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McCain’s Swing State Strategy

DETROIT — If Sen. Barack Obama is pursuing a "50-state strategy," then Sen. John McCain’s campaign plan could probably best be described as a "swing-state strategy." Since I met up with the McCain campaign almost two weeks ago, the presumed GOP nominee has focused exclusively on likely battlegrounds — visiting Ohio (twice), Pennsylvania, Colorado and, now, Michigan. This afternoon, McCain is due to make a quick stop in Minnesota — a relatively safe state for Democrats — to check in on his campaign headquarters there. He has no announced public events. First thing tomorrow, he is slated to cross the Wisconsin border to Hudson, where he will host his first women-only town hall meeting.

Today, McCain brings his "Jobs for America" tour to Bayloff Stamped Products, an auto-parts manufacturer, where he is expected to take part in a town hall meeting and likely tout the company as an example of the benefits of free trade. The Bayloff Website credits much of the company’s success to its overseas partnerships. Free trade is a hot topic here in the home of GM, where the economy is struggling in the wake of declining auto sales and the unemployment rate recently hit 8.5 percent. Many people here, including Democratic Gov. Jennifer Graham, blame the North American Free Trade Agreement for sending U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas.

It is a risky strategy for McCain to come here singing the praises of free trade, much like he did in Youngstown, Ohio — another GM stronghold. A recent CNN poll found a majority of Americans now view free trade is a threat to the economy. On the bright side, the visit will allow McCain to highlight his plans for re-training and re-educating displaced workers, and retooling the unemployment insurance system. Polls show McCain and Obama are running a tight race here. If economic problems continue like — as many economists are now saying — the election in November may very well be decided by how much faith voters have in the candidate’s ability to handle the economy.

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