By Elizabeth DiNovella on October 27, 2012

In the final stretch of the Presidential election, President Barack Obama and GOP contender Mitt Romney are spending a lot of time in the swing state of Ohio.

Polls show the two are pretty close in the Buckeye State, with Obama slightly ahead. Polls show similar numbers for the hotly-contested Ohio Senate race, where Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown is facing Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel.

(I wrote about this race in the October cover story.)

A lot of out of state money is swinging into Ohio, too. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on October 6, "conservative super PACs and other third-party groups linked to corporations and Republican strategist Karl Rove, some using money from undisclosed donors," have collectively, "spent more against Brown than on anyone else in Congress."

The economy has been bouncing back in Ohio, which is playing a pivotal role in the races. One facet of the recovery was the auto bailout, which Brown championed but Mandel didn't take a stand on. Auto plants are still big in Ohio and in 2010, General Motors began producing the Chevy Cruze at its Lordstown plant, adding 1,200 new jobs to that facility. Production of the Cruze has had ripple effects in other manufacturing plants in Ohio.

Brown explained all this at a July campaign event in Dayton. "Its engine was made in Defiance, Ohio," he told the crowd. "The transmission comes from Toledo, Ohio. The steel comes from Middletown, Ohio. The seats come from Warren, Ohio. The aluminum comes from Cleveland, Ohio. The brackets come from Brunswick, Ohio. The stamping is done in Parma, Ohio."

The Senator noted that the small but steady gains in manufacturing jobs do not make up all the ground lost between 2000-2010, when the country shed five million manufacturing jobs. "It's not enough to put all your neighbors back to work. It's not enough to put you back to work," he said. "But we are going in the right direction."

Dayton lies in the western part of Ohio, just south of the counties represented by House Speaker John Boehner. Like other parts of the state, Montgomery County has seen manufacturing leave the area over the past ten years. Obama eked out a victory in Montgomery County, but the surrounding counties went for McCain. Southwestern Ohio is a place where Brown's opponent, thirty-four-year old Mandel, the state's treasurer, could do well.

And while Brown has been talking about the improving jobs situation, so have the Ohio Republicans.

Republican Governor John Kasich, who won office in 2010 in a wave of conservative triumphs across the state, has been boasting about the economic recovery, including the auto industry. But when Mitt Romney comes to Ohio, he often denounces the disastrous economy. Kasich ends up sounding more like Obama than the GOP nominee.

It would be unwise, though, to assume that all autoworkers will be supporting Brown or Obama in November. Parts of Ohio, especially the north, could be considered "Reagan Democrats" territory. The moniker refers to working class, socially conservative whites in Macomb County, Michigan, who voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, after supporting Democrats in the 1960s and 1970s.

White working class voters without college education are the "independent voters" of 2012. The Republicans nationally now count them among their base -- alongside their other base, millionaires.

Plus, Ohio a swing state for a reason: people in the state go back and forth when it comes to Election Day. Voters threw out Mike DeWine in 2006 when Brown took his Senate seat. But they voted for DeWine again in 2010 when he ran for Attorney General.

Ohio is a big, complicated state, Seth Rosen, a longtime organizer for the Communications Workers of America, told me in April (Rosen passed away unexpectedly in July). "Folks can be truly conflicted about stuff -- they can be pro-bail out and pro-life," he said.

If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "Lady Parts Justice."

Follow Elizabeth DiNovella @lizdinovella on Twitter.


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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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