Now, economy tops war in election
Indicators like high oil prices and the slumping stock market have voters concerned.
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As former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee crisscrossed Michigan – which has the highest unemployment rate in the nation – they sought to appeal to voters like Jane and Larry Hammond, of Marshall.Skip to next paragraph
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Both Hammonds have been laid off – Larry from a communications job at McLeodUSA, Jane from her job as a teacher. They've since found new employment, but the experience left them feeling insecure.
"People need to know they've got job security and can buy a house and keep it and not worry what they'll do next week or next year," says Mrs. Hammond.
Mr. Romney reminded voters of his Michigan roots. He grew up here, and his father was a popular three-term governor in the 1960s.
He vowed to bring his private-sector expertise to Washington, and exuded hope about the restoration of lost manufacturing jobs via increased investment in science and technology.
"I see Michigan as the canary in the mineshaft," Romney told the Ottawa County Republicans in a speech on Jan. 11. "We have got to be successful in rebuilding Michigan's economy, or what you see here you'll see across the country."
Senator McCain told Michigan voters that many of those manufacturing jobs may be gone for good. But he offered a plan for job training and education to help people learn new skills and bring the employment rate up.
Mr. Huckabee has emphasized his own blue-collar roots, as the son of a man who worked two jobs: firefighter and a rebuilder of car generators. He also played on the general Michigan dislike of globalization and outsourcing.
"You need someone worried about helping you keep your job, not helping someone halfway around the world keep their jobs," Huckabee shouted to big cheers at a rally in Grand Rapids.
The Hammonds, for their part, say they've decided to back Romney. But other Michigan voters say Huckabee's populism is appealing.
"We've become an entitlement society" says David Walls, a west Michigan service firm owner who attended Huckabee's Grand Rapids rally. "Huckabee seems like he's on the theme of trying to help people move up."
Back in Washington, congressional Democrats are talking about proposing some sort of temporary tax relief package to provide a short-term economic stimulus. When he returns from his Middle East trip, President Bush may well join the economic discussion – most likely via an insistence that long-term tax relief would be the best economic move.
Economists at the Brookings Institution seminar said that in their opinion the US needs a stimulus package that is targeted, timely, and temporary.
Some panelists added a fourth "T": trigger. Congress could enact a stimulus package but delay implementation until there is clear evidence the economy is in recession, said Martin Feldstein, an economics professor at Harvard University. "The key is that they should pass it now," said Dr. Feldstein.