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Why Michigan matters

President Obama has carried Michigan, a state noted for its troubled car-making industry. EPA/Steve Pope

Moments after its polls closed, networks called Michigan for President Obama. That’s important for two reasons.

First, it shows that in the auto-industry states of the Rust Belt, Obama has closed the deal. Michigan may be more Democratic than the all-important swing state of Ohio, but it’s a good sign for Obama that the race there wasn’t close. The auto bailout may have saved not just the industry but the president’s re-election chances.

Second, it indicates that political journalists fell for some sleight-of-hand from the Romney campaign. A few feints from Romney toward the state and suddenly everyone was talking about how Michigan may be the newest swing state. But this is a feature of the new unlimited-spending race: campaigns can throw money at states they would never have contested otherwise. The media have been slow to catch on to this, assuming that any application of resources is a response to internal numbers that indicate a state is in play. That’s no longer a safe assumption. Unlimited spending has already altered American elections in fundamental ways, but it will take the press - and the rest of us - a while to figure out just how changed things really are.

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