Economy A Critical Issue For Ohio Voters

Ohio voters helped Democrat Barack Obama win his race for the White House. Months ago, pundits wondered whether white working-class voters in Ohio would support an African-American candidate.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Now here's a bit of the scene last night from Democratic headquarters in the state of Ohio from NPR's David Greene.

DAVID GREENE: When Governor Ted Strickland came onstage to celebrate Obama's victory, he had this to say.

(Soundbite of celebration at Democratic headquarters, Ohio)

Governor TED STRICKLAND (Democrat, Ohio): Ohio is a welcoming state. America is an inclusive country.

(Soundbite of applause)

GREENE: Remember back in March? That's when Obama lost the Ohio primary, and the pundits wondered whether white, working-class voters here would go for an African-American candidate. Jill Mercer(ph) is an attorney who grew up in the Appalachian region of Ohio. She said she had her doubts about how Obama would do.

Ms. JILL MERCER (Lawyer): That's something that kind of concerned me, was the racism issue. And I mean, even, you know, talking to friends and family down there and kind of what the attitude was, I mean, there certainly was that buzz going around.

GREENE: Maybe there's racism left in pockets of Ohio. Jill said enough voters just put other issues first.

Ms. MERCER: You know, they're getting foreclosed on, they're losing jobs and everything else. And people just wanted something different.

GREENE: Jill was celebrating in the hotel ballroom here. Just steps away was a woman named Judy Reed(ph) who works for Ohio's state government. Judy was soaking up the symbolism.

Ms. JUDY REED (Employee, Ohio State Government): This man represents us, you know. He represents us as a people. He's - a white mom, a black father. That's a beautiful thing. It's us. It's you and me, you know what I mean? So it feels good. It's beautiful. Don't you think?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENE: David Greene, NPR News, Columbus.

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