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Republican Presidential Candidates Want A Michigan Win In Their Column


In this campaign season, the next presidential primary is never far away. Several come tomorrow in fact. Both major parties vote in Mississippi and in Michigan. Republicans vote in Idaho and Hawaii, which means our national political correspondent Don Gonyea could have made a case to be in Hawaii this week but chose Michigan. He's in Lansing. Don, good morning.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: I came home to Michigan.

INSKEEP: Indeed. What's the economy like in your home state right now?

GONYEA: Well, this state was hit as hard as any in the recession, right? And it crawled back very slowly. The car companies were on the brink. They're making money now. But the economic anxiety here is real still. It never went away. And the Michigan GOP primary electorate here, it will include lots of white working-class voters. So a candidate like Donald Trump, who talks about bringing back manufacturing and about how we're getting killed by China and by Mexico on trade, might find a receptive audience.

INSKEEP: He's said very little of that inside Michigan, though, right?

GONYEA: It's interesting. He was here Friday. He was here for the debate. Then he was here Friday. He did a couple of big events. And this isn't a retail politics-type place, right? So the big events gets you good coverage. He was in Macomb County. And he went up north to Cadillac. But his populist message, as I talked to people, does have real appeal. And remember, too, this is the original home with the Reagan Democrats. That was a long time ago, but there are still socially conservative Democrats who cross over to vote Republican. That describes a lot of Trump voters. And it's an open primary here. You can vote in whichever party primary you choose. And Trump has done well in those kinds of places so far.

INSKEEP: Every other candidate would like to have a good showing in Michigan. Marco Rubio has been struggling. Ted Cruz would like to do well. What about John Kasich, who is from the neighboring state of Ohio?

GONYEA: John Kasich is working it like it's Ohio or New Hampshire. He has been all over the state. He's got three more events today. He wants another moment like he had in New Hampshire - that surprise second-place finish - exceeding expectations and getting a big boost going into Ohio next week. Here's what he's been doing - staying positive, makes the case for common sense and leadership. On Saturday he went all the way up to the Upper Peninsula, where just 3 percent of Michiganders live. Give a listen to him at this event in Marquette.


JOHN KASICH: I was there and saw what Reagan did to lift our spirits. I've looked around the world and saw Margaret Thatcher do it over in Great Britain, Winston Churchill in World War II, who told the people never give in. There is not a substitute for big leadership. Just ask Tom Izzo, and he'll tell you, OK?

GONYEA: OK, all those big names there - Reagan, Thatcher, Churchill and Tom Izzo. If people don't know who Tom Izzo is, he is the Michigan State University basketball coach who is a hero in the state. He is from the Upper Peninsula, so Kasich even a little gratuitous sportsmanship there.

INSKEEP: OK, just got a couple seconds here. The Democrats has been all about Flint, debated in Flint last night, as we're hearing elsewhere in the program. Does that touch on anything - that water crisis there - touch on anything that concerns Republicans?

GONYEA: It is not front and center. It barely comes up. Nobody's looked for the governor's endorsement. But they have even said nice things about him. You don't hear that on the Democratic side.

INSKEEP: Don, thanks as always.

GONYEA: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Don Gonyea is in Michigan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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