LANSING, Mich. | Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is pulling away from his Republican opponent John McCain in Michigan, riding discontent of the nation´s economic crisis while making significant inroads among white men and union members.
Inside Michigan Politics publisher Bill Ballenger said he sees a McCain slide emerging.
“All along, McCain has been swimming upstream, and now he´s in just a terrible position,” Mr. Ballenger said.
A Real Clear Politics average of several most recent polls of Michigan voters gives Mr. Obama a 6.6-point lead at 48.9 percent to 42.3 percent. An EPIC-MRA survey conducted on behalf of the Detroit News released last week showed Mr. Obama up by 10 points, while a poll conducted by the Detroit Free Press found Mr. Obama´s lead at 13 points.
Brent Colburn, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, said that the campaign is buoyed by the growing support but that they are taking nothing for granted in this battleground state. The Illinois senator is slated to appear at a Michigan State University rally Thursday in East Lansing.
“We have a close election that is going all the way down to the wire,” said Mr. Colburn, noting that 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry only won Michigan by three points.
Meanwhile, campaigners for Republican nominee John McCain have opened 30 new Michigan campaign centers as they seek to bolster their ground game ahead of the Nov. 4 presidential election.
Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis said that despite the dire economic forecast, Mr. McCain remains competitive and should not be counted out.
Mr. Anuzis acknowledged that the economic crisis is helping Mr. Obama in the short term but that tarring Mr. McCain and Republicans as the reason for the problem could come back to hurt the Democratic nominee. The challenge for Republicans is explaining to voters just how the nation got to its financial tipping point. He argued that all roads lead back to the Democrats and a decade of inaction.
“A downturn might benefit Obama, but I think that it may actually boomerang on him. People will see the fact that it was actually Democrats that held up the reforms,” Mr. Anuzis said, citing a 2005 bill that Mr. McCain introduced to create financial oversight that was rejected by Democrats.
EPIC-MRA pollster Bernie Porn said his latest Michigan survey found Mr. Obama competitive in nearly every region of the state.
Although polls conducted in July and August found Mr. Obama´s support slipping among union workers, “a lot of that seems to have resolved itself,” Mr. Porn said.
Part of Mr. McCain´s wane among Michigan voters is increasing negative numbers for his running mate Sarah Palin, a difference of five percentage points since the last poll, showing that her initial bounce may be softening. Mr. McCain´s own favorability ratings also have declined by three points.
By turn, Mr. Obama´s favorability ratings are up along with those of his running mate Joseph R. Biden Jr., whose numbers have increased by five percentage points.
Eric Foster of the Urban Consulting Group in Detroit agreed that the economy is key for Michigan voters who cannot relate to the woes of Wall Street.
“Michigan is a blue-collar state, a labor state. You are not going to have folks here that can identify with the big corporate community,” he said. “With all of the outsourcing of jobs, the chickens have come home to roost because there is a lot of angst coming from those voters. That´s really helped Barack and the Democrats with a true approach that appeals to the working class.”