DETROIT -- In the tight race for battleground
state Michigan's 17 electoral votes, President
Bush's fortunes may rest in the hands of Iraqis.
These Iraqis, however, are not in Baghdad.
They're 150,000 politically active immigrants
clustered in suburbs of Detroit.
Iraqi-Americans make up almost a tenth of the
1.2 million residents in Oakland County, north
of the city, where political analysts say Bush
faces his only chance at winning the state. The
discontent of the Iraqis, a Christian sect known
as Chaldeans, is a huge worry for the Bush
"It is incredibly ironic," said David Bonior,
the ex-Democratic House majority whip who
represented Michigan for 26 years. "They're very
disappointed with the president."
In 2000, Al Gore narrowly beat Bush in
Michigan 51 percent to 46 percent. This year,
John Kerry holds a slight edge on him in a state
that is a must-win for the Democrat to secure
the presidency, according to pollster John
The Chaldeans of Oakland County are
well-to-do Catholics who traditionally vote
Republican, but support for the president among
many has turned like the orange leaves falling
on the streets.
Bush supporters worry about Republicans such
as Ramadi-born dentist Shakib Halabu, 55, of
"We tried Bush and now we have chaos in
Iraq," said Halabu, who fears for the safety of
Iraq's Christian minority. "I would rather try
somebody else who might make it better."
Chaldean leader Adhid Miri, 55, backs Bush
but is inundated with calls from Iraqis worried
about kidnapped relatives.
"Many of my Republican friends say they're
not voting for Bush again," Miri said.
"Chaldeans are not in his pocket."
Beyond the Chaldeans, Oakland County's most
contested precincts are working and middle-class
white neighborhoods where most blocks have as
many lawn signs for Kerry as for Bush.
All the candidates on the national tickets
have campaigned here in recent weeks. Even
households are split over the choice, said
Kristina Andreski, 14, as she knocked on
neighbors' doors in Royal Oak to charm them into
On Hawthorn Ave., Henry Vasquez, 38, said
he's voting for Kerry because he opposes the war
- but his wife backs Bush.
"I'll never vote for Kerry," bellowed veteran
David Parr, 70, from his doorway. "He's a
flip-flopper, and he lied about Vietnam."
Bush still has major Oakland allies, such as
Yahya Basha, a Syrian-born doctor with close
ties to the White House, who says the war and
FBI scrutiny of Muslims are tough issues for the
president to overcome.
"My support for Bush is 100 percent, but I
have more to answer for in the Muslim community
now," said Basha, a Sunni Muslim.
Though Arab and Muslim-Americans are only 1.2
percent of Michigan voters, they are an
organized and powerful constituency. Their
symbolic center is Dearborn, west of Detroit,
where 76 percent backed Bush four years ago.
Recent Zogby polling show most now blame him for
what they consider the excesses of the Patriot
Act, the worsening Arab-Israeli conflict and
Among Sunnis, who adhere to the same branch
of Islam as Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein,
ceaseless visits by nosy FBI agents have
"After 9-11, they suspected every
Muslim-American," said influential cleric
Mohamad Mardini, as he drew five FBI agents'
business cards from his wallet and spread them
across a table in one of Dearborn's Arab cafes.
"I voted for Bush, but now Muslims are not
supporting him at all," Mardini said.
A Shiite leader in Dearborn, Imam Hassan
Qazwini, 40, once strongly supported Bush and
attended a private meeting with Vice President
Cheney last month during a campaign stop. Asked
whether Cheney was able to woo him back, the
bearded and black-turbaned Iraqi smiled coolly
and said, "He was gracious."
Around the corner at the Karbalaa mosque,
Imam Husham Al-Husainy, 50 - a confidant of
Iraq's Shiite leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani -
also was a Bush man in 2000, who now "leans
"There is sadness and bitterness here - the
liberation of Iraq has died," said the Iraqi.