2006-09-21 / Columns

Michigan Politics

Governor, De Vos Trade Barbs Over China Topic
By George Weeks

The Great Wailing Wall of China looms over Michigan politics. That vast land of 1.3 billion people has been Topic One of late in lamenting gubernatorial campaign TV ads.

To a lesser extent, the nation with the world's fastest-growing economy also has been raised in the U.S. Senate race in the U.S. state with the nation's most lagging economy.

On Friday, Governor Jennifer Granholm launched a new ad asserting her Republican challenger,

businessman Dick DeVos, "says he's a jobs maker - for China maybe. DeVos cut jobs in Michigan, but invested $200 million and created thousands of jobs in China."

Granholm wisely does not echo the earlier Democratic Party line that DeVos, when running Alticor (now parent of Amway, co-founded by Rich DeVos, Dick's father) actually moved jobs to China. State Chairman Mark Brewer was on the tube last week holding a Tshirt that proclaims: "DeVos Outsourcing Jobs to China."

DeVos has run a series of counter ads noting that China required that a plant be built in China to sell Alticor products there, accusing Granholm on China "of a bunch of bull. It's the lowest form of politics."

Michigan companies need to expand into world markets. As a New York Stock Exchange magazine headlined recently on U.S. firms building plants in China to sell there: "Fish Where the Fish Are."

Facts are with DeVos; imagery with Democrats. One clever anti- DeVos spot concludes with an Oriental scene and music while asking: "Do you suppose a province in China is looking for a governor?"

A clever DeVos zinger against Granholm is a radio-TV ad that alleges a chronology of four years of her failing to deliver on promises, and then concludes with an arm-waving Granhholm at a podium proclaiming in a near shout: "And in five years, you're going to be blown away."

Back to China: An effective Senator Debbie Stabenow re-election TV ad leads off with a Michigan businessman bewailing over China stealing a trade secret and saying she came to the rescue. The ad hailed her bipartisan push for establishing a chief trade prosecutor to enforce trade laws - with a companion bill in the House by Representative Dave Camp (RMidland).

In introducing legislation last year, she said, "We need to get tough with China and say enough is enough." More recently, she said: "We know that China is cheating." It's a timely topic that the Bush Administration is raising this very week with Beijing.

But, important as they are, the China trade issues raised by Stabenow are eclipsed in the media by all the wailing about China in the gubernatorial campaign.

In his challenge of Stabenow, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard has had some September boosts, including President Bush helping him raise about $1 million at the Oakland County home of businessman David Johnson, developer of Bay Harbor south of Petoskey and owner of much of South Fox Island.

Bouchard also won endorsement Friday by Michigan Farm Bureau. Bouchard spokeswoman Jennifer Morris called that a "huge coup" considering that Stabenow is on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

But also on Friday, The Detroit News published a September 7-12 EPIC/MRA poll of 608 likely voters (error margin: plus-minus 4 percentage points) that it commissioned with some TV stations, which had Stabenow building her lead to 53 percent to 34 percent over Bouchard, compared to 51-38 in August.

In smaller sub-samples, Stabenow led 48-36 in the northern Lower Peninsula, and 49-33 in the Upper Peninsula.

EPIC/MRA pollster Ed Sarpolus, as well as strategists of both parties, says that Bouchard has difficulty getting attention because of the heavy spending, mostly on TV, in the governor's race. Through August, DeVos had spent $21 million; Granholm $7.3 million.

George Weeks retired this year after 22 years as political columnist for The Detroit News. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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