Jay Evensen: President Obama and his predecessors have showered gifts on Ohio

Published: Thursday, Sept. 27 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

President Barack Obama points to supporters before speaking at a campaign event at Kent State University, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 in Kent, Ohio.

Associated Press

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Listen up, Utah. You're going about this all wrong.

Actually, a bunch of you other states should gather 'round, as well. Stop being so predictable.

California, could your economy use a boost of federal investment? Maybe you should consider a law that limits how many Democrats get to cast a ballot for president every four years. You Southern states ought to provide incentives to anyone who agrees not to vote Republican.

For heaven's sake, quit squabbling every four years over which state is first to hold a presidential primary. How often do you see Mitt Romney or Barack Obama in Concord these days?

The real goal should be to become Ohio.

Somehow, the folks in the Buckeye State are so evenly divided that for 70 years it has been almost impossible for a presidential candidate to win without them. That's why both candidates are spending so much time there right now.

But being a true swing state with 18 electoral votes means more than just a lot of rah-rah rallies with marching bands and streamers. It means real bucks for Buckeyes — at least it has since Obama took office.

Last month, the administration announced the winner of a $30 million pilot grant to begin creation of "manufacturing innovation institutes." It happened to be a consortium based in Youngstown, Ohio.

If you own a small business in Ohio, you're in luck. The Washington Post reported recently that 2,726 loans were approved this year for Ohio businesses. This is 500 more than were given in Florida, another swing state with a lot more people.

Two years ago, a guy who operates a company that makes ricotta cheese in Cleveland got a record $5.49 million SBA loan. Obama called that "one of the tastiest investments" Washington ever made. Perhaps the quickest way to a voter is through his stomach.

Which brings up another point. It isn't just during an election year when swing states benefit. Voters aren't stupid. You have to keep working with them even when the voting booths are packed up and stored away.

The Post said Obama has been in Ohio 29 times since taking office. That still lags behind President George W. Bush, who visited 35 times during his first term. But when Obama showed up in 2009, he brought along $1 billion in stimulus funds. In 2010 the administration awarded $400 million to restart a train line between Cincinnati and Cleveland that hadn't run in 40 years. Ohio was one of only two states that benefitted directly from the rail initiative. The other was Florida. The Republican governors of both states rejected the money.

Earlier this year, Obama almost made a gaffe by flying into an Air National Guard base where his budget (should Congress ever again pass a budget) would have cut a fleet of planes. While locals tried to raise a stink, the president quickly promised to find a new mission for the base.

Do you think he would do the same for Hill Air Force Base or any other Utah facility if it were on the chopping block?

For that matter, would the auto industry have been bailed out if it was centered in Richfield? Maybe, given the negative ripple effect an industry collapse was widely believed ready to cause four years ago. But Ohio got a good share of that money, too, which the president is quick to remind everyone about each time he makes a speech there.

It may be, as the administration insists, that all this Ohio largesse is based on the merits of competitive bidding, and that politics played no role. Maybe Brian Reis could have gotten three SBA loans totaling $3.9 million for his Ohio potato chip company even if he lived in Alaska.

But just to be safe, you other states may want to check people at the border and accept only those new residents who lend balance to your political profile.

Of course, there is a flaw to that plan, beyond the obvious observation that the nation is going broke. Once someone is elected to a second term, there is little incentive to keep the money flowing.

Jay Evensen is associate editor of the Deseret News editorial page. Email him at even@desnews.com. For more content, visit his website, www.jayevensen.com.

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