Thursday, Jul. 31, 2008
By Amy Sullivan/Royal Oak
The New Battlegrounds Oakland County, Mich.
To get a fix on just how thoroughly the slumping economy has clobbered the state of Michigan, consider first some traditional indicators: Nearly 300,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the past decade. Ford just posted the worst quarterly loss in its 105-year history, and GM announced it was closing or converting plants. More than 1 of every 20 mortgages is in or near foreclosure, and at 8.5%, Michigan's unemployment rate is the highest in the nation.
But to fully grasp why the economy is the first, last and only issue on the minds of Michigan voters this year, one fact reveals all: two months after the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, there is no waiting list for season tickets.
Michigan has gone Democratic in every presidential election cycle since 1988--but it could surprise this time around. While Democrats usually benefit when economic concerns dominate an election, Barack Obama is running only a few points ahead of John McCain in statewide polls, a margin neither side considers safe. Adding to Obama's challenges is the fact that several of the state's Democratic leaders are wildly unpopular, under indictment or both.
The battle for Michigan is coming down to leafy, affluent Oakland County, a once solidly Republican bastion that has grown more Democratic in recent years. Oakland is one of the new battlegrounds of 2008--a handful of counties in must-win swing states that weren't pivotal a decade ago but are where the election will be lost or won this year. Though nearby Macomb County gave rise to Reagan Democrats nearly 30 years ago, it is the more upscale Oakland that holds the key to Michigan now.
Directly northwest of Detroit, Oakland County is the center of wealth in Michigan--it's where Eminem moved after he made his millions--and has escaped the worst of the prolonged slump. When the Pistons relocated from Detroit, they chose Auburn Hills for their new home. Mitt Romney grew up in Bloomfield Hills (which may move him up the list of likely McCain running mates) and attended Cranbrook, the county's toniest private school. Madonna (but not her accent) hails from Rochester Hills.
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Saturday, August 2, 2008
Time Magazine: Oakland County Ground Zero
Time Magazine profiles Oakland County, Michigan as the new battleground for presidential politics.