50 States in 50 Days Election Preview: 26. Michigan

In the 50 days leading up to the election on November 6th, I will be doing a profile of the 50 states and previewing what is on the ballot and how they are likely to vote. All of the posts so far can be found here

26. Michigan

Capital: Lansing

Nickname: The Great Lakes State

Motto: Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice

(If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you)

About the State

Michigan was once home to eight different tribes of Native Americans, including the Algonquian-speaking Miami, Ottawa and Potawatomi. By the late 17th century, the French had established forts, villages and trading posts in Michigan, including the Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit, which has grown into becoming the largest city in the state today. After they had experienced defeat in the Seven Years’ War, the French ceded all of the land west of the Mississippi to the British in 1763. Although the region became part of the Northwest Territory in 1783, following American victory in the Revolutionary War, the British remained in Detroit until the Jay Treaty in 1794 saw them withdraw completely. In 1800, the area was included in the Indiana Territory, before separating and becoming the Michigan Territory five years later.

The Ojibwa, Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes aligned themselves with the British during the War of 1812, as the Native Americans were opposed to the increasing white settlement that proved a danger to their way of life. Although the British gained control of Detroit early on in the conflict, the Americans retook it in 1813 and, when the war was over, forced the Native tribes to sell all of their land claims to the Federal Government and relocate further west. In 1835, the population of Michigan territory had grown enough for them to attempt to achieve statehood, but this was delayed over a territorial dispute with Ohio over the Toledo Strip, a portion of land between the two. As a state rather than a territory, Ohio had the political advantage, including the support of President Andrew Jackson, and ultimately Toledo was included in its borders. Michigan was offered a compromise for the loss of the strip of land – statehood and control over the western two-thirds of the Upper Peninsula it did not currently govern. This was initially rejected by voters at a state convention, but growing economic hardships and Congressional pressure resulted in the deal being accepted and, in January of 1837, Michigan became the 26th state of the Union.

Too far north to be the site of any battles during the Civil War, Michigan did its part for the Union effort by providing more than 90,000 men to serve in the war. In the 1840s, iron and copper ores were discovered in the Upper Peninsula – resources that more than made up for the concession of the Toledo Strip – and by the end of the 19th century, Michigan was the primary source in the USA for those metals. The biggest industrial development in Michigan was the invention of the automobile at the beginning of the 20th century, with the state becoming the centre for the production of cars. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were all founded in the state and remain headquartered there.

Michigan is the 11th biggest state in the Union and its more than 9.8 million residents place it 8th in terms of population. There are four “Big Four” sports teams located in Detroit: the Tigers (MLB); Lions (NFL) Redwings (NHL); and Pistons (NBA). Michigan was the home of Gerald Ford (though he was born in N- the only President not to have been elected to the job or to the Vice-Presidency, as he was appointed to replace Spiro Agnew during the Watergate scandal in 1973, then ascended to the top job upon Richard Nixon’s resignation the following year. Although it is positioned in the middle of the continent, the state has more shoreline than any other in the USA, other than Alaska.

Presidential Race

Electoral College Votes: 16

2008 Result: Obama 57.4% McCain 40.9%

Latest Poll: Obama +7%

In the 100 years since Theodore Roosevelt carried Michigan representing the Progressive Party (nicknamed the Bull Moose Party), the state has voted for the Republican candidate 13 times in Presidential elections, with the Democrats winning there on 11 occasions. However, since 1992, the state has gone blue in all five elections and President Obama is likely to make it 6 in a row in November, despite Governor Romney having grown up in Michigan.

Also on the Ballot

Congress: There is one Senate election in Michigan in 2012, as Sen. Debbie Sabenow seeks re-election against Republican challenger, Pete Hoesktra. Stabenow is ahead in the polls and appears likely to secure a third term in office.

As a result of redistricting following the 2010 census, the number of Representatives in the House Michigan has is to be reduced by 1 to 14. Of the current delegation, 6 are Democrats with 9 Republicans, but the 1st and 11th districts, currently held by the GOP, are considered toss-ups.

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