For Ohio's Crucial Votes, Candidates Must Resolve Economic Concerns

In the must-win battleground of Ohio, jobs and the economy are all the talk.

ByABC News
October 6, 2008, 5:45 PM

Oct. 6, 2008— -- Ohio is facing tough times, having lost 230,000 manufacturing jobs since George Bush became president. With the sixth-highest unemployment rate in the nation, Ohio residents, like the rest of the nation, have one issue on their minds: the economy, the economy, the economy.

In Dayton, General Motors, a major employer in the region, announced Friday that the plant in nearby Moraine, where the automaker built midsize SUVs, is closing.

"Two years ago they wanted 300 and some thousand of our [SUVs]," said Kenny Harris, a father of four, who has worked at the GM plant in Moraine for more than 13 years. "And what has changed in the last two years? The price of gas."

Local workers have seen consumers become more conscious of gas prices, shifting their taste in cars from large SUVs to small, more fuel efficient vehicles.

"People don't look at the sticker price any more," said Joel Morrow, another GM employee in Dayton since 1994. "The first thing they look at is the fuel economy on the vehicle. They'll pay anything that saves them $10 a week. So, they quit buying us."

The automobile industry has been prevalent in parts of Ohio for generations. Many workers have poured their lives into GM, with fathers and grandfathers who worked on the GM lines, as well.

"Before World War II, 100,000 of 200,000 people who lived in the city of Dayton were directly tied to the economic fortunes of General Motors," said John Heitmann, a history professor at the University of Dayton. "With that closing, GM presence is left to a handful of minor suppliers in the area."

With the slumping economy and severe job losses, GM workers have started to look at the election with an economic focus.

Morrow, who started working at the GM plant right out of high school and has been there for 14 years, has consistently voted Republican. This election he changed his mind.

"I will be voting Democratic because I feel like they are for the middle class," Morrow said.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has used economic discontent to his advantage, courting financially stressed voters in the state's hard-hit industrial belt. No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio, making this state all the more critical for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.