Ohio Auditor David Yost lead a group discussion on the economy and jobs with 25 Ohio State University students Friday, the day before President Obama and First Lady Michelle are scheduled to kick-off their General Election campaign with rallies in Ohio and Virginia.
Yost hears student stories
Elected in the wave election of 2010, when Republican candidates swept the field, recapturing the Ohio House of Representatives and four of the five statewide offices they lost to Democrats in 2008, the former Delaware County Prosecutor spoke by phone with CGE Friday afternoon on what he and the OSU students talked about at their meeting in the Fawcett Center near the heart of the main campus in Columbus.
Auditor Yost said he took on this assignment for two reasons, first because he’s the co-chair of Mitt Romney’s leadership team in Ohio and second because he was among the first Ohio Republican officials to endorse Romney, who has locked up the GOP presidential nomination. He and the 25 students at the meeting chatted about 45 minutes, learning each others stories. Yost, a one-time reporter for a defunct Columbus morning newspaper, The Citizen Journal, said a number of the students had student loans, but noted that their real worries were about finding a job once they graduated.
The monthly employment report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that nonfarm payroll employment rose by 115,000 in April, leaving the unemployment rate little changed at 8.1 percent. The civilian labor force participation rate declined in April to 63.6 percent, while the employment-population ratio, at 58.4 percent, changed little. Experts attributed the slow down to the economy being impacted by a series of shocks, from oil price increases to the tsunami in Japan to the debt ceiling debate. With this latest report, it now appears job growth has slowed again. It was a weak jobs report, but it nonetheless represented a small positive advance.
President Obama’s team said the employment report “provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, but much more remains to be done to repair the damage caused by the financial crisis and the deep recession.”
Romney called the unemployment report “very disappointing.”
Yost correctly noted that the participation rate has gone down again. “We see fewer people are even trying to find a job,” he said, taking special attention to note that the teen unemployment rate stands at 24.9 percent. What Yost told CGE he took away from the discussion he had with these students is that they believe in themselves and their country, and take loans out to finance college, believing it would make them more employable.
“Everybody gets recessions, right, we have recessions that last a year or two that are bad years for hiring, you build that into your calculations when you’re deciding whether to finance a degree or not, but the weak job market is at the front of their minds … it isn’t about the interest rate issue, the first thing on their mind isn’t the environment or wars, they’re worried about am I going to get a job.”
For one student, Yost said, the doubling of student loan interest rates, which is forecast to happen July 1 if Congress fails to act before then to extend the current low interest rate for another year, represents only a $9-month rise. Yost also took aim at President Obama on the high cost of education, which he said has gone up 25 percent on his watch. “He’s broken his promise to make education a priority.”
The chief number cruncher for Ohio added that the two things every business needs — capital and energy — contribute to what he called the “economic anemicness” that’s “strangled both those sectors,” causing negative ripple effects in the process.
Obama, Romney head to Ohio
Following President Obama’s visit to Columbus Saturday, Mitt Romney will be back in the Buckeye state on Monday, when he’ll spend time at a town hall meeting in Euclid, a city near Cleveland. Romney is scheduled to visit Stamco Industries for a 1:50 p.m. event. This visit by Romney will be his third visit in just the last three weeks. He was last in the state at an event similar to the one Yost held with students, that was held at Otterbein University in Westerville. Romney and Ohio Gov. John Kasich had their first face-to-face campaign event. Unlike Auditor Yost, Gov. Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor were late comers to the endorse Mitt Romney party.
Poll shows Obama strong with women
In separate news, a new Quinnipiac Poll released last week showed President Obama holding a 2 point lead over Romney in Ohio. Despite the narrowness of the lead, within the margin of error, the numbers inside the poll show that the President’s lead over Romney among women is 50-37 percent, a significant number that is reflected nationwide as well.
Looking at the opinions of women, 50 percent continue to see the President favorably compared to 53 percent in March. What Romney should be worried about is that women aren’t taking to him with the same fervor his wife Ann shows. Only 30 percent view him favorably, down slightly from 31 percent in March.
Officials with Organizing for America, the President’s re-election campaign, may want to focus on the turnaround among Ohio’s independent voters, who have pulled back on their support for him. In February and March, the President led Romney by four points but now trails him by five.
Notwithstanding the nine-point shift to Romney’s favor among Ohio’s independent voters, those voters still hold a more favorable opinion of the President than they do of Romney. Obama should be worried that his favorability ratings are dropping among independents (down to 40% from 47% in March), but Romney should be worrying that these voters are not lining up behind him. Quinnipiac shows he is actually viewed favorably by fewer independent Ohio voters this month than in March, 33 percent, down from 37 percent.
President Obama has his challenges with independent voters, but he seems to be holding steady with women. Romney on the other hand has a likability factor that’s not working to his advantage. If the President can reverse the trend of independents going south on him, it will boost his chances of a win in November.
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