As Amy Sullivan writes in this week's Time magazine, Michigan is very much up for grabs this November. Yes, we have a Democratic governor and two Demoratic senators, plus we've backed the Democrat in four consecutive presidential contests. But John Kerry beat George W. Bush by the narrowest of margins and McCain, despite having said some impolitic things about disappearing jobs during the Republican primaries, has generally been popular here. McCain's candidacy might look even stronger if he Mitt Romney, whose last name still inspires devotion in these parts, is the vice presidential nominee.
Barack Obama is still strong here, for the reasons he's strong in most Democratic leaning states. But he also has his problems, as Sullivan explains:
Michiganders didn't take kindly to being made the villain in Obama's oft told tale of how he had the courage to go to Detroit and say the auto industry needed to raise fuel-efficiency standards. It was an obvious way to establish his reputation as a "different kind of politician." But it didn't help his relative weakness among blue collar voters.
What does this have to do with Mayor Kilpatrick? Maybe a lot. While the tensions between white suburbs and black cities have subsided across much of America, the tension remains high in and around Detroit, at least based on the anecdotal evidence I've collected as a resident. I'm not exactly sure why this is the case. It could be that the memories of Coleman Young and the riots were simply a bigger deal here than they were in other places; or (more likely) it could be that Detroit remains mired in such economic and social distress. Whatever the explanation, though, it seems that white suburban voters here are more suspicious of black Democratic politicians than white suburban voters elsehwere.
Hopefully, the unfolding downfall of Detroit's boundlessly corrupt mayor will have little effect on the election in this state. But chaos at the top of the political machine in a region so important to the Democrats could hamper get-out-the-vote efforts.