Obama and Ohio

Obama and Ohio

Ohio has been hit hard by the recession and the resulting rise in unemployment rates. Obama had a lot to say about how he would turn things around. 8 months later, nothing much has changed. And the people who live there know it

"People were looking for a savior to get us out of this mess and that's why they voted for Obama," said Jeff Fravor, 55, a retired train conductor. “I've nothing against Obama personally, but he's new to the job and 'hope' won't fix this mess."

Here are the numbers:
Ohio’s unemployment in January 2008: 5.7%
June, 2009 unemployment in Ohio: 11.1%
National average: 9.5%
Obama’s approval rating in Ohio in May: 62%

Obama’s approval rating in Ohio right now: 49%

Eek. And 48% say they disapprove of how he has handled the economy.

Basically, it’s all about unemployment- and there’s nothing wrong with that. People lose jobs, they get anxious and testy. You come in and tell them you will fix the problem and get them some jobs, they like you. Then you do what you do and there aren’t really any more jobs than there were 8 months ago- well, you better know they won’t like you as much anymore and they will start to be anxious and testy again. Ohio is a state rooted in manufacturing.

Andrew Doehrel, head of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce explains the situation this way:

"As jobs have gone away, that has created a true focus here on job creation. People look at what's been done on a federal level in terms of bailouts and stimulus and they see that this has not equated to anything more than lost jobs in Ohio."

It’s good to hear Jim Rokakis, treasurer of Cuyahoga County, offer a balanced take on the situation:

"It's not a surprise Obama's numbers have fallen here and they'll continue to go down as long as jobs keep being lost here. Americans always want a quick fix to problems, but they are going to relearn patience this time round."

Patience. Yeah, yeah… some more payy-shence… We’ll see how much patience the American people really have when it comes to unemployment and their personal income.

Manufacturing is big in Ohio, with cities like Cleveland and Toledo providing much of the basic manufacturing for products produced in the United States, from auto parts to Coca Cola bottles. 

Another number: Vacancy rate for Toledo retail space: 14.6%

A record high. But with the Ohio economy rooted in manufacturing, it really comes down to getting manufacturing jobs into Ohio to help the problem. And it’s hard to say when that will be the reality, when there will be new plants built or new companies moving into town.

Obama recently gave a speech in Ohio about health care. And people there are pretty sure he’ll be back.

"Obama is a smart man and he knows how important Ohio is," said Rokakis. "He knows he can't win without us. So I'm sure he'll be back again before long."

And it’s true. Above all, Obama is a savvy politician and he knows how to work the campaign magic. Hopefully that magic will cast its spell over the economy, health care and the rising unemployment rates in Ohio.