The auto industry capital hardly looked like inviting territory for Bush. He lost it in both the primary and general election in 2000, and Michigan's unemployment has been persistently and significantly higher than the national average throughout the last four years. But to the surprise even of some White House insiders, both public and private polls early this month showed the president running even with Kerry. The campaign boosted its TV buy and added stops for Bush and Cheney, forcing the Democrats to respond on the air and to bring Kerry back for two late appearances in the Detroit area.
Going into the final days, most neutral polls show Kerry with a small lead, but Bush strategists continue to find hopeful signs in their polls.
Some independent analysts speculate that Kerry's protracted absence from the state -- when Democrats believed the outcome was not in doubt -- allowed Bush free rein to campaign unopposed in Republican-leaning northern and western communities, where an initiative to ban same-sex marriage is expected to find strong support. Some polls show Kerry lagging behind previous Democrats among older voters, perhaps because he has emphasized national security issues more than Social Security and other traditional issues. But with every indication pointing to a big black vote in Detroit, Michigan "remains Kerry's to lose," say most observers.
Former state senator John "Joe" Schwarz, the leader of Arizona Sen. John McCain's successful run in the 2000 GOP Michigan primary, came through a crowded Republican primary and is a solid favorite over paralegal Sharon Renier (D) to succeed retiring Rep. Nick Smith (R) in the state's south-central district.