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Published: Tuesday, 12/23/2008

Granholm finds her voice

MICHIGAN voters may be forgiven if they are wondering if the Jennifer Granholm they've seen on the national airwaves the last few weeks is the same person who has been their governor for the past seven years.

When Chrysler and General Motors began talking about possibly going out of business, the formerly all-too-indecisive Ms. Granholm seemed to evolve overnight into a still charming but tough-as-nails defender of her state and its core industry.

She made the rounds of the national talk shows and endured questions from a seemingly endless procession of cable TV anchors.

And she showed some sharp elbows. She bashed the Bush Administration, saying she felt 'incredible anger' that they gave Wall Street $700 billion with no questions asked but didn't seem willing to give a tiny fraction of that to the automakers. She rightly accused former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney of 'breathtaking hypocrisy' for arguing against giving Chrysler and General Motors government loans, after pandering to the automakers in the state's primary a year ago.

The woman who seemed afraid to argue publicly for a small state tax increase she wanted in 2007 jumped at the chance to go on national television and accuse Senate Republicans of 'protecting foreign companies' and 'not acting as Americans.' Whether her efforts made any difference is not certain, though she may have made some Americans see the auto industry in a somewhat more favorable light. Nor did it seem that she was angling for another job.

The Canadian-born Democrat is in her second and final four-year term in Lansing, and there isn't any obvious next job for which she can run. The Obama Cabinet is complete, and even before that Ms. Granholm had announced she didn't want to serve in Washington. What is clear is that Michigan's governor is a powerful communicator when she wants to be. It will be interesting to see if with two years left in the governor's office she chooses to put some of her fire to work fighting for her goals at home.

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