How long will Election Day last in Ohio?
But the revival of the Ohio auto industry is key. Not only is the venerable Lima Ford Engine Plant expanding, but so is the nonunion Honda plant in nearby Anna (Shelby County). After the Obama speech, Mike Knisley, from the local Pipefitters union who is president of the Ohio building trades council, gushed about the construction jobs that are being created at the Ford plant: "I've got 200 tradesman out there working right now."
When asked about Obama's long-standing problems with blue-collar white male voters in places like Lima, Knisley volunteered an explanation: race. "It's the race thing that I just addressed with my apprentices last night," he said. "I told them that they just had to get over it."
As darkness fell over Lima late Friday afternoon, there was only one possible next stop for many Democrats from the Obama rally. It was the nearest branch of Kewpee Hamburgers, a Lima institution that is part of the remnants of America's second-oldest burger chain. (Columbus-based White Castle is slightly older, but there is no comparison between the taste of cardboard and a genuine Kewpee burger.)
It was at Kewpee that I interviewed for the first time during the entire campaign the political version of the unicorn—a 2008 John McCain voter who is switching to Obama. Her name is Marcy Hughes, and she runs a branch library and lives in the nearby hamlet of Harrod. The mother of two sons (one studying at the Lima branch of Ohio State and the other recently graduated from college), Hughes is attracted by Obama's support of the federal student loan program.
But even though her husband (who missed the Obama rally and dinner at Kewpee) is the type of small-business owner lionized by Romney, Hughes does not relate to the GOP nominee's "You built that" rhetoric. In fact, she doesn't relate to Romney at all: "I don't feel that he's for the middle class. And that's what we all are around here."
During what promises to be a very long night Tuesday in Ohio, I will be looking at the returns from the Lima area. And thinking about how the 2009 decision to rescue General Motors and Chrysler may well have saved Obama's presidency.