As it becomes more obvious that the election will come down to traditional battleground states such as Ohio and Michigan, this afternoon, I decided to start talking to some folks with an expertise in these states.
My first call was to my good friend John Dunagan, who served as the Michigan state director for the Bush-Cheney campaign in '04. I was surprised to hear that he believes Sarah Palin holds the key to McCain's chances.
Following is his analysis ...
Michigan is a Democratic state. Wayne County (home of Detroit) accounted for 18 percent of the vote in 2004. With Obama on the ticket this time around, you can expect African-American turn-out to increase. This time around, Wayne County might account for as much as 20 percent of the vote.
What is more, despite the fact that years of incompetent rule by Democrats (including the infamous Mayor of Detroit) has given Michigan, perhaps the worst economy in the nation, in 2006 Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) was re-elected by 16 points, and that same year Governor Jennifer Granholm was also easily re-elected by 14 points -- despite being out-spent by Dick DeVoss.
But there is hope ... I was surprised to learn that Michigan has 12 minor league hockey teams -- and is the number one state in the nation for snowmobile ownership (in 2004, Dunagan helped start "Snowmobilers for Bush").
For this reason, Dunagan believes that Sarah Palin's candidacy is uniquely important in Michigan.
In order for McCain to have a chance to win, Dunagan believes McCain will have to find a way to counter a huge turnout in Detroit. This will be very difficult, he tells me, but Palin could help McCain do so. He would have to start by winning some working-class counties that John Kerry won (Kalamazoo and Ingham), and then win big in Macomb County (home of the "Reagan Democrat"). Bush won Macomb, but McCain will have to out-perform Bush and "run up the score" if he is to have a chance to win Michigan.
Clearly, Dunagan tells me, Michigan will be a tough state for McCain to win, but for Mid and Northern Michigan, Palin's cultural connections may allow McCain to pick up some working-class white votes that McCain would otherwise leave on the table. It will be very interesting, but when you consider the importance of Michigan, the Palin pick now appears even more sagacious than many initially thought ...