Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wednesday's Michigan Debate

To: Interested Parties
From: Rick Wiley, RNC Political Director
Date: November 10, 2011
RE: Wednesday's Michigan Debate

Last week USA Today and Gallup released the results of their first "Swing State Poll" conducted in 12 of the most important battleground states in next year's election. An ominous finding for the President is only 37% of voters in swing states feel they're better off today than they were when he was elected three years ago. And at a time when economic concerns dominate the political landscape, swing-state voters said a Republican candidate would do a better job handling the issues of the federal budget deficit and debt (+16%) and the issue of unemployment (+7%). It's important to note all 12 of these swing states were won by the President in 2008.

The swing state with Obama's widest margin of victory is Michigan - and on Wednesday that's where our Republican candidates will be. At 8:00pm (EST) at Oakland University in Rochester they'll participate in a Michigan Republican Party-sponsored debate where they'll share their solutions for getting the country's economy in order and Americans back to work.

It's no secret Michigan has been hit especially hard during the economic downturn. Over half a million Michiganders are out of work. Unemployment in Michigan remains over 11% - the third highest state in the country behind only Nevada and California and like everywhere, jobs and the economy are the top issues.

Last month, Obama visited Michigan for the 9th time, this time touting his $80 billion bailout for GM & Chrysler and the recent trade deal with South Korea (a deal Republicans had been pressing him for since he took office). The frequency of his visits suggests he knows how important Michigan is electorally. But Obama's problem is he must convince Michigan voters he not only likes to visit, but his priorities have been correct, and he's providing the policies and leadership necessary to help states like Michigan recover.

Polling suggests Michigan voters aren't convinced.

An October survey by EPIC/MRA shows only 14% of Michigan voters believe the country is going in the right direction. Conversely, the vast majority see the country going the wrong way. Seven in ten voters (71%) say things have "pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track". In May of Obama's first year in office the state was almost evenly split on this same question.

When asked about Obama himself, only 38% of voters gave the President a positive rating for the job he's doing. That's an embarrassingly low number for someone who carried the state with 57% of the vote just three years ago.

Although Michigan has supported the Democrat in the last five Presidential elections, it is far from a typical liberal blue-state. Michigan (Macomb County, specifically) has long been referred to as the unofficial home of the 'Reagan Democrat'. Michigan has bucked the Democrat establishment before, and last year its voters decided it was time to rid the state of failed Democrat leadership. Voters gave Republicans a virtual sweep of state office by electing Governor Rick Snyder, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, Attorney General Bill Schuette, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, a super-majority in the State Senate and a new majority in the State House. Equally as impressive as the size of the victory was where it occurred, with Republicans picking off legislative districts and local races across the state, including in traditionally Democrat territory around Detroit. Governor Snyder carried all but 4 of Michigan's 83 counties and won with the largest victory margin for a Republican in 12 years.

It's against this backdrop our Republican candidates debated on Wednesday. One thing beyond debate is Michigan voters will see a stage full of candidates better suited to lead than Barack Obama. Michigan decided to replace a Democrat chief executive with a Republican in Lansing last year, and given the path it's on, it seems reasonable to think Michigan will decide to do the same for Washington next year.

I could also mention the USA Today/Gallup swing state survey I mentioned earlier also shows a large enthusiasm advantage for Republicans in swing states, but that would be piling on.

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