an outsider be up on Michigan's native son?

Now a new poll shows Romney has closed the gap.

The Michigan Information and Research Service and the Mitchell Research Poll released new numbers this morning. It shows Romney leading Santorum 32 percent to 30 percent - well within the margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.

user brother o'mara / Michigan Radio

Santorum makes stops in West Michigan

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reports Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum made stops in Muskegon, Holland, and Grand Rapids yesterday. While in Muskegon, Santorum talked about producing more oil and natural gas in the U.S.

Smith reports he criticized President Obama for voting against the Keystone XL pipeline:

“(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.”

Mitt Romney is expected to be in Macomb County later today, and Ron Paul will be in the state later this week. We'll bring you more coverage of both these candidates. Newt Gingrich's campaign has not made any announcements of Michigan appearances for the candidate.

UM Regents hold emergency vote on graduate student union hearings

The decades long effort to unionize University of Michigan graduate students has largely been a local one - debated between students, the administration, and UM Regents on the campus in Ann Arbor.

But in the last year, the fight has been reaching into state politics with Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette stepping into the fray and now Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.

Richardville has introduced a bill that would ban graduate student unions. He's holding hearings on the bill today, and in a symbolic show of support of the organizing graduate students, the University of Michigan Regents held a vote this morning.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The University of Michigan Regents, in an emergency meeting this morning, opposed a bill up for debate later today in a state Senate committee that would ban graduate student research assistants from unionizing.

In doing so, the Regents, in a straight party line vote, passed the motion, recognizing the more than 2,000 GSRAs as employees... Today's vote reaffirmed a motion first passed in May.

Snow in February? What is this world coming to?

With this year's unusually mild winter, news of closed roads and heavy snowfall seems unique. This morning's snowfall has led to some road closings.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Snow began falling shortly after 9 a.m. around metro Detroit, including spots in Wayne County and downtown Detroit, presenting some problems for late-morning commuters.

Westbound I-94 at Scio Church Rd. in Washtenaw County was shutdown due to an accident involving a car and a semi-truck. Motorists were being diverted onto Ann-Arbor Saline Rd.

Earlier, police shut down M-14 in both directions to clear an accident. It has since been reopened, but Washtenaw County police dispatchers warn that the area is still icy and to use precaution.

Four years ago, Michigan politicians believed their presidential primary would be meaningful and influential. It was anything but. The state broke both parties’ rules by holding it too early.

Barack Obama’s name was not on the ballot, and it was won by two candidates who ended up not winning their nominations.

This year’s primary was supposed to be a big yawn. Democrats have only one candidate, and on the Republican side, this was supposed to be just a brief stop in native son Mitt Romney’s coronation parade. Except that’s not how it is working out.

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.”

user tobym / Flickr

This election year, money will drive the conversation in politics more than usual because of  recent Supreme Court decisions. They opened the floodgates of cash, allowing groups called Super PACs to spend unlimited amounts in support of federal candidates. We’re getting just a small sampling during the presidential primary.  This fall, Michigan will see a lot of money from outside the state coming in to buy tons of ads—most of them negative—to sway voters here.

Money can’t vote. But it certainly can affect the outcome of an election. And that bothers voters such as William Mayor.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

By now, it's probably not news to you that Michigan holds the nation’s next presidential primary on February 28th. And, it’s likely to be a doozy.

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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.

Will Gov. Snyder's endorsment help Romney?

Feb 16, 2012
User: dailyfortnight / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder gave his endorsement to Mitt Romney today.  The question is whether or not that endorsement will help Romney.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

Here’s what Susan Demas had to say about the Snyder endorsement:

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Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum told members of the Detroit Economic Club that he still thinks the federal bailout of the auto industry was the wrong move.

Santorum said he thinks auto companies should have been allowed to thrive or fail in the free market.

“Would the auto industry look different than it is today? Yes it would be. Would it still be alive and well? I think it would be equally alive and better,” said Santorum.

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Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney spoke to a business luncheon today not far from where he grew up in Oakland County as he stumped for Republican support in Michigan’s presidential primary.

Protestors outside carried a banner that said “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” -- a reminder of what Romney famously said in 2008 as he opposed the taxpayer-funded auto industry bailout.

Inside, Romney said he loves the auto industry and still drives a Ford Mustang – and defended his history as a venture capitalist to a chamber of commerce lunch largely filled with businesspeople.

Last night we all learned that today would be the day when Governor Rick Snyder endorsed Mitt Romney for president.

This is a time-honored ritual, not all that different in some ways from waiting to see if Billy will ask Katie to the prom. But what nobody ever seems to ask is, what effect this all has?

I mean, will Joe Sixpack or Susie Salarywoman come home tonight, throw open the door and say, “Honey, did you hear the news?   Snyder endorsed Romney.  I guess that settles it for us.“

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Governor Snyder endorses Romney, but will it help?

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder officially endorsed Mitt Romney for president. In an opinion piece in the Detroit News, Governor Snyder wrote:

The American economy as a whole remains in difficult straits. Our next president must understand how markets work and know how to get our nation back on track. Mitt Romney is the man for the job.

Polls show Romney trailing Santorum in Michigan. If Romney loses here, Matt Viser writes in Boston.com, it would be a big blow to his campaign:

A Romney loss in Michigan - the state where he grew up, the state his father governed, the state he says he loves - would not only breathe further life into Santorum’s campaign but could derail Romney’s.

Federal prosecutors charge top Wayne County employee

Tahir Kazmi, Wayne County's Chief Information Officer, has been charged with extortion and obstruction of justice.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that federal prosecutors charged Kazmi "with pressuring a county vendor to lie to FBI agents investigating possible corruption in Wayne County government."  Kazmi is also charged with extortion for allegedly demanding cash and expensive trips in exchange for awarding county contracts.

The federal investigation in Wayne County began after the Turkia Mullin severance scandal broke last October.

Detroit Mayor Bing wants to cut bus service from 1 to 4 a.m.

Detroit's beleaguered bus system is facing more cuts. Layoffs were recently announced, now Mayor Bing's office said it want to cut early morning service.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

Bing's office said it will propose ending bus service between 1 and 4 a.m. citywide and reduce service times and lengthen waits between buses on dozens of routes. The cuts would take effect March 3.

Coupled with the reductions, Detroit will institute a "truth in scheduling" pledge that buses will arrive at times posted on new city bus schedules as officials work to right the bus system as part of Bing's strategy to avoid a state financial takeover, Detroit Chief Operations Officer Chris Brown told the Free Press on Wednesday.

Mark Brush / images from YouTube

The actress featured in Pete Hoekstra's Super Bowl ad that sparked charges of racism has apologized.

Hoekstra, who is vying for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, first attempted to defend the ad, but later pulled it down after the outcry.

Lisa Chan posted the apology yesterday on her Facebook page:

"I am deeply sorry for any pain that the character I portrayed brought to my communities. As a recent college grad who has spent time working to improve communities and empower those without a voice, this role is not in any way representative of who I am. It was absolutely a mistake on my part and one that, over time, I hope can be forgiven. I feel horrible about my participation and I am determined to resolve my actions."

Hoekstra, the front runner for the Republican nomination, was hoping the ad would draw attention to his campaign. It did - just the wrong kind of attention. The Hill reports the  "Democrat-leaning Public Policy Polling, shows Stabenow up 51 percent to 37 percent. That's an increase over the 9-point lead she held in their July poll."

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The state Senate has approved some prospective changes in Michigan voting laws.

The measures would require training for people who register voters, and make people who pick up absentee ballots show a photo ID or sign an affidavit affirming their identity.

Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson called for some new election rules to discourage vote fraud.

“Michigan has a good election system, a very good election system, but we want to improve that even more,” said Ruth Johnson’s spokesman Fred Woodhams.

The measures have raised concerns with voter-rights advocates.

Usually, journalists are sent press releases before political events, because the organizers want reporters to cover them. Monday, I got one about an event that was already over.

That would normally strike me as a trifle unusual, until I saw that it was from the Green Party of Michigan. They had a meeting last weekend in Bay City which they said was “charged with enthusiasm.“

What did they talk about? Well, among other things, quote “the unrest palpable among the lower echelons of society.” and the “once-dismissed voters who opted to eschew either,” major party nominee.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Republican presidential contenders are turning more of their attention to Michigan ahead of the state's Feb. 28 presidential primary.

Mitt Romney is scheduled to be in Grand Rapids on Wednesday for a roundtable and rally at furniture maker Compatico Inc. The Michigan native also is scheduled to speak Thursday at a Farmington Area Chamber of Commerce event in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum speaks Thursday to the Detroit Economic Club at Cobo Center in Detroit. Later that day he's scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Oakland County Lincoln Day Dinner in the Detroit suburb of Novi.

Other events are expected leading up to the primary.

User: Jeremy Peters / flickr

Michigan’s Presidential Primary is only two weeks away.

On February 28, Republicans and Democrats can go out and vote for their nominee for President. That’s because Michigan is what you’d call an “open state.” Once you get to the polls all you have to do is request either a Republican or Democrat ballot.

Eleven Republican presidential candidates are on the ballot so far. President Barack Obama is the only Democrat.

The headlines were horrifying yesterday for Mitt Romney supporters. One new poll had Romney trailing Rick Santorum in Michigan, Romney’s birthplace, by six points -- thirty-three to twenty-seven. The other poll was worse. It had Romney behind by fifteen points -- thirty-nine to twenty-four. Those are staggering numbers. And anything but the kind of Valentine the former Massachusetts governor expected to receive. How could this be?

(celebrityhotnews.com)

Rick Santorum is leading in a new poll of likely Republican presidential primary voters in Michigan.   The primary is in two weeks. 

A poll by Public Policy Polling finds 39% of likely primary voters (70% Republicans/30% Democrats and Independents) say they support the former Pennsylvania United States Senator.

Matthileo / Flickr

Rick Pluta and I have been talking state politics on Fridays and today we take a look at Michigan's presidential primary, former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra's controversial TV ad, and Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposal.

Michigan Matters

This was a huge week for Rick Santorum which, in turn, meant it was a big week for Michigan politicos. Michigan and Arizona hold the nation’s next primaries on February 28 (Maine holds a caucus tomorrow). That means the Republican candidates will be looking to Michigan for their next win. On Wednesday, Santorum told MSNBC that, “we think Michigan is a great place for us to plant our flag and talk about jobs and manufacturing.” For Santorum, his campaign needs to continue the momentum before Super Tuesday (on March 6) to be considered a serious threat to Romney. Romney, meanwhile, needs a win in Michigan to stop Santorum's momentum. Newt Gingrich will be hoping for a win in Michigan, although it’s unlikely after Tuesday night’s results, and Ron Paul will hope for a decent showing in the mitten state.

“Will Romney win? That sure seems to be where the smart money goes. But are there opportunities to make sure it’s not a [Romney] domination? That opportunity does seem to exist,” Pluta explains. Pluta and I recently explored what some of those opportunities are.

The Super Bowl ad that had many saying, "huh?"

We couldn’t talk about the week’s political news without mentioning the controversy that continues over Republican Senatorial candidate Pete Hoekstra’s campaign ad that premiered last Sunday in which an Asian woman speaks in broken English. The ad was called “racially insensitive” and “xenophobic” and it’s even been parodied by the website FunnyOrDie.com. Now, the Hoekstra campaign is out with another ad, this time it doesn’t mention China. And, one of Hoekstra’s opponents in the Republican Senatorial primary, Clark Durant, premiered an ad of his own. “Durant saw an opportunity, decided not to wait to run his first ad of the campaign… and it’s a lot more positive [than the Hoekstra ad] and… the subtle message is, ‘we’re better than this,’” Pluta notes.

A kinder, gentler budget

Finally, Pluta and I take a look at the politics behind the budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 that was unveiled by the Governor yesterday at the state Capitol. Unlike last year, this year the budget is, “very, very different… It is a much kinder, gentler budget.”

Three days ago, it seemed that Michigan’s presidential primary would be regarded as kind of a sleepy afterthought. Mitt Romney’s campaign was once again relentlessly sailing on, after having demolished Newt Gingrich in Florida.

Since this was Romney’s birthplace, and had voted for him enthusiastically four years ago, he seemed unlikely to be seriously challenged here. Nor was he apt to get much momentum out of victory in a state where his father was an iconic governor years ago.

Headlines across the country are proclaiming big news from last night’s primary and caucuses in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado. Headlines like Santorum revives his campaign with wins and Santorum’s Sweep Shakes up Race make it clear: Rick Santorum had a pretty darn good Tuesday night. The former U.S. Senator won all three states in play.

Although, no delegates were assigned, Santorum has something else: momentum. “Together, the three states voting Tuesday will eventually award 128 delegates. But Missouri was a ‘beauty contest’ with no delegates at stake, while Minnesota and Colorado were nonbinding events with delegates to be chosen this spring. At stake Tuesday night was the prestige of winning. And Santorum nailed down three upsets to restore an air of viability to his candidacy,” the Washington Post explains. The Post continues:

Santorum’s wins across the Midwest Tuesday could bestow new legitimacy on his insurgent efforts and boost his fundraising in the critical period before nextmonth’s major contests. Santorum now appears to pose a more serious threat not only to Romney, but also to Gingrich, who had been positioning himself as the logical alternative to Romney.

 

David Markland / Flickr

The Detroit Economic Club says Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney plans to address the group a few days before Michigan's primary.

The club says in a posting on its website that Romney is scheduled to appear at a midday event Feb. 24 at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel.

Michigan's presidential primary is Feb. 28.

The club says a limited number of tickets will be available to attend the Michigan native's speech. Details are posted on the club's website.

Mandiberg / Flickr

Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra wants to be your next Senator. He’s currently running in the GOP primary to try and unseat Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow. Hoekstra’s campaign premiered a controversial ad yesterday that’s being called, “xenophobic,” “racially-insensitive” and a “mistake;” Hoekstra calls the ad, in which a young Chinese woman speaks broken English and thanks Senator Stabenow (in the ad, Stabenow is referred to as “Senator Spend-it-now") for helping the Chinese economy, “aggressive.”

As the political pundits are debating whether or not the ad is detrimental to the Hoekstra campaign – one thing is for sure: China-bashing is nothing new in Michigan.

While Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I usually talk state politics on Fridays, we just couldn’t ignore this story. So, take a listen as we dissect the ad and take a look back at past political ads that have targeted various politicians and their relationships with China.

And, for some visuals,  here are a few attack ads from the 2006 Michigan gubernatorial campaign:

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