McCain Abandons Campaign In Michigan

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John McCain's campaign is abandoning its efforts in Michigan. McCain's campaign had thought it could win the Democratic-leaning state. The state offers 17 electoral votes. News of the pullout came as Barack Obama campaigned in Michigan.


From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block. Now to new developments in the presidential race. The McCain campaign says that it's pulling the plug in the battleground state of Michigan. It was one of the blue states Republicans had hoped to turn red this year. The state and its 17 electoral votes have gone Democratic in the last four presidential elections, but this year McCain was thought to have a good shot. NPR's Don Gonyea joins us to explain. Don is himself a native Michigander. Don, Michigan no longer a battleground state. What happened?

DON GONYEA: I think it's fair to say that the McCain campaign was literally overwhelmed by bad economic news. Now, the events of the last couple of weeks certainly put the focus on the economy everywhere, no more so than in Michigan. This is a place where the unemployment rate is 8.9 percent, highest in the country. And poll after poll shows that when you're talking the economy, Barack Obama has an advantage with voters.

Now, the McCain campaign, at one point, he got a bounce after his convention, and it had narrowed to just one point in Michigan, just like we'd expected all year long. But in the last two weeks it's opened up. A recent Detroit Free Press poll has it at 13 points now. They just saw it going the wrong way. They're sending those resources elsewhere.

BLOCK: Now, sending them elsewhere, meaning staff, ad money. Where's it going?

GONYEA: Well, certainly to places like Wisconsin, a nearby state that is very closely contested. Pennsylvania, very, very important. The McCain campaign this afternoon says Maine. They're going to try to make Maine more competitive. They'll send resources there. But again, Michigan is one of those big states, 17 electoral votes this year. Democrats have won it: Kerry, Gore, Clinton twice. If they could have taken it out of the Democratic column, that would have been points that Senator Obama would have had to make up elsewhere in smaller states - Colorado, New Mexico - making his job that much more difficult. So it is significant that at this point they're giving up on Michigan.

BLOCK: Are you getting a sense of how shaken the McCain campaign is and how that's reflected in this decision to pull out of Michigan right now?

GONYEA: Well, here's what they say. They're not showing it outwardly, but this is the kind of tough decision - you know, four, four and a half weeks out - that you don't like to make, but that campaigns do make. And it's certainly not a defining moment in the campaign, but it is a very difficult thing for them to have to acknowledge at this point. But they counter it. They say Barack Obama said from the beginning he was going to run a 50-state strategy. They say Obama has already scaled back, pulled out of Montana, out of Georgia, out of North Dakota. He has. But again, none of those were big swing states. None of those was considered the kind of prize Michigan is.

BLOCK: Not a battleground.

GONYEA: Exactly.

BLOCK: NPR's Don Gonyea, thanks so much.

GONYEA: Thank you.

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