Republican presidential hopeful John McCain is heading to Michigan for a two-day swing he hopes will tap into the goodwill that helped him win the state's 2000 GOP primary.
McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who drew voters in 2000 attracted by his "Straight Talk" campaign, pulled off a surprise upset when he defeated then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in Michigan's GOP primary.
It's unclear if he'll be as successful in next year's Republican contest against tough opponents such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who drew around 1,000 people last month to a Macomb County GOP dinner, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who grew up in the state and is making frequent visits here.
Polls show McCain is well-regarded by many Michigan Republicans. But support among the top GOP candidates remains soft, with some activists who earlier committed to a specific candidate rethinking their positions. McCain also trails Giuliani and Romney in fundraising.
To win this time, McCain will have to do without the unusually high number of Democrats who voted for him in 2000. Nearly two of every 10 votes cast that February came from Democrats.
Michigan Republicans are unlikely to hold an open presidential primary next year, making it harder for McCain to draw Democratic voters, especially with a hot primary contest on the Democratic side.
Instead, his swing Thursday and Friday through voter-heavy Oakland County, Kalamazoo County and Ottawa County, a GOP stronghold, is intended to pull Republican activists to his side.
McCain comes into Michigan a day after defending his stance supporting President Bush's troop surge to cadets at Virginia Military Academy. McCain, Romney and Giuliani back Bush's decision to send additional troops to Baghdad. But McCain, long an advocate of more forces, is the only one directly linked to the policy, and, by extension, the war.
The Arizona senator has hired staff and lined up supporters in Michigan, including state Attorney General Mike Cox, who is heading McCain's Michigan campaign. Another prominent supporter is former ambassador and major GOP donor Ron Weiser of Ann Arbor, who is serving on McCain's national finance committee.