Will Ohio autoworkers back prez?

It’s no accident that Ohio Gov. John Kasich did not mention how important the auto industry is to the state’s economy when he addressed the National Republican Convention in Tampa. To do so, Kasich would have had to acknowledge that he was wrong in opposing the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.

And, in admitting the error of his ways, the Republican governor would have been conceding that Democratic President Barack Obama was right in not letting the two auto giants go bankrupt — as the GOP nominee for president, Mitt Romney, had urged.

But what Kasich did not say about the key role GM, Chrysler and Ford (it did not seek a federal loan) plays in Ohio’s economic wellbeing, former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, did — in spades.

Strickland, who lost to Kasich by a sliver of a vote in the 2010 election, addressed the National Democratic Convention in Charlotte, and delivered a speech that National Public Radio called a “stem-winder.”


It was chock full of one-liners that could easily fit into 30-second campaign commercials.

Here’s a sampling:

“Now, Mitt Romney, he lives by a different code. To him, American workers are just numbers on a spreadsheet. To him, all profits are created equal, whether made on our shores or off.”

“Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport. It summers on the beaches of the Cayman Islands and winters on the slopes of the Swiss Alps.”

But it was when he talked about the auto industry in Ohio, that the differences between his speech and the one delivered by Gov. Kasich were most evident.

“The auto industry supports one of every eight jobs in Ohio, and it’s alive and growing in America again,” Strickland said. “Late last year, Chrysler announced they were hiring eleven hundred new autoworkers in Toledo. Just last month, GM announced a plan to invest 200 million dollars in Lordstown, keeping five thousand jobs in Ohio and building the next generation of the Chevy Cruze — a car we are proud to say is made entirely in Ohio.”

Given the number of times the federal bailout of the auto industry was mentioned during the Democratic Party convention, it is clear that the Obama campaign believes it has a winning issue, especially in the battleground state of Ohio.

Strickland’s decision to humanize the bailout by talking about three Ohioans was effective and was obviously designed to send a message to the autoworkers, not only in this state, but throughout the nation: Think of where you would be today if President Obama had not stood up for the auto industry.

But as the 2010 statewide election showed, such gratitude is not a given.

As was noted in this space after that election, the heavily Democratic Mahoning and Trumbull counties failed to provide the turnout Strickland needed to counter the enthusiasm evident in Republican strongholds.

Highest percentage

Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras has argued that Strickland received the highest percentage of his vote here. But, a comparatively low number of voters in the Valley may have cost Strickland the election.

And that’s the challenge the Obama campaign must meet in the next two months. Can Democrats, especially those who have benefitted from the recovery of the auto industry, be persuaded to get off the sidelines that they occupied in 2010 and vote for the president?

Republicans have been concentrating on white, male blue-collar workers that the Obama campaign appears to have written off.

However, if Strickland’s speech was any indication, Democrats in Ohio aren’t conceding any voting group.

“It’s been a long slog back, and we’ve still got a long way to go. But all over Ohio — all over America —men and women are going back to work with the pride of building something stamped ‘Made in America,’” Strickland said. “Before Barack Obama took office, it looked like that pride could have vanished forever, but today, from the staggering depths of the Great Recession, the nation has had 29 straight months of job growth.”

Autoworkers who are unwilling to give Obama credit for saving their jobs should remember Romney’s advice: “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

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