Obama Courts Favor in Ohio, a Key Voter State; Seeks New Economic Trends There

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 23, 2011 | Go to article overview

Obama Courts Favor in Ohio, a Key Voter State; Seeks New Economic Trends There


Byline: Kara Rowland, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

He may have passed over Cleveland as the site of next year's Democratic National Convention but President Obama continues to pay extraordinary attention to the lakeside city, making his sixth trip in two years there Tuesday and his 13th overall to Ohio, a key state in recent presidential elections.

This time around the president was courting small businesses, while in the past he has used the Buckeye State to push for his health care law and tout the results of his $814 billion stimulus program.

It is wonderful to be back in Ohio, Mr. Obama told an audience at Cleveland State University, showing off his local bona fides with a joke about the city's former basketball superstar LeBron James and giving a quick shoutout to Bubba's BBQ in nearby Avon, Ohio.

The president's fondness for Ohio is not surprising. Even though it will drop from 20 to 18 electoral votes as a result of last year's census, the state continues to be the gatekeeper for presidents, and particularly for any Republicans who want to unseat Mr. Obama.

Republicans have never won the White House without carrying Ohio and that's very much on the minds of Democrats, said Alexander Lamis, a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who noted that recent signs don't bode well for Mr. Obama.

Riding tea party discontent and fears of continued economic doldrums, Republicans captured the governorship, the state house and five congressional seats in November - a sweep that occurred despite a pair of high-profile political rallies in the state hosted by Mr. Obama on the eve of the vote. And polls now show the president, who won the state by 4 percentage points in 2008, holds only a narrow lead over some potential Republican challengers.

Tuesday's forum on small business at Cleveland State marked Mr. Obama's first trip of the year to Ohio, and he brought a group of high-ranking administration officials with him to tout his administration's policies, such as tax credits and loan assistance to firms that are struggling to expand.

Asked during one of the breakout sessions why he keeps coming back to Cleveland, the president said it's because the city is the focal point for the kind of economic experimentation that will determine whether cities that depended on manufacturing can thrive in new economic conditions.

As the economy changed, a lot of people wrote off Cleveland as a shell of its former self. …

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