Creeping Unemployment in the New Battlegrounds: PA and MI

The big news of the campaign, once you get beyond Mitt’s kabuki storm assistance and auto bashing, is that PA and MI are battlegrounds again.


First, Restore Our Future PAC announced $2 million ad buys in both states.  The the Obama campaign announced they’d buy ads as well.

Today, the Detroit News has a poll showing Mitt within 2.7% of Obama (though polling ended on the 29th, when Mitt’s deceitful auto binge began). In fact, while Romney and Ryan were “not campaigning” yesterday, Ann Romney was, here in Grand Rapids.

Some commentators suggest this is just Mitt’s effort to open up new battlegrounds as it becomes clear he won’t win OH and might not win VA (or FL, but that would be game over for him). That is, Mitt has to look viable, and by moving into MI and PA, he can sustain narratives that he still has a shot.

That may be what’s going on.

But it pays to look at what has been going on with the unemployment rate in both MI and PA (I’ve included OH for comparison and MN because it often gets thrown into these discussions).

MI’s unemployment rate is up 1% off its recent low in April (the downtick this month, and some of last month’s uptick, is probably due to the way the auto companies handled model year layoffs). Part of the uptick is probably due to Rick Snyder’s austerity plans; part is probably due to Obama’s failure to provide real mortgage relief.

PA’s unemployment rate is up .8% from its recent low in May. Here, too, Republican governor Tom Corbett has pursued austerity measures. In addition, PA is exposed to the Euro-related decline that has hurt much of the Northeast.

The point, though, is that both these states have the makings of a battleground state–including a white working class population that can swing with economic tides–plus rising unemployment. Obama is still ahead in both. A few more ads about the auto bailout–indeed, Mitt’s deceitful attacks on GM and Chrysler generally–will probably move MI back towards Obama. And the Philadelphia area was spared the worst of Sandy, staving off the possibility that Pennsyltucky would have unimpeded voting while the Democratic Southeast would have floods. So it’s still most likely Obama will win both by comfortable margins.

But one thing makes movement towards Mitt more realistic here than in, say, MN. The economy is getting worse again. And in spite of all Mitt’s unforced errors in recent days, and in spite of the way that Snyder and Corbett’s state level policies–which mirror those Mitt would adopt at the federal level–have almost certainly exacerbated unemployment, voters may still turn to Mitt as an alternative to a stalled recovery.

Mitt’s play in MI and PA is probably a ploy to look viable. But there are a lot of unemployed workers in both states who will help him along.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

15 replies
  1. Snarki, child of Loki says:

    Rmoney does best when he’s not around to remind voters why they hate him.

    If he wants a chance of winning the election, he should bug out to the Cayman Islands right now.

  2. Phil Perspective says:

    How many ads has Team Obama run in PA or MI? He’s hardly run anything here in the Philly area. All I see are Willard ads(including 3rd party crap), Tea Party Tom Smith ads(Bob Casey, also, too) and state races. I see way more Willard ads than the rare Obama ones.

  3. Snarki, child of Loki says:

    Saw an Obama ad this morning in Philly…with video clips of all the times Willard said that he’d get rid of Roe v. Wade. And contrasting with what is currently on his etch-a-sketch.

  4. Casual Observer says:

    Someone should trace those trucks from the Kabuki storm-assistance event. Where did they go. If recent voter-registration behavior is any guide, they went directly to nearby dumpster.

    Also, if unemployment rate is important, worth nothing that the standard U3 rate might not be as good as U6. U6 provides a better economic view, but also might provide a better political measure of potentially fed-up voters.

  5. Casual Observer says:

    One other thing about the U rates- while there is no cooking of books, I do think that the recent drop in U is due primarily to folks dropping out of the labor force. The most discouraged of the discouraged. So they don’t show up in the econ. numbers, but they sure could show up at the polls.

  6. bsbafflesbrains says:

    @Casual Observer: Let us hope. The difference between a Depression and a Recession is mostly how you play with the numbers. Real unemployment is now a real new statistic to uncloud the BS coming from our Govt.

  7. angry bitter drunk says:

    That, and the voting machines, is why I still think Romney will “win.”

    Of course Romney will make things worse. But people are scared. A lot of them are worse off than ’08. When you’re scared you make irrational decisions — like voting for Romney, or, if you’re an Opologist, pretending that Obama is not at least 83.6 percent as bad.

    The worse shite gets, the crazier people will get. It’s a Shock Doctrine perk.

  8. Rayne says:

    Got a robo-call today from Big Dog asking me to vote Yes on Prop 2 here in Michigan. I wonder if that’s the other factor in the mix, a ballot proposal supporting collective bargaining. Consider that Big Dog is campaigning in Florida for the Obama campaign–is he the proxy also getting any recalcitrant moderates/Dems/union voters out for both the ballot proposal and Obama?

    Of course Big Dog’s robo-call followed an earlier one by some other rightwing superPAC trashing Obama’s performance…

  9. emptywheel says:

    @Rayne: Yeah, and I got a mailing from my GOP precinct coordinator. GOP didn’t say anything on 5. Local news is of course for it, and everyone’s gunning for 1, 2, 3. But no word on 5, which I thought a bit weird.

  10. Ready To Fix Bayonets says:

    anybody read Matt Stoller’s most recent? pretty powerful stuff.

    The progressive case against 0bama

    Bottom line: The president is complicit in creating an increasingly unequal – and unjust – society

    While life has never been fair, since World War II, the level of official legal, political and economic inequity for the broad mass of the public is new (though obviously for subgroups, like African-Americans, it was not new). It is as if America’s traditional racial segregationist tendencies have been reorganized, and the tools and tactics of that system have been repurposed for a multicultural elite colonizing a multicultural population. The data bears this out: Under Bush, economic inequality was bad, as 65 cents of every dollar of income growth went to the top 1 percent. Under Obama, however, that number is 93 cents out of every dollar. That’s right, under Barack Obama there is more economic inequality than under George W. Bush. Most of this shift happened in 2009-2010, when Democrats controlled Congress. This was not, in other words, the doing of the mean Republican Congress. And it’s not strictly a result of the financial crisis; after all, corporate profits did crash, like housing values did, but they also recovered, while housing values have not.

    This is the shape of the system Obama has designed. It is intentional, it is the modern American order, and it has a certain equilibrium, the kind we identify in Middle Eastern resource extraction based economies. We are even seeing a transition of the American economic order toward a petro-state. By some accounts, America will be the largest producer of hydrocarbons in the world, bigger than Saudi Arabia. This is just not an America that any of us should want to live in. It is a country whose economic basis is oligarchy, whose political system is authoritarianism, and whose political culture is murderous toward the rest of the world and suicidal in our aggressive lack of attention to climate change.


  11. Rayne says:

    @emptywheel: I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if MIGOP is split on 5 — that looks like it’s got toxic written all over it, even for an anti-tax party. Local amendments that are similar have been anathema to communities, with Saginaw as one example. City voted a property tax cap in 1978 that strangled the city after its manufacturing base fled, leaving rotted-out, aged infrastructure behind (not unlike Detroit).

  12. OrionATL says:

    rtfb –

    “…That’s right, under Barack Obama there is more economic inequality than under George W. Bush. Most of this shift happened in 2009-2010, when Democrats controlled Congress…’

    nothing significant in economics happens in one year, apart from crashes which can generate years-long recessions or depressions.

    on the surface this is suspect thinking.

    that said, obama has never been a friend of everyman,

    and likely never will be.

    mr. obama, the “community activist”, the stepping-stone state senator, the stepping-stone u.s. senator, the i-could-care-less president,

    has always been a board room charmer and likely always will be.

    what he has going for him is at the moment is solely control of a political party that is marginally, but only marginally, more sensible with regard to the public interest than today’s republican party.

Comments are closed.