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Romney, McCain Battle in Michigan


Voters in Michigan go to the polls in that state's primary Tuesday and Republican contenders Mitt Romney and John McCain are in a close contest there, according to recent polls. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Detroit, both men are working hard for every vote.

In appearances across the state, former Massachusett's Governor Mitt Romney has been hammering hard on economic issues, arguing that he has the fresh ideas that can revive the auto industry and the state's flagging economy.

"I want to bring Michigan back," said Mitt Romney. "I am not willing to sit back and say 'too bad for Michigan, too bad for the car industry, too bad for the people who lost their jobs, they are gone forever.' I will not rest when I am president of the United States until Michigan is brought back."

Michigan has an unemployment rate above seven percent and has also been hard hit by mortgage foreclosures on homes. Automakers here have laid off thousands of workers in recent years as they lost sales to foreign competitors.

The Romney rhetoric includes a slap at his main rival, Arizona Senator John McCain, who has said that many of the manufacturing jobs lost here are gone forever. But Senator McCain counters by saying that he would promote the development of new jobs through retraining.

"I will help this state and I will make it my highest priority," said John McCain.

McCain says it is better to be realistic and not try to restore the kind of manufacturing jobs the state once had. He emphasizes the need to move into a new era of high technology.

Both Romney and McCain have drawn large enthusiastic crowds.

Some public-opinion polls show Romney with a slight edge, but others show them in a virtual dead heat. A win here is considered by many political analysts to be essential for Mitt Romney because he was born here and his father, George Romney, served as governor of the state for six years.

Romney campaign officials, however, say he is in the race for the long haul and will continue no matter what the outcome is in Michigan. Romney lost the Iowa caucuses to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on January third and a few days later lost the New Hampshire primary to Senator McCain.

Huckabee is also campaigning in Michigan, but he is running several points behind Romney and McCain in the polls.

There is also a Democratic primary on Tuesday, but Senator Hillary Clinton is the only major candidate on the ballot. Her main rivals, Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards, pulled out of Michigan after the state violated Democratic party rules and moved its primary up on the calendar.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties announced that they would punish Michigan by taking away at least some of its delegates. But campaign representatives for the major candidates say they expect those delegates to be restored by the time the conventions are held in August and September because neither party wants to offend voters in a large state that could be a crucial battleground in the general election in November.

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