BATTLE CREEK — Michigan is a crucial battleground for the presidential hopefuls, so it comes as no surprise that Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign chose to include three stops in the Great Lakes State among his first few public appearances following the Democratic National Convention.
Michigan and its 17 electoral votes are up for grabs, and the near-even political division in the state means the candidates will be working hard to win over its residents.
At 8.5 percent, Michigan’s unemployment rate is the highest in the nation, nearly 3 percent higher than the national average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Five thousand Michigan workers lost their jobs in the month of July and about 49,000 became unemployed over the past year, according to the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth.
Before coming to Michigan, Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, made stops in Pennsylvania and Ohio, where they gave speeches about the plan they hope will provide economic relief for working class families.
“America is not only suffering from economic stagnation, but what we’re also concerned about is whether or not we are going to be able to pass on a better future to our children and our grandchildren,” Obama said to a crowd of 17,500 here Sunday. “There is something unacceptable about that, Michigan.”
Those in Battle Creek were grateful to have their concerns receiving national attention.
For Kim Coady, a recent Michigan State University graduate who moved to Chicago after she couldn’t find a job in Michigan, Obama’s speech gave her hope.
“He sees our failing economy and wants to give us support and let us know he’s going to be there for us in the future,” Coady said. “He understands our difficulties.”
During his speech, Obama criticized presumptive Republican nominee John McCain’s economic plan as out of touch with the American people — an attack the Obama campaign will likely continue to push as Nov. 4 nears.
“It’s not that John McCain doesn’t care about you,” Obama said. “I just think he doesn’t know how you live. He doesn’t know how hard you work and what you’re going through and how tough times have gotten.”
After telling the crowd that he believes “people are ready for something fundamentally new,” Obama laid out his economic plan.
He vowed to eliminate tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs and create tax incentives for companies investing in U.S. workers. He said he won’t provide tax relief to corporations, but will provide tax breaks to 95 percent of American families. Obama pledged to lower health care and prescription drug costs and reiterated his belief in making college affordable and accessible to middle- and lower-income students.
When he promised to make college affordable and accessible for every high school graduate who has “the desire, the will” to pursue higher education, the crowd in Battle Creek — which included students from Ann Arbor, East Lansing and Kalamazoo — erupted with cheers.
Brittni Williams, a sophomore in Western Michigan University’s nursing program, said she thinks Obama’s plan to lower the cost of college and to provide affordable health care would jumpstart the Michigan economy.
University alum Sarah Clevinger, who graduated in April and works at University Hospital, said Obama’s plan provides hope that Michigan will recover and will change the job outlook for those entering the workforce after graduation. Clevinger said she was able to get a job in the health care field, but that people she knew weren’t as lucky.
“Many of my friends left Michigan because of the lack of jobs,” she said.
Before the campaign motorcade arrived, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.) took the stage to label Obama and Biden as candidates who understand what Michigan is going through: “people working too hard, not making enough and paying too much.”
“They understand that we’re in a fight for our way of life in Michigan and all across the country,” Stabenow said. “You know when Joe Biden and Barack Obama come here tonight, they’re going to speak as a group of folks — two folks that understand what we’re doing here, what has happened to us.”

(ZACHARY MIESNER/Daily)

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