The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 15, 2000

Candidates come calling to court very important voters: Michigan's

By The Building Tradesman

So, Michigan voters…what makes you so special?

If it seems to you as if Michigan is getting more than its usual share of attention from presidential candidates in the 2000 campaign season, you would be correct.

"Every political writer has a special function on their computer that reads: 'American national elections are decided in the industrial heartland.' They are," said Wall Street Journal opinion writer Albert Hunt. His analysis of the nation's electoral count boiled the entire race down to "two critical contests:" in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

"If either ticket carries both these states and their 44 electoral votes, it can start measuring for White House drapes," Hunt wrote.

Michigan has actually been a key "swing state" for two decades. In 1980 and 1984, "Reagan Democrats" changed the political landscape in Michigan, helping put Ronald Reagan into the White House. In 1988, Michigan went for George Bush, but in 1992 and 1996, the state decisively supported Bill Clinton. Today's polling has the leanings of Michigan voters divided about equally among Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters.

The AFL-CIO is spending some $40 million, much of it in Michigan, to get out the union vote in this year's election. They're hoping for a repeat of 1996, when 40 percent of Michigan's union members turned out to vote, providing a big boost for Clinton. Republicans still have the big bucks behind them: the GOP National Committee will spend $100 million this fall to get out the vote.

Since serious campaign finance reforms have not been enacted, unions have been forced to close the gap on political spending. In the election year of 1994, corporations outspent organized labor by an 11-1 margin. That year, union members comprised only 13 percent of the vote, resulting in a rout where Republicans took control of both the U.S. House and Senate for the first time since the 1950s.

Increased spending by organized labor showed in 1998, when nationwide union turnout nearly doubled from 1994, to 23 percent, allowing the Democratic Party to come within five votes of re-taking the U.S. House.
Most of the polling done this year shows Michigan as a tossup in the presidential race.

Also too close to call is the key race for the open U.S. Senate held by Republican Spencer Abraham and challenger Debbie Stabenow, and the campaign for the open 8th District Congressional seat sought by between Democrat Diane Byrum and Republican Mike Rogers.

So candidates are spending some serious time and money in our state in attempting to sway the fence-sitters.

"Michigan can make a difference in this election," Lieberman said on Labor Day. "Give us your hearts, hands, voices and votes."