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Granholm says "blown away" was a mistake

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Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. Photo Courtesy: State of Michigan

By Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wkar/local-wkar-986877.mp3

Lansing, MI – Former Governor Jennifer Granholm says she almost did not seek a second term in 2006. The state was hemorrhaging jobs, her job approval ratings were pretty dismal, and a victory was far from guaranteed.

It's one of the stories Granholm recounts in "A Governor's Story: The Fight for Jobs and America's Economic Future." She wrote the book with her husband, Dan Mulhern.

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta reports on the words Granholm wishes she'd never used as she prepared to run for a second term.

In her 2006 State of the State speech, Jennifer Granholm struck a sunny tone amid economic darkness. She outlined an aggressive recovery strategy that included state investments in targeted industries. And she uttered the line that became perhaps the most-famous - or infamous - words of her political career:

" and in five years, you're going to be blown away by the strength and diversity of Michigan's transformed economy," stated Granholm.

"I fully fess up to writing that myself and against the advice of my advisors," she admits.

Granholm's communications and political teams were afraid the phrase would be turned against the governor by Republicans in what was expected to be a tough re-election fight against Amway billionaire Dick DeVos. And that is exactly what happened.

GOP campaign ads flashed pictures of shut-down factories, Republicans kept up the drum beat, asking the rhetorical question, "Blown away yet?" as the economy continued to falter and more people lost their jobs.

"You've got to be somewhat realistic and not too much with rose-colored glasses and I think I had a bit of my rose-colored glasses that night," says Granholm.

Granholm says it became clear she'd made a big mistake.

"Little did I know that I was really handing Dick DeVos a club with which he would beat me throughout the campaign."

Unsure that she could win a second term, Granholm says she thought about not running and toyed with asking U.S. Senator Carl Levin to be the Democratic nominee. That idea was quickly dismissed by her campaign team and kitchen cabinet - including First Gentleman Dan Mulhern, who said there's no way Levin would want the job.

As the Republicans' "blown away" ads took their toll, the state Democratic Party and the Granholm re-election campaign responded countered with a powerful allegation.

Democrats basically accused DeVos of offshoring thousands of Michigan jobs to China. DeVos says layoffs in Amway's U.S. operations were unrelated to building a presence in the world's fastest-growing economy.

"It was a cheap political shot and calling it cheap almost elevates it," says Greg McNeeley. He was DeVos's campaign manager. He says the China ads changed the campaign conversation.

"I think the effectiveness is borne out by the election results because ultimately the election question became about that issue and about China," McNeeley says.

But McNeely says the charge was not true.

"Not a single job went to China," he maintains. "In fact, just the opposite. Amway did then and continues today to make things in America by Americans and sell it to foreign customers. That's what you're supposed to do as an American business."

The suggestion has been made that the China ads made it politically impossible for Granholm to make China a stop on one of her many overseas investment missions. Granholm says that's not true. She says there were no China deals close enough to completion while she was governor to make the trip worthwhile.

Granholm has been to China since she left office at the beginning of the year and she says it is a crucial market for Michigan and U.S. businesses. Granholm says she is very pleased her successor, Republican Governor Rick Snyder, will make China part of his itinerary when he makes a trade trip to Asia next week.

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