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Leading US Republican Presidential Candidates Move on to Michigan

In the campaign for U.S. president, the leading Republican Party candidates are seeking votes in the midwestern U.S. state of Michigan, which holds the party's primary election on Tuesday. The series of state primary elections and caucuses lead to selection of the two major political party nominees in conventions in about seven months. The general election is in November. VOA's Chris Simkins reports next week's Michigan outcome will be crucial in a Republican contest that many analysts say is wide open.

Coming off a big victory in New Hampshire, Senator John McCain is campaigning hard in Michigan. Experts says a primary victory here could make him the frontrunner in the race for the Republican Party nomination.

McCain, once a prisoner of war in Vietnam, faces stiff competition from his Republican rivals including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. He won the Iowa caucuses by a decisive margin over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

The candidates in Michigan are focusing on the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs in this industrial Midwestern state. McCain told Michigan supporters some of the jobs that have left the state are not coming back. "I will help you create new jobs and new education programs. I will look at ways to keep these people living productive lives with great futures and a great future for the state of Michigan. I am committed to it," he said.

McCain counts on strong support from moderate conservatives and independent voters. Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, says he will win in Michigan by attracting middle-class workers, evangelical Christians and conservative anti-abortion voters. "I believe with all my heart that one of the fundamental issues in this country, that we have got to deal with, is the sanctity of every human life."

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has proclaimed Michigan will be his first win in the state where he was born and where his father George Romney was a popular governor in the 1960s. Mitt Romney pledges to protect the state's manufacturing jobs and rebuild its ailing economy. "I am going to use all those years of experience and my love for this state to go to work for Michigan -- to end the one-state recession and make sure Michigan has a bright and prosperous future."

Many analysts say Michigan is a must-win for Romney to avoid calls from party leaders to drop out of the race. Thomas Mann, with the Brookings Institution in Washington, says the race on the Republican side is still wide open. He says McCain may have the edge in Michigan, the home state of many war veterans. "I think of all the candidates in the Republican race McCain has the advantage but it is in no sense a mighty advantage or an invulnerable advantage. It looks to me as if this race is going to go on for some time," Mann said.

Strategists for the McCain, Romney and Huckabee campaigns say a first place showing in Michigan would give their candidates an important boost going into the key southern battleground state of South Carolina about a week later.