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Can Obama still get Obama voters to the polls?

 As we head into the last weekend before the election, Rick Snyder and Mark Schauer(and plenty of others) are making their final swings through the state, launching their final push to get out the vote.

These final few days are all about reaching voters, the would-be, possible voters and persuading, inspiring them to get to the polls.

Democrats Need Excitement

There are more registered Democrats in Michigan than Republicans. Michigan is a blue state. But Democrats don’t turn out to the polls the way Republicans do, particularly in midterm elections. That’s why in the past six presidential cycles, Michigan has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate but why, because they’re elected in the midterms, we have a Republican governor, secretary of state, and attorney general.

It’s toward that end that the D’s have a big attraction coming this weekend. President Obama is scheduled to campaignwith Schauer and Democratic Senatorial candidate Gary Peters in Detroit on Saturday.

Nationwide, many Democrats are avoiding the president, but not here in Michigan. Instead, they’re betting the upside of the president’s visit will be bigger than the risk.

They’re hoping that the president can convince the legions that stepped out to support him in 2012 that they need to step out once again in 2014, even if his name is not at the top of the ticket.

Republicans See Weakness

Republicans, no doubt, will try to capitalize on the president’s visit. They’re hoping a president with historically low approval ratings will, in a low-turnout year, send some voters to the GOP column.

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak believes this is an opportunity for Republicans, and they will use it. “We’re going to exploit it. Count on that.”

There is another risk for Democrats with a presidential visit this late in the season. And that is that a visit from a big political celebrity (and there is no bigger political celebrity than the sitting President of the United States) creates a campaign freeze.

Door-knocking, phone calls, e-mail blasts will all likely grind to a halt on the final Saturday before Election Day while people and resources become consumed by a presidential visit.

The effects of that time-lose, if they’re felt, may be much lower on the ticket where state House and Senate races depend on direct voter contact.

So it’s a cost-benefit analysis. But, in the end, Democrats figure the benefits of an appeal from the presidentto Michigan’s Democratic base is worth it.

We’ve Got Issues

When the president arrives tomorrow, expect there to be debate over the state of the economy and who can, and should, take credit for its recovery. “Our economy is doing better. It’s growing. Our businesses are creating jobs…” Obama told an audience in April during his last visit to Michigan.

Governor Snyder, however, sees it a bit differently, “I think the nation could come back faster if Washington could solve some of its issues. I think it’s actually slowed down our economic recovery over the past few years.”

These kind of messages may be a tacit acknowledgement of a few realities. One is that, the economy is growing, but the pace of job creation has slackened during the Snyder years, or maybe they’re the Obama-Snyder years. Either way, it seems people remain unsatisfied, no matter who is in charge.

So while Republicans and Democrats tussle over who gets the credit and who gets the blame for this piece and that piece of the economic puzzle, the public may simply blame incumbents.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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