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McCain makes an unlikely stop and wins a vote

January 15, 2008 | 10:30 am

If the scene early this morning at a precinct in Michigan's Traverse City is any indictation, turnout for the state's presidential primary won't match the standards set in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Republican John McCain, along with nearly 20 reporters, were on hand to meet voters -- all three of them. And at least one, Tami Kukuczka, wasn't swayed by the candidate's presence.  The 50-year-old administrative assistant said she was voting for Ron Paul because she agrees with his opposition to forced vaccinations.

McCain's trip to the precinct was not in vain, though, The Times' Maeve Reston reports. Peg Jonkoff, the owner of a funeral home across the street, invited the Arizona senator and his enoturage to pay a visit.

McCain and his wife, Cindy, spent several minutes admiring the 34-room Queen Anne Victorian-style home (complete with 10 fireplaces) that was built in 1891 for Traverse City founder Perry Hannah. He also indulged his penchant for corny jokes -- "People are dying to get in there." But more to the point, McCain picked up Jonkoff's support (she had been undecided between him and Mitt Romney).

The notoriously superstitious McCain ...

made sure his wardrobe for the day included the green sweater he wore when he won the New Hampshire primary last week. And he flashed his lucky penny to reporters.

More than amulets, however, McCain appears to need support from Michigan's non-Republicans in the party's open primary to win a contest that polls have shown either too close to call or tilting toward Romney.

“I think it’s going to be very close ... so turnout obviously matters,” said McCain, standing on an icy street outside the polling place at the Grand Traverse Heritage Center.

And he made clear he would be undeterred by a loss in Michigan: “No matter what -– we have South Carolina [which holds its GOP primary Saturday] and then Florida [a Jan. 29 primary], and I think we have a ways to go before this nomination is clear. ..."

Few Republicans would disagree with that last assertion.

McCain said he was hoping for a boost from the Democrats and independents who carried him to victory in Michigan’s 2000 primary. A similar showing, he said, “shows potential for the general election in November as well.”

McCain is headed to Ann Arbor for a town hall meeting with Independent Democrat Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut senator who has endorsed him. He flies to Charleston late Monday to await the Michigan results in South Carolina.

-- Don Frederick