President Barack Obama, seeking to profit from the split decision that emerged from the Republican caucuses in Iowa, gave a speech in Ohio Wednesday that many view as a kickoff to his re-election campaign, The Hill
Obama is seeking to re-energize his liberal base in a key swing state with a visit to Shaker Heights, a middle-class Cleveland suburb. This is unlikely to be Obama’s last trip to the state. “He’ll be in Ohio enough to be able to register to vote,” long-time Democratic consultant Jerry Austin told The Hill.
“It's not a surprise that he would be making his first trip to the number one battleground state and the number one area when he should have his best support.”
Obama campaign staffers are making no effort to hide the importance of Ohio for the re-election effort. “We’ve probably done more work on the ground in Ohio in 2011 than any other state in the country,” said campaign manager Jim Messina.
But Obama’s support in Ohio – he won the 2008 race there by four percentage points – is dwindling. “The energy is just not there,” Kevin Mattson, a professor of contemporary history at Ohio University, told The Hill. Mattson did some work for the Obama campaign in 2008, The Hill reported.
“I think Ohio is going to be really hard for [Obama,] because people here are saying ‘Where are the jobs?' Ohio is not looking good economically," Mattson said. "People are looking at gas prices, at unemployment, and that’s how they’re going to vote. They want change.”
To win, Obama needs strong support in the Cleveland area, home to Democratic voters who are sympathetic to labor unions and upset about the economy.
“It’s an area of Ohio that was part of the industrial heartland and has had very tough times, and it’s a group he needs to mobilize,” Paul Beck, a professor of political science at Ohio State University, told The Hill. “The people there are not very optimistic that any politician is going to do anything to help them, and he’s got quite a selling job to do.”
Economic populism is the way to win over these voters, Beck says. “I think that will draw a responsive chord.”
In his speech Wednesday, Obama cited his concern for the middle class and economy and struck a partisan note, attacking Republicans in Congress for opposing his policies, such as the payroll tax cut extension.
Republicans are hammering the president over his trip. The appearance came as he is “underwater” in the state’s polls, notes Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman at the Republican National Committee. A Quinnipiac University poll released last month showed that 55 percent of Ohio residents disapprove of Obama’s job performance.
“With all 88 Ohio counties rejecting Obamacare this fall, high unemployment and record debt that his policies have made worse, the only option President Obama has is doubling down on the same failed promises he’s relied on for the past three years,” she said.
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