Why Ohio? Behind Obama's choice of Cleveland for jobs speech
It's no accident President Obama is delivering a major speech on economic recovery in Ohio, a struggling state that makes or breaks presidencies.
Ohio makes or breaks presidencies. That’s one reason why President Obama picked Cleveland to unveil a new plan for economic recovery just 55 days before voters decide whether Democrats keep their majorities in the House and Senate.Skip to next paragraph
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He’s also pointedly taking on House Republican leader John Boehner, who laid out the Republican alternative at a business forum here in Cleveland just two weeks ago. Vice President Biden has stumped in Toledo twice in as many weeks, including a speech at a Chrysler assembly plant on the administration’s investments in the auto industry and a turn with embattled Gov. Ted Strickland (D) at the Labor Day parade on Monday.
If Democrats defy the polls and beat back a GOP surge in November, it will be because voters in places like Cleveland get as fired up for Democrats in 2010 as they were in 2008. Mr. Obama picked up 60,000 new Democratic votes in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County in 2008 and needs to energize these voters again in 2010.
As of Aug. 28, Republican turnout in primaries nationwide exceeded Democratic turnout for the first time since 1930 – and by a whopping margin of 4 million votes, according to a new study by American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate.
“There are some places that are fought over like one of these epic World War I trench warfare battles. It’s the Verdun of American politics,” says Ross Baker, a political scientist at Rutgers University.
But few on the streets in downtown Cleveland were aware that President Obama was speaking today. The city was beaten low by the decline of heavy industry in the 1970s and, more recently, troubles in the auto industry. While a mood of resignation persists, some small businessmen in the downtown area see a future in green tourism and gambling. Cleveland is one be the site of one of four casinos planned for Ohio, now delayed until 2013.
“I didn’t know he was coming today,” says Jonathan Sawyer, owner of the Greenhouse Tavern, the first nationally certified green restaurant in Ohio. “There are a lot of good things happening downtown,” he adds, noting that Cuyahoga Community College -- the venue for today’s Obama speech – is opening a state-of-the art culinary facility in the heart of downtown Cleveland this fall. “The downtown is coming back.”
Six House seats are seriously in play in Ohio, along with strongly contested US Senate and governor’s races now rated as tossups or trending Republican. It’s not clear whether local Democrats will embrace or run from the president’s plan – and even less clear whether Democrats or Republicans will take it up when Congress comes back in session next week.