I frequently write about Ohio. I am from Ohio and believe in my heart of hearts in the well-worn expression, "As goes Ohio, so goes the nation."
In the '50s, Ohio was humming, but it also had major problems with cronyism and corruption. That got cleaned up as we became more concerned about control of both unions and control by the crime syndicates. Ohio took a lead in manufacturing and education. Cleveland was a major U.S. city in the 1950s. However, as manufacturing went away, so did Ohio's fortunes.
Now a survey was just reported by Elite Magazine that Norway remains atop the list of the most prosperous countries, and the United States fell out of the top 10 of the 142 countries surveyed. This was the very first time that the U.S. didn't rank in the top 10.
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From the Ohio Art Company – which manufactures the Etch A Sketch in China in what some consider less-than-humane conditions – to other companies that have closed down shop, Ohio has lost business. Auto-parts manufacturing and other industries have taken a huge hit over the years, and Ohio has lost significant growth in population as well. This election year, Ohio will most likely be the decisive state in determining who will win the election. It is a battleground state not just because of the demographics but because of the legal wrangling by the two parties on the issue of early voting and procedures. The countless lawsuits, including a turn down by the United States Supreme Court, underscore the importance of Ohio.
Why is Ohio the state that will define the election Tuesday? It's because it is really five states in one. About 28 counties consist of white/Democrat populations that are mainly rural with almost no minority population. Traditionally conservative Democrat, these counties are also pro-union but have been known to support appealing Republicans. Then there is the Cleveland-Youngstown area, which is very much ethnic and minority. There's a reason the Cleveland Hopkins Airport used to have a large sign that said, "Our heritage is so great you can taste it." At one point, Cleveland had more Hungarians than any place in the world outside of Hungry. African-Americans have found Cleveland a welcoming city and play a major political role in the area. Unions have always been an integral part of the area as well.
Cincinnati is known as the "upper crust" white area of Ohio, and then there is the mixed bag of Toledo/Dayton. It is neither majority Democrat or Republican and can switch. Finally, the Columbus area is known as Democrat-leaning with a large gay population and quite a few liberals mixed in. Some say that this mix of demographics gives Ohio a sense of being five states in one. It will be hard to slot it as a red or blue state, as its politics reflect the real issues that are at the center of the 2012 presidential election.
Jobs are a huge issue in Ohio. There are a few initiatives that might save Ohio and might also serve as a template to put American back on the top 10 list and save our great nation. I spoke to former Rep. Bob Ney to see what he would suggest. He said one of the first priorities would be to find a way to bring manufacturing back to Ohio. It would mean a very skilled workforce that understood the new technologies needed to produce goods. Second would be to develop a mini-Silicone Valley, and third would be to increase educational opportunities by helping students via scholarships. In addition, my friend, Jim Pinkerton, believes Ohio could be made great by capitalizing on its known strength for excellence in medicine by creating an enterprise zone for medical research.
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It is the above reasons that President Obama and Gov. Romney have made several trips to Ohio and have concentrated heavily on getting out the vote. Ohio represents the place where American needs to be. Whoever wins the state had better not be a stranger after Tuesday. What happens in Ohio should not just stay in Ohio but be the example of what we need to stay competitive and productive as a nation. Let's hope the citizens of Ohio get it right and vote for the candidate who will move us forward once and again.