updated 1/13/2008 7:16:41 PM ET 2008-01-14T00:16:41

Republican presidential candidate John McCain has an automatic advantage Tuesday when Michigan votes.

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Not only did he win the state when he ran for president eight years ago, but he also draws his support from across the political spectrum and Michigan voters of all stripes can participate in the Republican primary.

At the same time, the Democratic race in Michigan is of little or no consequence, so he will not be competing full-bore with Democratic candidates for the backing of independents as he did in New Hampshire last week.

"I don't know how the voters are going to break," McCain said Sunday, but added he hopes to do as well among independents as he did in Michigan in 2000 when he beat George W. Bush here. "Whether they're Democrat, Republican, independent, libertarian, vegetarian, whatever they are, it's the same message."

Back then, exit polling showed McCain won 67 percent of independents compared with 26 percent for Bush.

Rate candidates' positionsTwo days before the primary, polls show McCain locked in a tight race with rival Mitt Romney, a native son of Michigan whose father was a governor some four decades ago. Romney went on to be the governor of Massachusetts.

McCain is riding high after winning New Hampshire, with the help of independents, and is hoping a Michigan victory will follow. Romney is looking for his first big win after losing Iowa and New Hampshire. He came in first in Wyoming, a scarcely contested contest.

In New Hampshire last week, McCain led Romney among independents, 40 percent to 27 percent.

On the Democratic side, the steam went out of the Michigan primary a long time ago. The closest thing to excitement is the effort by supporters of Barack Obama and John Edwards to muddle a certain Hillary Rodham Clinton victory by urging voters to choose the uncommitted line on the ballot. The Detroit News poll showed Clinton with 56 percent, and uncommitted with 33 percent.

Michigan has been stripped of its 156 national convention delegates by the Democratic National Committee's Rules Committee because it broke party rules by moving up its primary to Jan. 15, challenging Iowa and New Hampshire as early voters on the nomination calendar. All of the leading Democratic candidates are sticking to pledges not to campaign or run ads in Michigan.

Obama and Edwards took the extra step of withdrawing their names from the ballot.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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