From its birth in 1854 through 1932, the Republican Party dominated state politics, rarely losing statewide elections and developing strong support in all parts of the state, both rural and urban. The problems caused by the economic depression of the 1930s revitalized the Democratic Party and made Michigan a strong two-party state. Democratic strength was concentrated in metropolitan Detroit, while Republicans maintained their greatest strength in "outstate" areas, except for the mining regions of the upper peninsula, where the working class, hit hard by the depression, supported the Democrats.
Most labor organizations, led by the powerful United Automobile Workers union, have generally supported the Democratic Party since the 1930s. But in recent years, moderate Republicans have had considerable success in attracting support among previously Democratic voters.
Among minor parties, only Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party, which captured the state's electoral vote in 1912, has succeeded in winning a statewide contest. George Wallace captured 10% of the total vote cast for president in 1968; Ross Perot almost doubled that showing in 1992 with 19% of the vote.
Between 1948 and 1992, the Republican candidate for president carried Michigan in nine out of 13 elections, but Michiganians gave Democrat Bill Clinton 44% of the vote in 1992 and 52% in 1996. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore received 51% of the presidential vote to Republican George W. Bush's 47%. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader won 2%. The state had 18 electoral votes in the 2000 presidential election.
In the 1994 mid-term elections, Republican governor John Engler was reelected. Engler was voted in again in 1998, beginning a third term, which expired in January 2003. (Michigan limits its governors to serving two consecutive terms, but the law became effective after Engler's election, so he was grandfathered.) In November 2002, Democrat Jennifer Granholm became Michigan's first female governor. In 2002 there were 6,797,293 registered voters; there is no party registration in the state.
Four-term Democratic Senator Carl Levin was reelected in 2002. Republican Spencer Abraham was elected to the Senate in 1994, replacing retiring Democrat Donald Riegel. Abraham sought a second term in 2000, but failed to win reelection. He was named President George W. Bush's Secretary of Energy in 2001. After the 2002 elections, the state's 15-member US House delegation consisted of six Democrats and nine Republicans. On the state level, in mid-2003 there were 22 Democrats and 16 Republicans in the senate, and 47 Democrats and 63 Republicans in the house.