What do Ohio's white working-class voters want?

To look at Ohio is to glimpse America in a nutshell — a state full of places where laborers, truck drivers, cooks, store clerks and business owners form the backbone of small-town life. Places where the deli cashes checks, cars and trucks are "vehicles" and the NFL takes a back seat to high-school football.
Associated Press
Sep 27, 2012

It also is a place where presidents are made. No candidate has won without Ohio's 18 electoral votes since John F. Kennedy in 1960. Barack Obama won here in 2008 by about 260,000 votes, 52 percent to 47 percent.

That's why Ohio's white, working-class voters have taken center stage in the election, with Obama and Mitt Romney crisscrossing the state this week as they enter the campaign's homestretch.

These voters may well decide who wins the White House. So what do they want? About two dozen interviews in eastern Ohio revealed some answers:

They are looking for a president who understands what it's like to punch a time clock all month and still come up short on the bills, for a leader who will help the people in work boots as much as those in wingtips. They see money being doled out, from welfare to bank bailouts, and ask why nobody has lent them a hand. They talk of getting rid of everyone in Washington and starting fresh.

Generations of sweaty work and union membership make many deeply skeptical of a Republican multimillionaire CEO like Romney, and polls show he trails among white working-class Ohioans. But there also is widespread frustration with the Democratic president and pessimism about the future.

"If the election was right now, I'd choose 'none of the above,'" says coal miner J.R. Cross, leaving a payday loan store in Bridgeport with money for his oldest son's college bill.

He voted for Obama in 2008 but thinks the president helped Wall Street and the auto industry instead of the working class. He thinks Romney favors the rich and that he bankrupted companies to make investors a profit. His vote will be a last-minute decision — and he doubts it will make a difference.

"Whoever gets elected, we're screwed," Cross says.

Nationally, Romney holds a strong edge among white voters with jobs and no college degree: Sixty-three percent favored Romney, compared with 28 percent for Obama, according to an Associated Press/GfK poll conducted Sept 13-17.

But the president does much better in union-heavy Ohio, where Obama's auto bailout has helped keep unemployment a point below the national rate. Fifty-one percent of white voters with no college education preferred the president, compared with 45 percent who backed Romney in a recent University of Cincinnati/Ohio Newspaper Organization poll. The margin of error was plus or minus 6 percentage points.

"I think Obama can bring things back. I really do," said Valinda Liggett, an electrician, as she shopped in a dollar store in Dillonvale. "He's trying. Rome wasn't built in a day. He can only do so much."

Still, conversations with people along the hills and in towns around state Route 7, which hugs the Ohio River on the Ohio-West Virginia line, showed much frustration with the economy.

Shuttered steel mills and the Great Recession have drained businesses and jobs from what once were vibrant towns. Many dislike the Obama administration's stance on the coal industry, which puts food on thousands of tables in this region. Along the two-lane roads that curl through the hills west of Route 7, yard signs reading "Stop the War on Coal — Fire Obama" are a common sight.

Millie Brown, who tends tables and the grill at a Steubenville truck stop, has some choice words for both candidates. When you make $20,000 a year, she says, every day is a struggle.

"It's hard to make enough to buy gas to drive to work, let alone pay bills," she says, pulling on a generic menthol cigarette. "A gallon of milk is $4.29. That's ridiculous. I never thought I'd see the day when eggs are $2 a dozen."

Like many others interviewed, Brown says the economy would be much better if Obama had used stimulus funds to give large checks — five, six or even seven figures — to individual working Americans.

The math doesn't come close to adding up, but this frequent flight of fancy shows how wrong it feels to many of these voters when bailed-out banks pay huge bonuses, or first lady Michelle Obama goes on an expensive trip, or Romney parks some of his millions offshore.

"I'm a white guy with a job. I won't get no help," says Tony Gern, a truck driver from Coshocton.

His girlfriend works two jobs, but they are still barely scraping by. Gern came up short one recent month and tried to get some government assistance but was turned down. "A guy that has no job, 10 kids, he can go to the welfare office and they hand him a check," he says.

Gern says he will watch the debates before deciding how to vote. Right now, he sees Obama as more of a regular guy than Romney.

"If I was digging a ditch, Obama would come down and get a little dirty. He'd probably do it with me," Gern says. "Romney, he wouldn't do it. He's never done that kind of work. He's never had his hands dirty."

But Romney's business career is a plus for Russell Banfield and his wife, Betty. The retired couple — he was a coal miner; she was a secretary — are classic Ohio independents who voted for Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama.

Now, they are disappointed by the president's decisions on the deficit and the stimulus.

"If I have a problem here on my property, will the USA bail us out?" Russell Banfield says, standing outside his one-story house in Belmont, population 453. "We're on a limited income. We have to make do. Why doesn't Congress? Why doesn't the president?"

"Romney is rich, he made money, he worked, he earned it," Banfield says. "He had a brain to know how to do it, so he has a brain to know what to do now."

An hour down the road, behind the cash register of a small market, Debbie Winland greets customers by name as they buy items like spaghetti sauce, beer, hot pepperoni rolls wrapped in foil and high school football tickets. Movies on VHS tape cost $5.

Winland is troubled by bailouts, the stimulus and people who work their whole lives but end up with nothing. Both candidates seem out of touch: "They're neck and neck, really. Zero to zero," she says.

"Give me someone to vote for."

 

Comments

donutshopguy

Which evil to you take? Both stretch the truth. Both are millionaires. Neither have been in touch with real America for years working inside the beltway of Washington DC.

We have to chose? Great.

mikel

"she says, pulling on a generic menthol cigarette." @ $5 per pack? say no more.

OMG.LOL.WT_

What do they want?
Probably a job with a decent wage!
If they think either Obama or Romney will deliver ...............??????????????
I agree with Cross.

mikel

donutshopguy - agreed. although i rail against prez o i am not overly happy with romney. however, i do believe that romney would do a better job than prez o. again, i can't believe these are the 2 best choices we have out of 250+ million people.

luvblues2

WTF does the color of skin have to do with it?!

grandmasgirl

The color of your skin shouldn't have anything to do with anything. However, if it didn't we wouldn't have the NAACP,the Black Caucus and many other "black" inspired groups. If everyone closed their eyes and just took a person for what he is, black or white, the world would be a better place. But they don't. Just as you wonder why they are asking about "white middle class" I wonder why people care what "black" people think.

mikel

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Remarks that discriminate based on age, race, religion, disability, etc..

mikel

soooooo, when you speak the truth about published articles it is inappropriate??????????????????????????????

it is the truth that prez o has called upon his "black brothers" to vote exclusively for him and has even set up a website!!!!!!!!!!!!! it is racist!!!!!!!!

mikel

TO THE MODERATORS OF THE SR. LET ME DO YOUR WORK! READ IN BETWEEN THE QUOTATION MARKS:
"Barack Obama is courting black voters and is pulling on emotional strings to do so. In his video greeting launching “African Americans for Obama,” the president uses images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and references to overcoming “slavery and oppression” to pull on blacks’ heartstrings"

SEE I WASN'T BULLSHI__ING YOU!! MAYBE YOU AND YOUR CRYBABIES THAT ARE HATERS WILL SEE THE TRUTH!! PREZ O IS A RACIST!! IMAGINE THE OUTRAGE IF ROMNEY CAME OUT AND ASKED EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE WHITE PEOPLE TO VOTE FOR HIM!! SO, WHAT DID I SAY THAT WAS INAPPROPRIATE? YOU HAVE MY INFO.

Rabbi

According to one minority voter in Cleveland, minority voters want more free stuff! (ie. an Obama phone.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t...

OMG.LOL.WT_

One of the most commonly repeated theories about job-creation is that "rich people create jobs"--specifically, rich investors and entrepreneurs who build companies that eventually employ hundreds or thousands of Americans.
This theory is often used to justify very low taxes on investors and high-income earners, under the theory that such folks have to be given an incentive to "create jobs."
But the trouble with the theory, says Nick Hanauer, is that it's just wrong.
Hanauer, an entrepreneur and investor and the author of The Gardens of of Democracy, built an online advertising firm called aQuantive that he sold to Microsoft for several billion dollars. He was one of the first investors in Amazon.com, which now employs tens of thousands of people worldwide. He also make an "eight-figure" income from his investments. So he knows a thing or two about investing, job creation, and the impact of low taxes on rich people.
What actually creates jobs, Hanauer says, is not "rich people" or "entrepreneurs," but the economic ecosystem in which companies are created. The entrepreneur and initial investors provide the "seed" that eventually leads to job-creation, but it is ultimately the company's customers that provide the demand necessary to support jobs. Without healthy customers, Hanauer says, entrepreneurs and investors can't create any sustainable jobs, so the idea that rich people create jobs is misguided.
One of the reasons our economy is struggling, Hanauer says, is the middle-class has been gutted and stripped of its purchasing power. To restore the economy to health--and reduce the unemployment rate--the buying power of the middle class has to be restored. And that, Hanauer says, can be accomplished in two ways:
First, cutting taxes for the middle-class while raising them on high-income earners.
And, second, paying middle-class workers more.

mikel

"He also make an "eight-figure" income from his investments" so, this man is one of the hated people that only pay 14% in taxes! how dare he!

donutshopguy

OMH.LOL.WT,

"The entrepreneurs and initial investors provide "seed" that eventually leads to job creation"

What is "seed"? Money?

Are entrepreneurs and initial investors usually rich people? Yes.

So, rich people with money lead to creating jobs.

Spin it anyway you want and camouflage the wording but you said it. Rich people create jobs.

Contango

@ OMG.LOL.WT_:

Same old wrongheaded nonsense of taxing and spending our way to prosperity.

Increasing productivity has 'always' been the key to economic growth.

Contango

Ya wanna talk about the death of the "middle class"?

We recently had the 35th anniversary of the closing of Youngstown Sheet and Tube, Campbell Works on Sept. 19, 1977. 5000 workers lost their jobs.

Was there any media about the anniversary of this event?

I lived in Youngstown at the time and remember it 'very well'. I knew that times were changing.

The decline of U.S. manufacturing and the middle class has been occurring for decades and believing that the Ds or the Rs are gonna improve this economy is foolish.

Actually, the EPA was started in 1970 and the decline of heavy manufacturing in the U.S. can be highly correlated to it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You...

OMG.LOL.WT_

Wrongheaded? Henry didn't think it wrongheaded when he made model T Fords
You don't need increased productivity if you don't have customers.
No one cares about customers any more.

"Your call is important to us" Push 1 for English,

Contango

@ OMG.LOL.WT_:

For the $5.00 per day, Mr. Ford required the workers to be punctual and sober.

Currently, the minimum wage keeps millions of young unskilled people unemployed.

Also, many can't even pass a drug test - I know this personally.

The Big Dog's back

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Libel and defamation.

KURTje

Yes B.D. Typical of so many Americans. Hand out & talking. No actions. Exactly why we have too many real problems.

Randy_Marsh

When your food prices explode go no further than the present Admin. If it isnt the FED depreciating our currency we can always blame the EPA for turning central california into a dust bowl over a fish. http://www.cfact.org/a/1581/Tiny... Liberalidiocy at its finest.

Darwin's choice

Obama had a chance and has failed to improve anything.............

SickOfTheStupidity

Flat tax system. Google: the rise of the flat tax. Everyone pays their fair share. Burden is off of the employers. Frees up capital. Able to invest. Creates more jobs. GDP is up an average of 10%. Tax revenue was up an average of 17%. Flat tax rate around 10% so the workers in this country pay less taxes. Go ahead, work under the table. You pay too because you pay your flat tax when you spend your money.

Pete

The Libocrits will NEVER go for a flat tax. Ever! How can they punish people for making money and reward the lazy by making everyone pay their fair share? How can they pick winners and losers with a tax system that actually makes sense?

It will never happen, even though it is the best idea out there. Libocrits do not want fair taxation. What they want is a way to punish others that actually work for their money.

Swamp Fox

"A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his." Ronald Reagan
Substitute Obama for Carter, although they are much alike and we have our answer.......

allrhetoricanyway

What happened to the "new" guidelines?? This blog is a JOKE!!
Make a POINT! Don't be so biased...see 3 dimensional!! Wow...back to the pros!!

FlowerMom

Why does this article break down the working class to a white race? There is a black working class and equal to white working class. Their homes are like other races. Their children dress the some, pay the same taxes, pay the same for gasoline, etc. Who in the press s so racist to break down the working class into the white working class? I am sick of a race division, promoted by the liberal media. From my experience it is the black who are so racist that they break down everything into white and black.

starryeyes83

Maybe you should ask The Associated Press, since it's their article. Register just reprinted it.

allrhetoricanyway

In the "real" world.....apparently race is a consideration...in a 2 dimensional world, people question equality, in a 3 dimensional world, it doesn't matter what gender, race or religion you are! And if I have learned anything in life, we are ALL 3 dimensional! If anyone were to STOP and think about their own personal existence, NO ONE can blame their place in this life on someone else. If there are people that are "entitled'? So be it! People will not stop paying their taxes and life will go on with those that think they shouldn't work while sponging off the hard-working tax payers! And there will always be the ONES that are millionaires that think that poor people aren't worthy of their help! That's brass!! Check out some of the fracking laws put in place for the BIG co's that made MANY of the hard-working,not so wealthy people sick....BIG BUSINESS!! Make sure you know ALL 3 dimensions before you decide to choose!!

Pete

Wonder if these thugs paid taxes on this money?

Are these some of the jobs created by President Obama? Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members were paid $11 an hour to protest against GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney while he held a roundtable discussion on jobs in Bedford, Ohio. Romney was joined on stage by the host of hit Discovery Channel program Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe.

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