The Midwestern state of Ohio has long been considered a "battleground" state in U.S. elections. As voters head to the polls in November, they will elect a Governor and Senator along with other officials. Republicans running in those races are ahead of their Democratic party rivals in recent polls. Rising unemployment is the biggest concern for Ohio voters.
Wilmington bookstore owner Dan Stewart said there is one major issue influencing the way he will vote in Ohio's midterm elections this November. "In this area it's definitely jobs. I can't think of anything that's more important to us than jobs right now."
Stewart had a job with the largest employer in the region - German shipping company DHL Express. It operated a massive airport in Wilmington that employed up to 8,000 people at its peak. "Basically, if you could breathe, they would hire you."
But in 2008, DHL - which acquired the facility when it purchased Airborne Express in 2003 - announced it was shutting down its Wilmington operation. The move put thousands of people out of work, including Stewart, and sent the unemployment rate in Clinton County skyrocketing.
Mark Rembert is Co-Director of "Energize Clinton County," an organization founded to help explore ways to bring jobs back to Wilmington and the surrounding area. He said, "In 2007 our unemployment rate was about five percent, which was close to the national average. Today we're at about 16 percent. We've peaked out at about 19 percent. And in reality, we're probably around twenty to 25 percent. Jobs sort of dominate every discussion here. There are really few issues that exist beyond the job issue and how do we bring employment back to the state of Ohio."
Politicians have keyed into that issue.
Former Republican Congressman John Kasich is running for Governor of Ohio against the incumbent Governor, Democrat Ted Strickland. One of Kasich's campaign commercials profiles the loss of jobs at the DHL facility.
Susan Holliday is currently an Extension Educator for Ohio State University, which sponsors a program designed to educate laid off workers about resources available to them. Holliday, who lost her previous job in Clinton County, does not blame current Governor Ted Strickland for Ohio's unemployment woes. "I don't think that's fair at all. If another Governor had been in there, he couldn't have made any difference. I can't imagine how he could have made it any different."
As the blame game over job losses plays out across Ohio, each candidate is trying to court Independent voters like Stewart, who is not as concerned with what happened in the past, as about what will happen in the future. "They're trying to convince me they've got the best plan, and whether or not they can convince me or not, that's a different issue."
Recent polling indicates Kasich is convincing more voters he's the best candidate for Governor. A recent Quinnipiac poll shows Kasich leads Strickland 51 percent to 41 percent among likely voters in Ohio.