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Posted on Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

Obama's second visit to Ann Arbor shows he's 'not taking Michigan for granted'

By Nathan Bomey

Related story: Obama scheduled to speak at University of Michigan on Friday

President Barack Obama's decision to speak Friday at the University of Michigan reflects a bid to energize his political base in a state that's looking increasingly vital to his reelection.


President Barack Obama speaks to University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman during the spring commencement ceremony in 2010.

White House

Obama, who will become the first sitting president to visit U-M's Ann Arbor campus twice, will deliver his speech three days after the State of the Union address, where he's expected to seek to define the role of the government in sparking economic growth.

Although the speech won't be billed as a campaign event, it's clearly part of the president's election year effort to highlight his accomplishments in a state has benefited directly from his policies.

Obama is sure to remind the crowd that he championed $50 billion in federal financing to help guide General Motors and Chrysler through their bankruptcy filings in 2009.

His support of the auto bailouts — which saved thousands of jobs — is looking increasingly crucial because winning Michigan is vital to the president's reelection, said Craig Ruff, an analyst with nonpartisan Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants.

"It's great that Michigan is on the swing state tour," Ruff said. "It shows that the president is not taking Michigan for granted."

The speech also comes as the Republican presidential primary is intensifying. Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary on Saturday night — and a poll today by Rasmussen Reports shows he has taken the lead in the critical Florida primary.

Nonetheless, analysts still view former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as a formidable candidate in a protracted primary contest. As a Michigan native and son of former Gov. George Romney, Romney still benefits from strong name recognition here.

"Michigan would likely be more in play with Mitt Romney," Ruff said.

And, to be sure, if the Republican nominee wins Michigan, Obama will be in serious jeopardy of losing the election.

But Romney faces a significant obstacle in Michigan: explaining his opposition to bailouts for the auto companies.

It's a "cloud over Romney in Michigan," Ruff said. "That will be hammered over and over again by the Obama campaign."

Ultimately, however, it's possible that Michigan's job market will decide whether the president wins the state again.

Michigan’s unemployment rate dipped to 9.3 percent in December, marking the lowest it's been in 28 months. It's only 0.8 percentage points higher than the U.S. rate of 8.5 percent.

It's hard to envision a speech in which Obama doesn't emphasize improvements in the economy and the stabilization of the auto industry.

In his speech at U-M's 2010 spring commencement ceremony, Obama didn't get very political, choosing instead to scold society for engaging in harsh conversation and not considering what the opposing side has to say.

In this speech, we can expect more politics. Inauguration, after all, is less than a year away.

"I'm excited to see the president coming here," said Cleveland Chandler, chairman of the Washtenaw County Democratic Party. "Michigan needs help from the president to carry the state. We've got a lot of important elections this year — Sen. Stabenow, all of our Congress people, and Washtenaw County surely could use the boost from the president being back in Ann Arbor again."

He added: "Michigan is a battleground state and he needs to carry Michigan in order to get re-elected as president."

In a November poll, EPIC-MRA found that 48 percent of Michigan voters had a favorable opinion of the president, compared to 46 percent with an unfavorable view.

“I know it’s not a campaign trail visit, but I am kind of curious to hear what he has to say about the campaign,” said Mindy Wilfong, a PharmD student at U-M. “I know some people say they’re disappointed and they voted for him in the past and they’re a little disappointed at how things have turned out, but I think we’re going to see more of the positive response to his arrival.” reporter Ryan Stanton contributed to this story.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

Then why isn't he appearing at other Michigan Colleges and Universities? UM is not the only institution in this state.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 3:08 p.m.

"Get out of the way?" comment about government always makes me chuckle. How does this crowd explain how hundreds of thousands of jobs would have been lost if GM were left to go belly up? GM is now the #1 selling car company IN THE WORLD and people are still working at good paying jobs. Please wake up and smell the coffee! Romney wanted to let GM fail.

Seasoned Cit

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

Companies go bankrupt all the time and that doesn't mean that they don't return after reorganization. Obama's "help" meant that the Unions didn't see their contracts destroyed and they got a chunk of the ownership as well.. and bond holders (maybe they were the 1%) got screwed. Is that something t be proud of. ??


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

I am really not concerned with the President visiting. No matter who is in office, they all have thier own agenda and none of them seem to look out for the best interest of "The American People". My main concern is getting to work Friday morning in Downtown Ann Arbor. Can anyone tell me what roads and freeways will be closed? It's my understanding that he is staying in Detroit (though I doubt it will be within the Detroit city limits) on Thursday, so how much earlier am I gonna have to leave for work to make it thru the traffic Friday?? I just wanna make sure I get here so I don't add to the increase in the unemployment rate if I get fired for being late to work because the President came to town... Im just sayin

Laurie Miholer

Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 5:03 a.m.

I think that after one year of utter devastation to education and the middle class in Michigan, thanks to Governor Snyder and his GOP minions, President Obama has nothing to worry about from the voters of Michigan. We're GOP shell shocked and would be out of our minds to vote for any more of it, on the state or national level.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

Ummm....did you notice that the article reports a lowering of the unemployment rate? We didn't see that under the previous governor. Direct causality is pretty hard to prove (particularly for those trying to credit the president for it), but I don't see how you can make a claim that Snyder's administration has brought devastation to the middle class, given that metric. And I'm not sure what you could possibly mean by 'devastation to education.' The real problems are largely untouched, but that's been the case for much longer than Snyder's been in office.


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 2:51 a.m.

From what I've seen; do you think Obama has to campaign?


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 11:50 p.m.

"define the role of the government in sparking economic growth" GET OUT OF THE WAY! I am voting for CHANGE in 2012!


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

Amen, brother.. Let's get those stonewalling Republicans out of Congress so that we can finally get things done!!


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 11:26 p.m.

And who picks up the tab for all the "security" that will be needed. Hopefully, it will come out of his campaign funding -- I hear it's in the billions these days.

Outside(:-o)looking in

Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 11 p.m.

Wonder if they will boot the pan handler off the exit ramp before the motor parade comes through. Don't make eye contact, he's not really there. Just gaze into the future.

Concerned Citizen

Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 10:52 p.m.

Obama supporters, how do you justify Obama appointees for his chief of staff? Both former bankers and lobbyists. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> I voted for change in 2008 and all I got was more of the same. Find your own sources for information and news. Do not trust political pundits and big media. Our country is moving dangerously close to a fascist state.

Lottie Blaszum

Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

Not campaigning? Believe that and I've got some ocean front property in Missouri to sell you. He's coming here to tell us why the government should strip away our rights to speak and to follow our conscience.


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 9:52 p.m.

mam if i have to hitchhike i'll be there ------NOT!


Tue, Jan 24, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you're not a racist, you'll have to vote for someone else in 2012 to prove you're not an idiot.


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 9:51 p.m.

I wish I could fill him in on the politics in City of Ann Arbor and the Courts.


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

We can read about it afterwards. In the mean time, traffic will be all screwed up to allow uninhibited movement of the motorcade.


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

Interesting. A sitting President visits our fair city, and no one has anything to say? How does one get into this event? Seriously.


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

Julie, Most people are in a tizzy because OCB closed and parking is screwed up at the umh. Ann Arborites with depth and substance don't have time for visitors.


Mon, Jan 23, 2012 : 8:13 p.m.

Obama's second speech in Ann Arbor shows that he enjoys preaching to the choir.