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updated 9/22/2006 4:36:17 PM ET 2006-09-22T20:36:17

In Michigan's major statewide races this cycle, "It's the economy, stupid."

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Now that gas prices are on their way down, illegal immigration and Iraq are playing starring roles in ad campaigns across the country. But the Wolverine State's financial woes are still a bane to its leading Democrats.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) concede in recent spots that Michiganders must be struggling because of the faltering auto industry, which is causing more job losses than in other states. Both parties' Senate and gubernatorial candidates released new ads this week reminding viewers of the state's sputtering economy and pledging to restore its vitality.

Granholm acknowledges the hardship wrought by Ford Motor Company's recently announced layoffs in her new ad. The Canadian-born incumbent traveled to Japan in May seeking investment for the state, and she's been touting her jobs-creation plan in most of her recent spots.

Meanwhile, Granholm's Republican opponent is using new spots to imply that Democratic incumbents played a part in the state's economic woes -- and Dick DeVos is proving to be a steep challenge for Granholm, thanks to deep campaign coffers that afford him an extensive, intricate media offensive

On TV since February, the business executive has been saturating state airwaves with the message that he wants to get Michigan "back to work." His attacks on the incumbent started soft and have been building incrementally for the last month. Nevertheless, polls show Granholm with a slight edge on DeVos; he led Granholm in the polls earlier this summer.

DeVos' campaign ripped Granholm with what may be its harshest on-air criticism of the governor yet this week, pairing her January plea to constituents to "stay the course" on the economy with a handful of damaging figures on the state's financial status. The negative ad is offset by another that features automobile industry legend Lee Iacocca expressing support for DeVos.

Although the National Republican Senatorial Committee sensed a pickup opportunity in first-term Sen. Stabenow's seat, most polls show the incumbent with a healthier lead over her Republican challenger than Granholm can claim over DeVos. Like DeVos, sheriff Mike Bouchard (R) is emphasizing a message of change. He, too, promotes a plan to create more jobs in his most recent spot, while Stabenow promises to protect pensions in hers.

Despite lobbing attacks at the Democrats, the new ads from blue-state Republicans DeVos and Bouchard are designed with an eye toward the national climate for the Republican Party -- neither mentions party affiliation.

Campaign Check: Calling the committees to Ohio
Ohio is once again a prime target for Democrats, especially now that the GOP is fielding a gubernatorial candidate who's down by double digits in the polls. The Senate race is far closer, but independent polls show Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) leading two-term incumbent Mike DeWine (R) by a small margin.

Maybe that's why the Republican National Committee opened its checkbook to oppose Brown in the Buckeye State again this week. The organization's new ad faults the congressman for his votes in the lower chamber, complaining that he's not the tax cutter he says he is.

But Brown got a boost from his party this week. If DeWine's strategy includes distancing himself from President Bush, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is trying its hardest to counter it. With kids singing "The More We Work Together" loudly in the background, the committee's new spot seeks to link Bush and DeWine using a jovial photo of the two of them together. The ad comes just in time for Bush's Ohio visit: He'll be in Cincinnati on Monday as the main attraction at a private fundraiser for DeWine.

'Don't Vote!' says AARP
The nation's largest interest group isn't waging the nation's largest voter turnout effort this year. Rather, the AARP is telling Americans not to vote in this year's midterms... until they know where the candidates in their states and districts stand on Social Security.

In one of two nationwide ads, several people -- a couple of whom don't appear to be old enough for membership in the organization yet -- echo the message and direct viewers to dontvote.com, which offers news on the races. (The site does not, however, break down where the candidates stand on Social Security.)

Erin McPike is a staff writer for NationalJournal.com.

Copyright 2012 by National Journal Group Inc.

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