DETROIT – Following a dismal Democratic showing in 2010 that saw Republicans elected to multiple state offices and gain control of the state legislature, Michigan Democrats have made change over the past four years a consistent campaign theme this election cycle.
Speaking at a rally at Wayne State University on Saturday for the party’s last big get-out-the-vote push before Tuesday’s election, President Barack Obama delivered on that message, echoing his own previous campaign focuses of hope and change.
For the past six presidential elections, Michigan has voted blue. But in midterm elections — and especially in 2010 — Republicans have traditionally had the edge, because many Democratic voters who turn out for presidential elections have stayed home for the less-mobilizing midterms.
“When you step into that voting booth, you are making a choice not just about candidates or parties,” Obama told the crowd. “You are making a choice about two different visions of what America is about.”
In remarks before the president spoke, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.) called Tuesday’s election a “great equalizer” for people across the state, in reference to the large amounts of money that have been poured into several statewide campaigns. Across the two most high-profile races in the state — those for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Carl Levin (D–Mich.) and the governor’s seat — it has been projected/ that close to $90 million.
In the U.S. Senate race, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D–Mich.) is polling an average of 12.4 points ahead of his opponent, Terri Lynn Land, the former Michigan Secretary of State. Peters’ Democratic counterpart in the race for governor, Mark Schauer, faces a tighter race and is currently within several points of his opponent, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, making the get-out-the-vote effort especially significant for Democrats.
“What happens on Tuesday is that it doesn’t matter who we are, and it doesn’t matter how much money we’ve got in our pocket, a million dollars or a nickel,” Stabenow said. “Everybody has one vote … and so it’s up to us to show up and take back our great state.”
A slate of statewide candidates who spoke during the rally highlighted multiple aspects of the Republican record over the past four years as having a negative impact on the state, including changes to education funding and the passage of Right to Work laws in 2012.
“If you’re a student or a teacher, (Snyder’s policies) aren’t working for you,” Schauer said. “If you’re a parent, or a senior, or a union member, they’re not working for you. If you’re a woman, or a member of the LGBT community, if you care about livable cities and protecting our Great Lakes, they are not working for you. I think that’s wrong. That’s why Michigan’s ready for change and friends, that’s why change is coming.”
During his remarks, Obama spoke to both nationwide and statewide concerns in the context of change, focusing on income inequality issues such as pay equity, raising the minimum wage and the middle class.
“More tax breaks for folks at the top. Less investment in education. Looser rules on big banks and credit card companies and polluters. A thinner safety net for folks when they fall on hard times. You know what — we’ve tried those things,” Obama said of GOP economic policies. “They don’t work.”
In addition to urging change, he also embraced another one his former campaign slogans: encouraging those present to avoid cynicism and to continue embracing hope.
“Cynicism is a choice,” Obama said. “And hope is a better choice … hope that we can rebuild our middle class and pass on to our kids something better. That’s what built America. That’s what Motor City is all about. That’s what built Michigan! Our best days are still ahead.”
Republicans, who are attempting to gain control of the U.S. Senate this election cycle, have been turning up in Michigan as well. Last month, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney hosted a rally in Livonia in support of Land, criticizing the Obama administration on a slew of campaign issues, including national security and health care reform.