Fresh off a walloping in West Virginia on Tuesday, Obama hit Macomb County to talk trade and jobs with those elusive Reagan Democrats. He'd obviously had a heart-to-heart with former U.S. Rep. David Bonior, the patron saint of organized labor who endorsed him last week and started a stampede of superdelegates.
By the end of the day, no one was mentioning the Mountain State and Michigan was on everyone's lips. It was a brilliant tactical move.
For the presumptive Democratic nominee, Macomb is the mother of all political symbols, crammed with blue-collar workers aloof to his charm and even hostile after the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scandal.
McCain blew his chance to shore up support in the Wolverine State on May 7 with a rambling speech on child pornography and human trafficking in Rochester Hills.
But Obama got that it's all about the economy, baby.
He ditched the soaring rhetoric, long speeches and stadium crowds for an invitation-only town hall meeting for 200 at Macomb Community College.
Obama obliterated Hillary Clinton's hokey critique that he's "all hat and no cattle," outlining detailed plans for jobs, energy, health care, manufacturing, trade agreements and education, like a $150 billion investment over 10 years in clean energy.
"People are anxious about the future and rightfully so," said Obama, his barely-blue sleeves symbolically rolled up.
He even gave a shout-out to Michigan's 21st Century Jobs Fund, saying we should "replicate that all across the country."
He won over folks like Dave Sahlaney, a 67-year-old shuttle driver who was just laid off from St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital. The Warren grandfather of nine voted for Clinton in the primary and frankly says working-class and white voters have reservations about Obama. But he thinks the senator can win them over.
"He's a real straight-talker; he hits on issues that affect all Americans," Sahlaney said. "I'm disappointed he doesn't go personal with Hillary Clinton's attacks on him, but I respect him for it."
Then Obama capped it off with rock-star rally for 15,000 in Grand Rapids, where John Edwards, the highest-profile "hardworking white American" (as Clinton recklessly described her base) flashed his trademark toothy grin and endorsed him. Bonior's imprint was there again, as Edwards' former campaign manager.
"I felt guilty about not campaigning here," Obama grinned at the crowd, which started lining up more than 12 hours early. "... I decided that in my first full day in Michigan that I wouldn't be fooling around, the same old thing."
I couldn't help but think of Clinton mocking Obama's message of hope, back in February when people still took her and her campaign seriously.
"The sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and everyone will know we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect," the empress brayed in a singsong tone.
And lo, that is indeed what appeared to happen to both Obama and Michigan this week.
It's ironic that Obama, whose name wasn't even on the ballot, is finally bringing a positive glow to the state, as opposed to the Democratic primary hatched by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell that only elicited ridicule. Maybe that's why Dingell appeared so dour in Warren, but it could just be because the state party's girl seems down for the count.
One thing is clear: If Obama wins Michigan after a yearlong absence, he'll have Bonior to thank.
Let's not forget that the frontrunner's last foray here was an admirable but combative speech at the Detroit Economic Club on the Big Three's obstinacy on fuel-economy standards. On Wednesday, Obama wisely pivoted, praising their strides in hybrids and vehicle quality while subtly slamming the Bush administration for throwing manufacturers to the wolves of the global economy.
Obama vowed to spend "every day in the White House fighting for you," ending his Warren speech on a note of humility: "I hope you guys will give me the chance."
His Michigan coming-out parties looked like Bonior checking Chuck Yob, McCain's co-chair who's consistently bungled operations here, starting with a 9-point primary loss. With the Democrats' mangled contest, the state was the GOP's to win, but Yob cares only about wooing the far right and West Michigan.
Obama, who sports the finest political operation since the Kennedys, didn't even bother sending three scraggly college kids to keep hope alive here. That was a big misstep, which will cost him some Mitten State delegates. All that changed last weekend with his drive to recruit 1 million volunteers, including an electric event in Detroit.
Bonior acknowledged Obama has ground to make up, but assured me "he'll be coming back on a regular basis." Smart man.
If it comes down to Bonior vs. Yob in Michigan, I'd bet the farm the state stays blue.