Presidential Campaigns Duel In Ohio

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Job seekers wait for person-to-person interviews at a job fair at Columbus State Community College.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU news)
Job seekers wait for person-to-person interviews at a job fair at Columbus State Community College.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU news)

President Barack Obama and Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney today are in Ohio offering dueling speeches about how to fix the economy. They will outline, in their most direct terms, the fierce debate that will decide the November election. The candidate’s jobs plans are especially important for Ohio’s long-term unemployed.

The latest campaign swings through Ohio come as thousands lose jobless benefits. State officials say since April 1st, 50,000 have lost benefits and by the end of the year, unemployment checks will disappear for 230.000 more Ohioans.

Perhaps its little surprise then that more than a thousand job-seekers turned out Wednesday at Columbus State Community College.

“I want a job, I’ve been laid off since November.”

Forty-five-year old Carlos McElfresh worked for years as a business analyst. He traveled nearly 60 miles, from Coshocton County to get face time with potential employers at a job fair hosted by Republican congressman Steve Stivers. He says while he spends time looking for work he also keeps an eye on the 2012 presidential campaign.

“Personally, I’m for Obama. Not the best thing to say at a Stivers job fair. But, I just believe Obama’s working hard to get us the jobs.”

Several steps away, 58-year old Connie Smith of Grove City is clutching a folder filled with resumes as she scopes out employer booths at the job fair. She’s been unemployed for more than a year after spending a career in medical office management. Smith says she’s already made up her mind in this fall’s presidential contest.

“If the election were today, Mr. Romney. Its time for change.It was time for change four years ago, I don’t think we got it.”

Smith says too few jobs have been created during the past several years. And, she adds,

“And although its supposedly against the law to discriminate, someone my age is having a very difficult time finding a position.”

While Smith speculates her age might be an obstacle to getting a job offer, April O’Brien, a recent college graduate is looking to get her career started.

“My qualifications, you know I’m bi-lingual and I was valedictorian of my college class and I still haven’t heard anything. Its very disappointing. You can never do enough it seems.”  Says O’Brien.

O’Brien has sent out hundreds of resumes. She pays little attention to the race for the White House or the debate over the economy.

“I don’t know whether there is any helping the economy at this point. Its really unfortunate there are so many college graduates out on the street and can’t find anything.”

Ohio State University political scientist, Paul Beck, says job and economic issues will likely determine the outcome of the presidential race in Ohio even though in past elections the unemployed have turned out in lower numbers than those who have jobs.

“The fact that there are unemployed is going to affect the voting of a lot of people who are employed. We’re in an economy right now that I think most people, including me regard as quite fragile.” Says Paul Beck. “They’re worried about that. They’re worried about  whether things will be better for their children then the were for them. There is that sense of unease. “

Beck says both President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney are battling over how to frame their economic message to voters and  Ohio again gets a front row seat, because….

“Both of them think they can win Ohio.”  Says Beck.

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