Entering the New Millennium
MICHIGAN ENTERED THE NEW MILLENNIUM filled with both hope and anxiety. If the state can use its fiscal and natural resources wisely and meet the needs of its citizens, Michigan will continue in the social and economic vanguard of the nation, but the scope of the impending challenges is daunting.
Because of its eighteen electoral votes, Michigan was certain to be one of the major political battlegrounds in the presidential race of 2000. Realizing that his reluctance to commit himself early to Robert Dole's 1996 candidacy may have harmed state Republican Party unity, Governor Engler jumped on the George W. Bush presidential bandwagon in 1999, making him one of the Texas governor's first influential supporters. The Governor pledged that Michigan would serve as a “fire wall” protecting Bush from his only rival, Arizona Senator John McCain. However, the results of the Michigan primary demonstrated that an endorsement by the controversial Engler was a mixed blessing. Registered Republican voters cast ballots for Bush, but independents and crossover Democrats turned out in force to deliver the state to McCain. Undaunted, Engler declared that the results did not accurately reflect Bush's popularity in Michigan, but rather signified only that Democrats wished to try to embarrass the Governor by defeating his favored candidate.
The primary results also sent up an ominous warning that incumbent United States Senator Spencer Abraham's reelection bid could be threatened. The freshman senator was being challenged by first-term congresswoman Debbie Stabenow, and without a strong vote-getter heading the Republican ticket Abraham's chances for victory were decidedly diminished. The incumbent's reelection bid was hampered further when labor