It wasn’t just the selection of Dobbins Elementary School in Poland as the location for the president’s visit last week that prompts questions about Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Mahoning County. There’s the comment from county Democratic Party Chairman David Betras about voter attitudes, and the misgivings of a prominent Youngstown businessman about the president that add to the narrative.
Why would the Obama re-election team select an elementary school with limited space for the president’s first campaign visit this season? Could it be that they weren’t sure about filling a larger location? Should the party worry that the predominantly Democratic Mahoning County will fail to turn out in the numbers needed to make up for the Republican vote in other parts of the state? But it isn’t just how many voters show up, but the margin of victory that’s important. Chairman Betras must ensure that Obama receives at least 65 percent of the vote.
A comment he made to Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Henry Gomez suggests that he’s not sure what the party faithful is going to do. “How do I say this nicely? Mahoning County has not elected an African-American countywide,” Betras said, on the eve of Obama’s visit to Poland. “Unfortunately for us, I think race may have a play in it.” Why would the chairman make such a statement on the record, even if it were true? Could it be that he has thrown in the towel, or, at the very least, is laying the groundwork for a less-than-desirable outcome in November in Mahoning County?
Finally, there’s Youngstown businessman Bruce Zoldan’s interview with Business Insider, in which he said that he has not made a decision on this year’s race, even though he supported Obama four years ago. Zoldan, who is a major contributor to Democratic and Republican campaigns, thinks Obama’s campaign strategy of pitting the rich against the poor is ill-advised.
President Obama has a lot of work to do in this predominantly Democratic region if he hopes to win the battleground state of Ohio.