Michigan 10th District
Macomb County, on the billiard-table-flat shore of Lake St. Clair just northeast of Detroit, has been one of the nation’s most closely watched political battlegrounds, a place where it once seemed the electoral fate of Michigan and even the entire country might be determined. It owes much of that to its reputation as blue-collar suburbia, but that is no longer quite accurate: More people hold white-collar jobs than blue-collar jobs these days, and there is far less work in auto plants than in earlier generations. There are plenty of affluent subdivisions now, and boat ownership is close to the highest in the country. Macomb County is the product of the post-World War II boom. In 1940, it had 107,000 residents, many in the old sulphur-water spa town of Mount Clemens. Macomb passed the 400,000 mark in 1960 and the 600,000 mark in 1970. In 2007, it had 831,000 people, as farms continued to convert to subdivisions. Many people came here from the east side of Detroit. These new suburbanites were heavily Catholic, often blue collar, at least modestly affluent, and ancestrally Democratic. They accepted the New Deal as part of their natural heritage, but resented the efforts of Detroit politicians to tax them to pay for welfare programs, and they were fearful of the crime rates in Detroit’s black neighborhoods.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
In 1960, Macomb County was the most Democratic major suburban county in the United States, voting 63% for America’s first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. Over the next three decades, Macomb moved away from national Democrats—in 1962 because they would let Detroit tax suburbanites, in 1972 because they didn’t vehemently oppose a metropolitan school busing plan. From 1976 to 1992, no Democratic presidential candidate got more than 40% of the vote here. In 1996, after great effort and with the advice of pollster Stan Greenberg, who has studied Macomb closely, Bill Clinton carried Macomb County 49%-39%. In 2000, Al Gore carried it 50%-48%, nearly the national average. But the Democratic tide receded a little. Central and northern Macomb County have been filling up with expensive subdivisions that have been growing rapidly—some by more than 40% in the 1990s—and that are not as culturally liberal as affluent parts of Oakland County. In 2004, President Bush carried Macomb 50%-49%. But as Republicans have suffered nationwide, so have they suffered in Macomb. In her successful re-election in 2006, Gov. Jennifer Granholm defeated Republican Dick DeVos in Macomb, 52%-46%. In 2008, Barack Obama defeated John McCain handily in Macomb, 53%-45%.
The 10th Congressional District of Michigan includes the northern two-thirds of Macomb County, with nearly half of its voters. It also includes Lapeer County, where once-rapid exurban growth has slowed. Also in the district are St. Clair County, with Port Huron and its Blue Water Bridge to Canada, and two rural counties in Michigan’s “Thumb.” Northern Macomb has become increasingly Republican, Lapeer and St. Clair have long been fairly Republican, and the Thumb has long been very Republican. Overall this district has voted Republican in recent presidential elections—57% for Bush in 2004, and 50% for John McCain in 2008.