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One presidential debate over, and still undecided in Ohio

The Monitor watched Wednesday's presidential debate with undecided voter Maggie O'Toole in Ohio – an important battleground state. Why she is still not ready to commit to either President Obama or Mitt Romney. 

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“A lot of people whose jobs tanked, they’re seeing recovery, but everybody who had anything like a pension took a hit and it’s not coming back,” she says.

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Another challenge for Romney in the Buckeye State is the automotive industry, which supports 1 in 8 jobs – about 80,000 total. He has long criticized Obama’s decision to use federal dollars to bail out General Motors and the Chrysler Group, which together employ about 13,000 people in Ohio.

“Ohio is an auto industry state, and [the bailout] is an issue that is more important to a lot of Ohioans than it is to people in most other states,” says Mr. Beck of Ohio State. “That is a big advantage for Obama.”

When the presidential debate turns to fiscal policy and the role of the federal government, O'Toole says she doesn’t believe Obama “has the political will to make [spending] cuts” needed to close the country’s yawning deficit.

“He will make the efficiency cuts, but will he actually cut social benefits or limit them in any way? I don’t believe he will do it,” she says.

A CNN/ORC International poll released early Thursday found that 67 percent of registered voters who watched the debate said Romney fared better, compared with 25 percent for Obama.

O’Toole is with the minority on this, saying Obama was the clear winner for his confidence and for seeming to have a better grasp of policies. Romney, she says, refused to drill down more deeply regarding his tax policy and health care: “Ultimately, Mitt Romney needs to give some of that information, and the longer that this goes on, the worse it looks for him.” 

Yet the debate she saw Wednesday was not enough for O'Toole to seal the deal with either candidate. She turned to the debate for a more substantial discussion about, not just the economy, but social issues, and what she heard were retooled versions of familiar stump speeches.

“We’ve heard the same numbers a million times that haven’t been backed up. You can tell they hit their talking points, but it was nothing to shift the conversation,” she says. “I do agree a lot more with President Obama, but if neither of them have an economic solution, which it seems like they don’t, will I vote for the guy with whom I agree with regarding gay rights or abortion or not? Mitt Romney’s not really giving me a reason to vote for him,” she says.

With two more debates to go, what will it take for O’Toole to make a decision?

“Maybe just [for] one of them to terribly screw up and have a Sarah Palin moment where one of them proves to be inept,” she says.

Beck says O’Toole is typical of Republican-leaning women of the Millennial Generation who are “really turned off” by current Republican Party policies on social issues, ranging from gay rights to contraception.

“The more professional women are really turned off by the Republican Party in general. These are voters who may go up to the very end,” he says.

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