In Michigan, “It’s the Economy, Stupid” All Over Again

Is it surprising that people in Michigan would like to work again? Of course not, that is why it isn’t surprising that Mitt Romney handily won yesterday’s primary. As primary season turns to election season, Romney’s advisors promise to continue to focus on the economy as a prime concern to keep momentum going for their candidate. If that is the case, then the Brookings report detailing how restoration would not only save the lakes but recharge the Great Lake states economic engine is a must read.

A troubled auto industry and national high unemployment rate (7.4%) were the concerns in Michigan voters’ minds and became the issue that dominated the republican race for the White House. While Romney’s message resonated with the voters and perhaps evoked a bit of nostalgia for the glory days of the auto industry when Mitt’s father was governor of the state, McCain made the grave error of speaking the truth – those jobs probably aren’t coming back – ever.

Exit polling showed that of those questioned, 55 percent said the economy was their number one concern and the majority of those votes, 42 percent, were cast for Romney. Interestingly, the same percentage – 42 – of Republican voters said that Romney’s family ties to the state persuaded them to vote for him. That tells us that the economy is clearly the most important issue to Michiganders and we will most likely see that it is an issue of similar significance in the seven other Great Lakes states.

That is why it is critical for the candidates embrace Great Lakes restoration. And McCain is right – many jobs that have left the state may not come back; but new innovative industries will enter the market place, fueled by restoration. In addition, industries that formerly left the region for the warmth of the South and West may begin to flock back to their old stomping grounds to take part in the revival. Businesses locate where the quality of life is better and the Great Lakes region offers not only usable water but also water views from the office or living room. Oh, and lets not forget all the top universities producing reems of R&D annually.

Romney did not win Michigan because of his recent support for the comprehesive restoration of the Great Lakes–but we’re willing to wager that his endorsement of the federal clean-up plan played a role. In fact, if the exit polls had asked voters where they rate the lakes, we have every reason to believe that stopping invasive species and sewage contamination would rate very high. This is, after all, the Great Lakes State.

Those in the know realize that the economy is intrisically tied to the Great Lakes. Romney’s efforts over the weekend to deliver his support for restoration and protections against water diversion surely made a big difference for him. That is why it puzzles us to read his comments made during his victory speech:

“This is the beginning of a comeback for America. Only a week ago, a win looked like it was impossible, but then you got out and told America (read Michigan) what [it] wanted to hear,” all according to Romney, except the (read Michigan) editorial.

Romney has a documented history of changing positions to suit his audience. While we hope he was sincere when he spoke of supporting the Great Lakes, it would lay our fears to rest if Romney would sign the pledge – a document that promises to do exactly what he said he intended to do, but then stopped short of committing his name to paper. Meanwhile, we have read that McCain did sign the pledge and is on the record promising not to divert Great Lakes water to the South, West or any other state. In addition, McCain was willing to tell the truth in Michigan, even if it meant losing his bid for the White House with that state’s Republicans.

Until Romney signs the pledge, McCain stands as the only Republican candidate who has thus far matched his rhetoric with his actions when it comes to restoring the Great Lakes.

To see a breakdown of the results in Michigan by district, click here.

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