In Michigan, jobs and the economy lead every stump speech given by the candidates vying to win next Tuesday's Republican presidential primary. But reporter Quinn Klinefelter of WDET found that social issues are gaining traction among the rank-and-file GOP voters.
The latest polling shows that the Republican presidential contest in Michigan is tightening dramatically. Mitt Romney has cut deeply into the substantial lead Rick Santorum held earlier this month, Klinefelter noted in a report on Morning Edition.
The results come as Romney and his superPAC, Restore Our Future, are flooding the airwaves with new advertising in Michigan that paints Santorum as a big-spending Washington insider. Romney's campaign is outspending Santorum by a roughly three-to-one margin, Klinefelter reports.
Romney won in Michigan in 2008, when the state's primary voters viewed him as more conservative than front-runner John McCain. But this time around, Klinefelter notes, Romney must convince the rank-and-file he is just as conservative as Santorum.
Santorum's social agenda is resonating with people in Michigan like student Chris Sauders, who Klinefelter met near a gas station in working-class Roseville.
"He seems more family values and I think we've kind of lost that. Everything is just so money detailed and oriented. I believe family should come first," Sauders says. He wasn't swayed by Romney's status as a native son of Michigan.
"Although Michigan's economy still hinges on the auto industry, recent surveys find only about a third of likely Republican voters care that both Romney and Santorum opposed federal bailouts for the industry," Klinefelter reports.
Retiree Marty Beary tells Klinefelter that she simply wants to throw all the rascals out in the country and in this heavily-unionized state and start anew.
"We need a change. I don't think that Obama's any good and I don't think that Mick [sic] Romney is any good. It's about time the people in Michigan — I don't care if they are union people — it's about time that they woke up and started voting Republican," Beary says.
Another voter, Jeff Lawson, who runs the small Triangle Printing company, says he trusts Romney's business acumen to deliver change.
"Well less taxes would help me. More businesses around here would certainly help a lot that haven't been driven out of business over the last couple years. My customer base is about half of what it was three-four years ago. And of all those customers, they order about half of what they used to order," Lawson says.
About ten miles away, in the affluent Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe, laid-off schoolteacher John Bonar is waiting tables. He tells Klinefelter that economic concerns aren't what make him lean towards Santorum — it's the kind of values he wants to see in the White House.
"Reason being I believe he's more in line with my value system and he's definitely, I believe, has a better record for pro-life. You know Mitt's kind of flip-flopped on that issue," Bonar says.