Ohio Election Results Will Hinge on the Auto Bailout


I should preface my campaign diary with a warning: I am an election junkie. I am using my limited vacation days to bus twelve hours from Sandy-devastated NYC to Columbus, Ohio.  Honestly, I’m not sure if I recommend it. 

But I’ve come to Ohio on a mission: to get the president re-elected. I’ve never been to Ohio before. In fact, this is my first time in the Midwest! I arrived in Cleveland this evening with a group of 170 Columbia College Democrats. I’m taking an overnight Greyhound down to Columbus where a college buddy of mine is a field organizer. Every single person I know in the state of Ohio is from out of state, so please note that this will skew my perception of my experience completely.

How did I know we had exited the vast mass that is the state of Pennsylvania and finally arrived in Buckeye territory? 

Well, a campaign sign appeared on the roadside, of course! And then our radios were suddenly inundated with political ads. As someone who has only lived in two decidedly blue states (California and New York), I have never felt the red hot glare of this kind of political attention.  So far, the Obama camp has poured nearly $73 million into ads in Ohio, and while the Romney campaign has only spent about $42 million, there are plenty of conservative PACs closing the gap. 

Ohio voters are being told from all sides that one issue should decide this election: the candidate’s stance on the auto industry. And with 1 in 8 in the state employed in the auto industry, interest in this regional issue is extremely high.

Last night, I had to take a cab across Cleveland to catch a bus to Columbus. My cab driver was a Catholic former police officer. Someone like me might doubt that he was a part of Obama’s base, but as we were driving he told me about his father, who was a member of the United Autoworkers Union for more than 30 years. He said that he was not only happy that Obama bailed out the auto industry, but even that thought the government could have done even more. But he knew that Romney (or Bush) would have let the auto industry, and Ohio, crumble.  And that, he told me, was why Obama has his full support.

At three stops in Ohio on Friday, Obama emphasized his “bail-out” of the auto industry to voters. His campaign is emphasizing that Romney’s plan to have Detroit go into managed-bankruptcy would have caused the auto industry to collapse.

Meanwhile, the Romney campaign’s ads are claiming that Obama’s bailout plan has forced auto industry jobs overseas. (Please note that these ads have been widely debunked.)

With less than four days till the election, CNN has Obama ahead of Romney with 50% to 47% — too close for comfort, for sure. (It's within the sampling error, yikes!)  Everyone on the ground insists that this will be a ground game; who can make the most calls, who can knock on the most doors, who can get the voters to the polls. And both sides are banking on the auto industry bail out to fire up their base.