Sunday, September 23, 2012

Life In a Swing State: The Swing Places To Watch

I've written about Ohio's swing state role with an eye toward trying to increase its value. Here I go again.

Joel Kotkin wrote about it in his column last Thursday. The swing places--all likely suburbs--in the swing states hold the key.

While the candidates focus on turn out having already media-saturated the state, the race remains a toss up in a fewer and fewer places that could still turn the tide.

My past career includes working for four statewide Ohio campaigns between 1989 and 1994. I've experienced Ohio in extraordinary ways having visited every one of Ohio's 88 counties at least five times. My past experience and current observations tells me these are among the top suburbs worth giving attention (aka campaign promises and issue positioning) in the remaining weeks:

Newark -- Yes, I live here but as Ohio's 20th largest city it is a populated swing place in an otherwise red county. Stop by the Aerospace Center. Open invitation.

Mansfield -- Red county. Swing place, though.

Zanesville -- This media market is relatively small, but every swing vote counts in Ohio and this market has the best chance to swing still based on media messaging. A helicopter tour through this market would swing votes too.

Plain Township, Stark County -- Stark County is always a bell weather county because of its city and rural population mix, but it's the very large Plain Township that swings it. Almost no candidate ever comes here. It's time one found their way to Hoover Park or a Market Street venue.

Steubenville Media Market -- This would be a blue county in most everyone's book, but it defied margin of victory for Obama in 2008 and the oil and gas boom coupled with a threat of negative government intervention in it could swing this blue but otherwise conservative voter base. The Franciscan University presence and influence here can't be overlooked either.

The Rest -- The profile of Ohio's remaining swing places is clear to me. Suburban and non-rural exurban places are still election toss ups. They are manufacturing-oriented places with blue collar traditions. They are home to Democrats (remember Reagan Democrats?) who tend to be more likely Catholic and more likely conservative than their national brethren. they may be answering polls saying one way, but still could be persuaded to vote another.

BOTTOM LINE: Talking policies giving our nation a better manufacturing future, letting the shale energy plays proceed with the right kind of government role, and talking fair trade are the messages that play here.

One more thing. Ohio has been a swing state for some time now, but that hasn't translated to more cabinet posts, a bigger piece of the pie, or anything that stands out on any President's post-election agenda. Will these places hear something that causes them to believe that the things they care about won't just go away after the election? There's skepticism.

As Joel Kotkin's piece points out, suburbs often get forgotten by both parties when it comes to policy-making time. Ohio resembles that trend.

It's time life in a swing state translate to real action. It's time.

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