LANSING (AP) — Democrats say a win by John Kerry in Macomb
County will go a long way toward securing Michigan’s 17
electoral votes.

The county, home to conservative Democrats who backed Republican
Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and an increasing number of Republicans
moving into suburbs and rural areas north and west of Detroit,
narrowly went with Democrat Al Gore in 2000. Gore nudged President
Bush 50 percent to 48 percent in the county on his way to winning
Michigan overall.

Kerry hoped to energize voters in the crucial swing county with
a rally yesterday evening that featured rock star Jon Bon Jovi at
Macomb Community College in Warren. Kerry officials estimated that
5,000 to 6,000 people attended the concert.

This year, with polls showing a close race between Bush and
Kerry statewide and The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens endorsing
Bush, the Massachusetts senator isn’t taking any chances on
losing Macomb. He spoke yesterday at Macomb Community College in
front of about 10,000 people.

“Macomb County is the consummate swing county,”
Kerry’s Michigan campaign director Donnie Fowler said Monday
during a conference call with reporters. “Kerry hasn’t
been there in a while. That’s why he’s going back
again.”

Kerry last was in Macomb County on March 26, when he attended a
rally attended by hundreds of union workers at a United Auto
Workers hall in Warren a day after the UAW’s executive board
endorsed him.

He plans to return this weekend to Michigan for a Detroit rally
whose details still were being worked out, Fowler said. Elizabeth
Edwards, wife of Kerry running mate John Edwards, will hold a town
hall meeting today in Flint.

The visits will bracket a two-day swing through Michigan by
President Bush, who plans to campaign at a Detroit-area rally
tomorrow evening and at an event in Saginaw on Thursday.

Kerry campaign spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters yesterday
that the president remains vulnerable on domestic issues,
particularly in the Midwest. Michigan’s September
unemployment rate was 6.8 percent, well above the national rate of
5.4 percent.

“We know this is a close race. We know that turnout is
going to be crucial. But we believe we enter the last week in a
position of strength” nationally and especially in
battleground states such as Michigan, Lockhart said.

He added that, while Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have
been campaigning recently at Michigan stops with a message aimed at
consolidating their base, Kerry’s message reaches a broader
spectrum.

“Our message, I think, really does appeal equally to base
(Democratic) voters … and to swing voters, whether they be
conservative Democrats or moderate Republicans,” Lockhart
said.

During an earlier stop yesterday in New Hampshire, Kerry accused
Bush of “incredible incompetence” in the war on Iraq,
citing the disappearance of hundreds of tons of powerful explosives
stored in a military installation in Iraq.

Kerry said the Bush administration had “miscalculated
about how to go to war, miscalculated about the numbers of troops
that we would need, miscalculated about sending young Americans to
war without the armor they needed, without the Humvees they needed
that were armored.”

“And the incredible incompetence of this president and
this administration has put our troops at risk and put this country
at greater risk than we ought to be,” Kerry said.

“My opponent has the wrong strategy for the wrong country
at the wrong time,” Bush shot back as the campaign for the
White House entered its final full week.

Independent candidate Ralph Nader also was scheduled to campaign
in Michigan on yesterday, with an evening stop planned at the First
Unitarian Church in Detroit. Most recent polls show Nader and
running mate Peter Camejo getting only 1 or 2 percent of the
statewide vote.

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