Could Clinton lose Michigan?
Michigan has voted for the Democratic nominee in every presidential election since 1992, when Bill Clinton bested incumbent Republican George H.W. Bush.
Republicans made real efforts to win the Wolverine State in 2000 and 2004, particularly in the latter cycle when the relentless focus on Oakland and Macomb counties by George W. Bush’s re-election campaign forced Democrats to divert resources from their front in the much more pivotal battleground state of Ohio.
This time around, however, Democrats appear genuinely nervous, particularly given the unreliability of statewide polls in recent Michigan elections.
Just look at the number of surrogates — Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, Bill de Blasio — flying-in on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Clinton has even reportedly reallocated resources from the Buckeye State in an effort to salvage Michigan, which she lost to Sanders in the March primary election.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump hasn’t given up.
The Republican nominee has been here five times since his Party’s confab in Cleveland.
By contrast, Michigan was an afterthought at this point in the 2012 general election, despite Mitt Romney being a favorite son. And in 2008, John McCain’s infamous retreat contributed to a down-ballot slaughter of Republican candidates.
Yet Trump, who, if you believe the polls, is up in Kent and Macomb counties but trails in critical Oakland County, hasn’t been terribly strategic with his visits. (There’s also no reason why Trump’s numbers aren’t better in Oakland County, given its long history of electing the rather colorful L. Brooks Patterson.)
If Trump becomes the first GOP nominee to win Michigan since 1988, it will be because of blue-collar voters.
While his numbers in Macomb County are rock solid, he has pretty much ignored southern and western Wayne County.
True, Democrats almost always win Wayne County — even war hero Dwight Eisenhower lost Michigan’s biggest county — but Westland, Wayne, Redford Township, Allen Park, Canton and other blue-collar or middle, middle-class suburbs rewarded Ronald Reagan for stumping here with their votes in 1980.
The same is true for other mostly white, blue-collar constituencies along the I-75 corridor from Monroe north to Bay City and West Branch.
These are the Trump Democrats: White voters of Polish or German Roman Catholic extraction, who are generally culturally conservative on issues of the Second Amendment. They have been left behind by the Democratic Party in recent years.
Most importantly, they themselves or their father, brother or son have been displaced as well-paying jobs at Big Three plants and tool and die shops disappeared in recent years — making them inclined to support Trump’s stance on trade.
This might explain why union leaders are frantically pulling workers off their desk jobs at the United Auto Workers headquarters in downtown Detroit to work phone banks aimed at ginning up the vote for Clinton.
While the union bosses have fallen in line behind Clinton it’s an undeniable fact that many rank-and-file members are backing Trump.
Of course, all of Clinton’s love-bombing could strengthen her numbers and result in yet another Democrat winning Michigan’s votes in the electoral college.
However, if Clinton loses the presidency it’s going to be because Trump remade the political map and won a state that Republicans haven’t carried in recent cycles.
And that state could very well be Michigan.
Dennis Lennox is a Republican-aligned public affairs consultant.