COLUMBUS, Ohio — President Barack Obama made another visit to Ohio Wednesday, stopping to meet with Rhonda and Joe Weithman in Columbus, the state capital. Obama had a kitchen-table discussion with the Ohio couple and small business owner before hosting a discussion with about 40 people on the economy in the couple’s backyard.
According to published reports on the meeting, Joe and his business partner, Bradley Mull, own a small firm, Mull & Weithman Architects, Inc., that saw a drop in business during the economic slowdown. Joe has been able to keep two employees, thanks to an increase in infrastructure project funding, made possible by Obama and congressional Democrats who passed a nearly $800 billion federal stimulus bill in February of last year.
Rhonda, the mother of two children who lost her job in 2009, was able to keep her health insurance due to COBRA subsidies from the Recovery Act.
Accompanying the president were Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, Ohio Lt. Governor Lee Fisher, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, U.S. Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy and City of Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, all Democrats.
Obama will leave the family resident and go Downtown for a noon fundraiser for Strickland at the Columbus Anatheum.
Eye witness reports say Downtown streets are full of police, abortion protesters, bomb sniffing dogs and snipers.
Strickland is running against an energized GOP challenger, John Kasich; Fisher is matched up against former Ohio congressman and George W. Bush appointee Rob Portman; Rep. Kilroy is again being challenged by Steve Stivers, who lost two years ago to Kilroy by about 2,000 votes; Brown was elected in 2006 when he defeated incumbent Republican senator Mike Dewine; and Coleman is in his third four-year term as mayor.
With only about 75 days until Election Day, Strickland finds himself in a close race with Kasich, who has been out of politics for a decade but is running ahead of the first-term Democrat, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll. The same poll showed Portman ahead of Fisher, while Kilroy and Stivers are again locked in what all political pundits consider a bellwether district duel to the death.
In the early afternoon, Kasich’s running mate Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor has scheduled a conference call with reporters to make a statement on Obama’s visit and to field questions from reporters.
Kasich and Taylor have argued that winning governships in important states like Ohio, which traditionally can make or break any candidate’s run for the White House, is critical to stopping Obama from winning a second term in 2012.
During Ohio’s presidential primary in 2008, Strickland campaigned for Hillary Clinton, who beat Obama by about ten points. Strickland, whose named at one point was mentioned as a possible choice for Vice President, has supported his president’s agenda and legislative accomplishments, from stimulus funding to health care reform to changing the rules for Wall Street banks and businesses.
Strickland has pointed to his record of steady but lackluster performance as his calling card for a second term, saying neither he nor Ohio caused the recession that has hurt the one-time industrial Titan state badly since he took office in 2007.
Kasich and company have tagged Strickland for not producing more jobs and for allowing so many jobs – over 400,000 according to reliable estimates – to leave the state and for bad management decisions.
Kasich has said Ohio needs to reduce its cost of doing business to business and promises to reconfigure how state government under executive control works, should he be elected Ohio’s next governor in November.
Strickland has lobbied for more federal aid to states so teachers and firemen and police officers can remain on the job at a time when state revenues have fallen way short of the mark needed to keep the status quo from further deterioration.
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