Just three days before Michigan's Republican primary, Van
Siegling still can't make up his mind.
A Department of Defense worker who attended the US Marine Corps
Command and Staff College, he admires Sen. John McCain's war
position and military experience.
As someone concerned about Michigan's plummeting economy - he
figures his home has lost $20,000 in value in less than two years -
he's drawn to native Michigander Mitt Romney. He likes Mr. Romney's
promise of using private-sector ideas to make government run more
"I'm leaning toward McCain because of the military angle," says
Mr. Siegling, a Kalamazoo resident. "But running government as a
business? That would be true change as opposed to just talking about
The next key test in a wide-open GOP contest hinges upon people
like Siegling and no clear favorite has emerged. Mr. Romney is a
native son whose father was a popular three-term governor here in
Senator McCain won this state's presidential primary in 2000, and
has a surge of momentum coming off his recent New Hampshire win. He
hopes to benefit from independent and Democratic voters crossing
over to vote in the GOP primary.
And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who didn't even have a
campaign presence in Michigan a week ago, has found a welcome
audience for his message of economic populism in a state already in
"It's a three-way tie," says Ed Sarpolus, an independent pollster
in Lansing, Mich. "And I can easily point out the positives and
negatives for all three of them."
In most recent polls, McCain and Romney have been neck and neck,
with Huckabee trailing slightly. But many voters are still
uncertain: Two polls over the weekend showed that about half of
Michigan voters are either undecided or may change their mind before
Tuesday's contest. Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former
Sen. Fred Thompson, and Rep. Ron Paul are polling in single digits.
McCain, Romney, and Huckabee all have a lot at stake in this
primary - the first big state to weigh in - though none more so than
Romney. After two second-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire -
despite spending more money than any other candidate - Michigan is
Romney's best chance before Super Tuesday, when 22 states weigh in,
to show that he can win. It's a state where he has name recognition
and family history, where he owns one of his three homes and has
already spent some $3 million on television ads.
"Everything's riding on it for Romney," says Larry Sabato, a
political scientist at the University of Virginia in
Charlottesville. "At a certain point, you really do have to win."
In his rallies here, Romney is doing everything he can to remind
people of his ties to the state and convince them that he'll have
Michigan's interests at heart if he takes office.
"When I lived here, Michigan was the envy of the world," Romney
tells a group of cheering supporters during a rally at the Battle
Creek airport. "Our roots are very deep here, and I will not rest as
president until Michigan is mended again, and the pride of the
It's a message that resonates with some here, especially those
who are more conservative or who are old enough to remember his