The State of the Economy...and the Presidential Election

Ohio. Political lore has it that people vote their wallets; in large part, they choose a leadership team based on their immediate sense of economic well-being and confidence about the future. Peace and prosperity tend to favor an incumbent, while a distressed economy can spell trouble for a candidate's reelection bid. What follows are snapshots of the economic conditions in the 10 states with the most votes in the Electoral College, which elects the president and vice president.

Of the three big electoral prizes in the Midwest, Ohio has the brightest economic prospects. It lost fewer jobs than Illinois this year. Next year, its job growth will outpace both Illinois and Michigan, according to WEFA Group, a Bala-Cynwyd, Pa. forecasting firm.

One reason for Ohio's better-than-average growth is that its industries have diversified. Another reason for Buckeye optimism: exports have boomed in Ohio.

This economic cheer is relative, however.

"It's a mixed picture now," says William Shkurti, vice president of Ohio State University. "It's not the sense of despair that was evident in '81 or '82, but it's certainly not optimism either."

The economic pickup will be slow, analysts say, because state budget troubles have cast a pall on consumer confidence. And downsizing at large Ohio companies has masked strong growth among small and medium firms, says Andrew Solocha, a business professor at the University of Toledo.

The pickup probably will not become apparent until after the election, asserts Kenneth Mayland, chief economist for Society National Bank. But, he adds, "whoever is elected president in November, they automatically are going to inherit a large potential for economic growth."

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