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Politics: Polls show Michigan tied. Is it the new Bellwether State?

Published by: Robert Laurie on Tuesday August 28th, 2012

Robert Laurie

By ROBERT LAURIE – Obama losing ground in safe, blue, unionized and bailed-out state?

In electoral politics, the term “Bellwether” tends to point directly towards Ohio.  “As goes the Buckeye State, so goes the nation,” or at least that’s the saying. Since Romney’s been lagging there, traditional media has been all too happy to continue that mantra.  However, something is happening just to the North that may signal big trouble for the President.

In 2008, Michigan voted overwhelmingly to elect Barack Obama.  His margin was a towering 16 point advantage.  Conventional wisdom held that, due to demographic, union, and economic factors, he’d hold most of that support.

In fact, back in February, I did a radio interview where I scoffed at the very idea that Romney could win the state. “He’ll win the primary,” I said, “but no one seriously thinks he has a chance of winning Michigan in the general.”

I may owe someone an apology.

Last week, when we saw a Baydoun/Foster poll which showed a four point advantage for Mitt Romney, most people scoffed. It was labeled an outlier, and everyone moved on. This week, a new Mitchell Research poll shows the race tied in the Wolverine State, at 47%.

While it remains to be seen if Romney can actually take the state, there’s no longer any doubt that it’s shifting in his direction.  Six months ago it was considered a Democrat shoe-in, now a GOP win may be possible for the first time in decades.

In Presidential terms, Michigan has been solidly blue since it last elected a Republican way back in 1988.  It endures intense union influence and its major cities are struggling with severe poverty. Obama and his surrogates have spent the summer lauding his automotive “success” in the state, while they hammer Romney as an out-of-touch, anti-poor, country club blue blood. 

If that message isn’t working – if Obama has truly squandered a 16 point advantage there - he could be looking at huge problems nationwide. If Michigan's swing is representative of a national trend, it could bode very poorly for states like Virginia, Iowa, Ohio and even Pennsylvania.  All of which the President won by much smaller percentages.

Time will tell if Mitt can take The Mitten, but in the meantime, it’s fallen squarely into toss-up territory.  Considering the size of his former support, that alone should be cause for Republican celebration, just as it should scare the pants off Team Obama.