A potential uphill battle for President Bush’s re-election
has his campaign earnestly expanding its scope, most recently by
designating its pre-existing Southfield office as its Michigan
headquarters last Thursday.

“Oakland County is very important to the campaign,”
campaign spokeswoman Merrill Smith said.

Former Montana Gov. Mark Racicot, chairman of the Committee to
Re-elect President Bush, and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney rallied
volunteers at the grand opening. The campaign has more than 16,000
volunteers in the state. “We think this is going to be a
close election. We’re not going to take any vote for
granted,” Smith said. “We’re determined to win
Michigan,” she added.

But Bush faces an uphill battle in the state. Former
Vice-president Al Gore won here in 2000 with a majority of the
vote. A Republican presidential candidate hasn’t taken the
state’s electoral votes since George H.W. Bush was elected in
1988. Michigan currently sends 17 electors to the Electoral
College.

To add to the Bush campaign’s worries, presumed Democratic
nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts has enlisted the aid of
Michigan’s most prominent politicians, Gov. Jennifer Granholm
and U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.

Smith offered several strategies the campaign will use to
undermine Kerry’s campaign promises. “We will go back
to John Kerry’s record,” Smith said, citing alleged
inconsistencies in the senator’s voting patterns. Smith said
the president’s re-election campaign will continue to
characterize Kerry as a big spender. The Bush campaign recently
estimated the cost of Kerry’s proposals at $1.9 trillion.

By this estimate, Smith said, Kerry will be forced to raise
taxes across the board. Kerry has said his policies would only
require raising taxes among the wealthiest Americans. Smith said
Bush’s campaign will focus on the economy and the terrorism
threat.

The Southfield office has employed nine full-time staffers since
December. The grand opening was a purely ceremonial function.
“It was a good opportunity to rally the troops,” Smith
said.

The Bush-Cheney currently has headquarters in nine states. The
Michigan office was the fourth headquarters to open in three days.
The campaign inaugurated its Pennsylvania and West Virginia
headquarters Tuesday and officially opened its Florida office the
next day. Racicot also hosted the ceremonies in Charleston, W. Va.,
and Tallahassee, Fla.

Smith said the regional offices are important in coordinating
the campaign’s grassroots efforts.

The Bush campaign faces formidable competition on the local
level from Kerry, who benefits from the grassroots organization of
his former opponent, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

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