This isn't the only polarizing election issue in Ohio.
Democrats and unions vow to remind voters of Romney's support of a law supported by Kasich and approved last year by the GOP-dominated legislature that would have severely restricted collective bargaining for some 350,000 public workers, including police and firefighters.
The measure, billed as a cost-cutting necessity, was resoundingly repealed in a referendum eight months later, following protests, a statewide petition drive and a multimillion dollar campaign spearheaded by unions.
"Everybody I talk to it's like 'Remember the Alamo,'" says John Russo, co-director of the Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University. "There may be a small decline of energy because of time, but people have very strong memories and feel betrayed."
Al Tuchfarber, a polling expert and professor emeritus at the University of Cincinnati, disagrees.
"The bottom line is that issues aren't nearly as important as they're made out to be," he says, with the exceptions being the economy and an unpopular war. "They're what I call the 800-pound gorilla — when they jump on the table, they knock off everything else."
Tuchfarber says he doesn't think the collective bargaining fight or auto loans will matter much and Ohio will continue to vote 1 percent to 3 percent more Republican than the nation. In 2008, Obama beat John McCain by 4.6 percent.
But other economic issues weigh on voters' minds.
For Hunt, the lawyer and Romney supporter (he likes the GOP nominee's business credentials), it's spending.
"Nobody's coming up with a viable solution to deal with our federal deficit," he says, adding that he'd willingly pay higher taxes if he knew the money was used responsibly. "If you said 5 percent for five years and it's all going to go for the federal deficit," he says, "I'd be the first person to sign up."
For Ed Burgy, it's Romney's plan to cut income tax rates across the board, including for the wealthiest households. Burgy, who recovered after losing two jobs with auto suppliers during the recession, sees this as a return to trickle-down economics.
"I'm 46 and I've never seen it trickle down to me," he says. "The people who own the companies — they don't trickle it down to the employees. ... Show me the proof and I'll listen to you."
Burgy, who's backing Obama, says he'd rather no one receive the cut if it means the richest Americans will get more. "I try not to be jealous, I try not to be petty but every one of those guys is making big money," he says. "They have tons of ways to shelter their money even if they were paying the old rate."
And, he adds, there already are vast inequities in corporate America, with some CEOs earning five, six times that of small business owners. "Is that fair?" he asks. "How are we going to keep our country afloat if we keep letting that happen?"
For Aaron Foust, who has a small furniture refinishing business, there's a different money worry: entitlement programs.
He says Obama's words about welfare recipients don't match his deeds. Publicly, Foust says, the president is urging "them to go to work, but if they (did) ... they wouldn't need him anymore. He needs their vote. As long as they're dependent on the government, they're going to vote for the people that give them money."
Foust, who is backing Romney, believes the system is weighted against hard workers.
"The more money you make, the more you're taxed, the more you have to give to people who don't work," he says. .... "I feel he (Obama) paints a target on my back and he wants to redistribute wealth and I can't stand that."
But Haas, the school board president, thinks voters expected too much from Obama — both in changing the rancorous tone in Washington, D.C., and erasing a huge financial mess.
"I think people give way too much credit to what a president can actually do to influence a national economy," he says. "Whoever's in that seat has the ability to guide and push, but they're pushing upstream."
Sharon Cohen is a Chicago-based national writer for The Associated Press. She can be reached at scohen(at)ap.org
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