DETROIT (AP) — Michigan voters helped President Barack Obama earn a second term and launched Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow to re-election, but rejected two labor-backed ballot proposals aimed at protecting union rights and maintained Republicans' majority in the state's U.S. House delegation.
The victories by Stabenow and Obama were among the first to become clear as Michigan results poured in, and neither was a surprise. Obama had a reservoir of good will in the state after championing federal assistance for General Motors and Chrysler, and Stabenow billed herself as a moderate bipartisan focused on Michigan jobs.
"We have a similar message that you need to make and grow things in our economy," Stabenow, who easily defeated former Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, told The Associated Press. "And, that's what we do in Michigan."
All proposals on Michigan's ballot, including five that would have altered the state constitution, failed to pass muster with voters.
"I disagree with arbitrarily changing the constitution," said Dave Keem, 60, a computer service manager from the Detroit suburb of Dearborn.
One of the measures would have guaranteed collective bargaining rights for public and private employees in the constitution, and another would have given permission for home health care workers to form unions. But labor was able to celebrate the rejection of a proposal that would have kept the state's emergency managers law in place — the law gave state-appointed financial mangers broad rights that included negating union contracts in financially distressed cities and school districts.
Obama was favored in Michigan after supporting the aid to GM and Chrysler, which were on the brink of bankruptcy when he took office in 2009. Republican challenger Mitt Romney was a vocal opponent of rescuing the car companies.
The economy was the biggest issue for Michigan voters and they put their trust in Obama to continue nursing a fragile recovery, according to results of an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks. A slight majority said he was better able than Romney to handle the economy, and an even bigger majority said the president was more in touch with people like them.
About three in five voters approved of the Obama administration's aid to the U.S. auto industry, and they overwhelmingly backed the president.
"Obama had a lot to deal with when he came into office," said William Mullins, 62, of Lansing. "You can't change everything overnight."
Republicans, meanwhile, held on to a U.S. House seat that had appeared vulnerable after five-term GOP Rep. Thaddeus McCotter failed to qualify for the primary ballot and resigned amid an investigation into his staff's submission of bogus petition signatures. Tea party-backed reindeer rancher Kerry Bentivolio defeated Democrat Syed Taj in the 11th District, overcoming claims of extremism even by some in his own party.