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Auto bailout could be key to Obama victory in Ohio

Published: Wed, October 24, 2012 @ 3:25 p.m.

LORDSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — President Barack Obama's decision to help America's automakers could end up being what helps drive him back into the White House.

Some 850,000 jobs in this critical battleground state are tied to autos, and Obama's campaign constantly reminds voters they'd be jobless if not for the decision to inject taxpayer dollars into General Motors and Chrysler.

The move, however, has not translated into automatic support for the president, even in areas that depend on the industry. Republican Mitt Romney also is pitching these voters hard with his message that Obama hasn't balanced Washington's checkbook the same way voters must.

One in eight jobs in Ohio can be linked to the auto industry — whether it's working on a factory floor or selling groceries to plant workers. The presidential race's outcome could boil down to whether voters interpret Obama's move as saving Detroit or bailing it out. But like other flashpoints in this rough campaign, there is little middle ground between the versions of events and what it means for voters' neighbors.

"I couldn't imagine what Lordstown would be," said Brian Axiotis, a 37-year-old Obama supporter who works in information technology and lives in nearby Newton Falls. "A lot of folks would lose their houses. Consider the mess that would have resulted. It'd be a ghost town all over the area."

Since its restructuring, the General Motors plant in this town of 4,000 people has added a third shift — and 1,200 new workers with it — to produce the popular compact Chevrolet Cruze. GM has pledged $220 million in updates to the factory and to keep the 4,500 workers, suggesting this town in the former steel-heavy Mahoning Valley has some stability ahead.

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