Is Michigan In Play?

I’ve been somewhat skeptical of the idea that Michigan might be a winnable state for Mitt Romney this year. For one thing, the state has not gone for a Republican in a Presidential election since George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Democrats have won the state by at least 5 percentage points in every election since then. For another, the President’s role in the auto bailout has struck me as the kind of thing that would make it hard to challenge him in the state that is the home to the auto industry. Nonetheless, the Romney campaign has long thought that their candidate’s long ties to the state gave them a chance at picking up a state that would otherwise be out of reach. If two new polls are correct, they may be making he right bet:

Two polls released Tuesday give different views of how Michigan may vote in the presidential election.

A survey by Mitchell Research & Communications showed the race is a statistical dead heat between President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican challenger Mitt Romney, with Romney leading, 45 percent to Obama’s 44 percent.

But a poll by Rasmussen gave the edge to Obama, 48 percent to 42 percent.

Both surveys show that Romney, who was born in Michigan, is closing the gap with the president. Last month, Obama had a larger lead in a Rasmussen poll, 50 percent to 42 percent.

Also last month, the Mitchell survey showed Obama in front, 47 percent to 46 percent.

“Mitt Romney’s home state continues to look as though it is going to be a battleground state this year,” said Steve Mitchell of Mitchell Research & Communications.

The results are consistent with other polls showing Romney closing the gap since becoming the presumptive GOP candidate. Obama once had a commanding lead in Michigan, as much as double figures in one May poll.

Mitchell Research queried 825 likely voters Monday in an automated telephone survey. It has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Rasmussen questioned 500 likely voters Monday with a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

The Mitchell poll showed a possible cause for concern for Obama. Romney expanded his lead among independent voters, who are considered a key voting bloc.

In the poll, they preferred Romney by a 44 percent to 34 percent margin. Last month, they liked Romney, 43 percent to 38 percent.

At the very least, Romney seems to be closing the gap in the Wolverine State, as the RealClearPolitics chart shows:

If this holds up, this will add one more battleground state to the list in the fall and  puts another 16 Electoral Votes up for grabs.


FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I have a hard time believing Michigan is in play, regardless of published polling. Is Team Obama running TV ads there? If not, then I think we safely can conclude these polls are outliers.

  2. LaMont says:


    Don’t believe the hype! The southeastern area of Michigan (Detroit area) pretty much carries the vote and that demograpic is mainly democratic voters. Not to mention, Romney’s relationship with Michigan is about as active as my relationship with my middle school girlfriend – all but forgotten about. How Romney can come back to Michigan and act like he has a vested interest in the state is beyond me. Romney seems to think he can run on his father’s legacy somehow. Romeny would’ve had a tough time winning Michigan without the whole “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” fiasco.

  3. LaMont says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    No, Obama is not running any of the attach ads in Michigan – another tell-tell sign that Michigan may not be in play.

  4. Jay_Dubbs says:

    I don’t think either side is running ads in Michigan, which say a lot more than these polls.

    There doesn’t seem to be a lot of public polling on this, but I am sure that the campaigns have been polling there. There can be these states that are surprisingly competitive (see Indiana in 2008), but I doubt that this would be one. More likely this will be one of those mirages that look so tempting, but never quite materializes, like Pennsylvania and NJ for the GOP and Arizona for the Dems.

  5. LaMont says:

    Also, considering Romney’s tightly contested Michigan primary, I would be very surprised if he won Michigan in November.

  6. Tsar Nicholas says:

    If nobody is running TV ads there then that pretty much settles it: not in play.