ShareThis Page
Tepid toward Obama on jobs |
Chelsea Pompeani Videos

Tepid toward Obama on jobs

Salena Zito
| Monday, April 23, 2012 8:59 a.m


Knocked off message for a second week by messy Secret Service and GSA scandals, President Obama on Wednesday tried to salvage things with a jobs rally among handpicked supporters in this Northeast Ohio town.

Standing behind him onstage were unemployed workers, ages 33 to 60, who went back to school to learn trades that might help them land jobs.

He began and ended his speech with now-familiar populist rhetoric about fairness and fair shakes. Sandwiched in between were out-of-place lines about free markets, personal responsibility and government not solving all of our problems.

At times the words felt awkward, forced. Six tepid applause lines in a 24-minute speech reflected a candidate testing out a new message that fell flat.

Mike Bainbridge was one of the unemployed workers onstage with the president. At 33, he is about to graduate and hopes to use his applied-science degree to work in the alternative-energy field.

Bainbridge did not vote for Obama in 2008 and is not sure if he will this time, either. “I am on the fence,” he said. “I am going to listen to both him and Romney, to see who is best to lead on jobs and the economy.”

“Where were the specifics?” asked a woman in a navy-and-white crepe pantsuit, walking to the parking lot of Lorain County’s community college. A longtime Obama supporter, she said she was uninspired to volunteer, make phone calls or encourage friends to vote for him this year, as she did in 2008.

A Democrat and school board member from one district over, she declined to give her name. “School board politics are similar to operating in a sewer,” she explained.

Ohio is key for both Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney — the ultimate bellwether state in presidential elections.

Since 1896, Ohio has given its electoral votes to the presidential winner — except in 1944, when it favored Republican Thomas Dewey (and his running mate, Ohioan John Bricker) over Franklin Roosevelt, 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent, and again in 1960, when it chose Richard Nixon over John Kennedy, 53.3 percent to 46.7 percent.

President Obama’s visit marked his 20th to Ohio since taking office; the plan this time was to tell voters how he intends to grow the economy and get Americans back to work.

Yet 24 minutes isn’t enough time to tell much of a story. And rival Romney confounded Obama’s jobs theme by visiting the same area the next day, using a shuttered National Gypsum Co. plant as his backdrop.

It’s the same plant Obama visited in February 2008, promising to be a job creator. The plant closed a few months later.

In the past year, Ohio has been fourth in the nation, and first in the Midwest, in job creation. In the previous four years, before Republican John Kasich became governor, Ohio ranked 48th nationally.

Context is everything. For example, Florida is fifth in the nation in job creation — yet has 3.5 million more people in its workforce. If Obama’s policies worked, wouldn’t Florida be beating Ohio?

If Obama’s policies worked, Ohio’s job creation should be far behind that in states with much larger populations. Yet Ohio actually started coming back from the dead when Gov. Kasich started enacting sweeping reforms to eliminate the state’s largest-ever budget deficit, stabilize spending and cut taxes by $840 million.

Those reforms initially caused Kasich to plummet in opinion polls, although recently he has begun to recover.

Obama led Romney, 46 percent to 42 percent, in a Quinnipiac University national poll of 2,577 voters released Thursday. The poll showed Romney outperforming Obama on the economy, job creation, gas prices and immigration; the president scored higher on women’s issues and foreign policy. They were viewed equally on health care and taxes, with Obama considered more likeable.

As Obama passed through a quiet neighborhood here with neatly trimmed lawns and single-story homes set back from the highway, residents gathered on porches and in driveways to watch or wave at a passing president of the United States.

A church sign along the way warned: “Beware, the End Times are near.”

It’s not clear if that sign was intended as a harbinger of November’s election.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.