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15 April 2024

Ohio's blue-collar voters could keep Clinton's campaign alive

By Agencies


In this blue-collar Ohio town, electrician Phil Miller sits at a bar with one eye on his beer and another on a TV showing sound bites of presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton sparring over his vote.

A few weeks ago, before Obama won 11 straight nominating contests, Clinton could have counted on people like Miller to hand her an double digit victory in Ohio, a state rich in delegates and a key battleground for the general election in November.

Now, the former first lady is fighting for every vote as she struggles to
keep her campaign alive.

And getting her base of blue-collar voters like Miller out to the polls for Tuesday's primary is going to take some work.

Miller, 28, works for a company that makes printing presses. Like many of the people sitting around him at the Post and Beam bar, he wants a candidate who will boost the economy and keep jobs in the country.

"We definitely need somebody pulling for the little guy," he told AFP.

Miller said he hasn't yet decided who he'll vote for, but is leaning toward Clinton, saying she has more experience than Obama - and would bring her husband and his experience as president.

"I like Hillary because I love Bill. Obama seems good, but he's not very experienced."

The thing that's keeping him on the fence is lingering resentment over Bill Clinton's championing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which many blame for the erosion of the nation's manufacturing base.

"I think that's wrong," he said. "What kind of message is that sending to the American people?"

It's a short walk from this tiny bar to Parma's General Motors Corp. stamping plant. Down the road is a sprawling Ford Motor Co. engine plant.

Those factories loom large - physically and emotionally.

Parma - about 10 miles south of Cleveland - is part of the blue-collar suburbs surrounding one of Ohio's largest and poorest metropolitan areas. The city, and its people, live and die by the manufacturing industry.

Voters here are mainly concerned with one thing: jobs. And many don't think any politician can deliver.

"Ford closes two plants. It's in the paper... big deal. What politician really cares?" asked Pete Eichele, a 53 year-old engineering technician.

"We never came out of that last recession. We're in it, God help us."

Eichele, with a black leather jacket and gray goatee, has worked in factories his whole life, and has been shifted around by layoffs.

"I would prefer voting Democratic, but they're making it awful rough," he said, referring to the New York senator as the "ex-president's wife."

He said he didn't believe her recent statements criticizing the free-trade deal her husband signed into law when he was in the White House.

"I don't believe any politician. If we get a quarter of what they preach, we're lucky," Eichele said.

Across the street, the neon signs flicker in the small windows of Tinkers Tavern. Two abandoned storefronts sit on the other side, dirty white sheets obscuring efforts to see inside.

Linda Post, 46, tends bar there. A Democrat, she said she will vote for Clinton in the primary and hopes to again November.

"I'd like to see a woman have a shot at the White House. She can't make it any worse than it already is."

Post said the faltering economy has hit the area hard. Tied up with it are issues like health care and the spiraling housing market.

"You take a look around, businesses are closing, small places are struggling," she said.

"We deal with the layoffs at Chevy all the time. I don't know what vehicles they're not making anymore. They close lines all the time.

"At one point in time, you couldn't find a parking spot (at the plant). It was like a city," she said. "Now, it's like a ghost town." (AFP)