Published on September 28th, 20120
Jesse Washington – What Do White Working-Class Voters Want?
To look at Ohio is to glimpse America in a nutshell _ a state full of places where laborers, truck drivers, cooks, store clerks and business owners form the backbone of small-town life. Places where the deli cashes checks, cars and trucks are “vehicles,” and the NFL takes a back seat to high-school football. It also is a place where presidents are made. No candidate has won without Ohio’s 18 electoral votes since John F. Kennedy in 1960. Barack Obama won here in 2008 by about 260,000 votes, 52 percent to 47 percent.
That’s why Ohio’s white, working-class voters have taken center stage in the election, with Obama and Mitt Romney crisscrossing the state this week as they enter the campaign’s home stretch. These voters may well decide who wins the White House. So what do they want? About two dozen interviews in eastern Ohio revealed some answers: They are looking for a president who understands what it’s like to punch a time clock all month and still come up short on the bills, for a leader who will help the people in work boots as much as those in wing-tips.
They see money being doled out, from welfare to bank bailouts, and ask why nobody has lent them a hand. They talk of getting rid of everyone in Washington and starting fresh. Generations of sweaty work and union membership make many deeply skeptical of a Republican multimillionaire CEO like Romney, and polls show he trails among white working-class Ohioans. But there also is widespread frustration with the Democratic president and pessimism about the future. “If the election was right now, I’d choose ‘none of the above,’” says coal miner J.R. Cross, leaving a payday loan store in Bridgeport with money for his oldest son’s college bill.