A sunny, warm day in Ohio’s capital and, three weeks before national elections, the politics here are getting very hot, especially female politics.
Newspapers are filled with the latest surveys showing an increasing number of Ohio women supporting Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who had been disproportionately supported by men.
And Democratic President Barack Obama, who has enjoyed a greater support of women, may be losing some of their endorsements. This, after Mr. Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, took the fall Tuesday for the administration’s vulnerability in Libya, where four U.S. diplomats recently were killed.
But women in this key swing state, concerned most about their children’s future, draw some unexpected conclusions.
Columbus is Ohio’s most affluent and sophisticated city, a pretty place with a major university and government buildings at its core and many people living the good life in comfortable suburbs. Even here, however, concerns over jobs and economic conditions are paramount in many people’s minds.
Ruth Layman, 78, was born in Columbus and taught grade school for 40 years. Her husband, 80, worked for a major oil company. Today they are worried more than ever before about their two sons, both in their 50s.
The younger son had a good job with a construction company until it went bankrupt a few years ago. He caught on with another firm until last year when it downsized. Today, at 55, he’s working part-time at a fast-food outlet.
“They employ people part-time so they don’t have to pay benefits,” says an exasperated Ms. Layman.
“I worry a lot about the kids I taught,” she says. “It’s getting worse and worse here. In all my years, I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Ms. Layman, who many might suppose is a working person’s Democrat looking for assistance in a time of need, says her solution instead is to vote for the Republican Mr. Romney, whom she sees as a jobs-first candidate.
Dana Castillo, 46, moved to Columbus 10 years ago with her husband and three children. By all outward appearances she’s living the American Dream – two children at college, another in middle school, a large suburban home, even a vintage BMW sports car.
“We are blessed,” she acknowledges. “But my husband worked hard; we both did.”
The two lost parents at an early age – her husband in South America; she in Iowa – and built their current lives from scratch. It’s the kind of rags-to-riches story that Mr. Romney likes to tell as reason for being Republican.
But Ms. Castillo draws another conclusion. “In my entire neighbourhood, just about everyone has a Romney sign on their front lawn,” she said, biting her lip. “They’re all concerned about taxes being raised.”
“I hope my best friend doesn’t see this, but I will vote for Obama,” she declares, cringing just a little.
“I’m grateful every day that there now is health care that can provide for people,” she explains, referring to so-called Obamacare, “and loan assistance so kids can afford to go to university the way we did.”
“I want more of those things, not less,” she said.
Population (2010): 787,033; Greater Columbus: 1,800,000 (est.)
Biggest institutions: Ohio state government, Ohio State University (the biggest campus in the United States)
“Executive Suite Americans” (upper-middle class, middle age, who commute to the downtown); “Young Influentials” (middle-class singles and couples pre-occupied with balancing work and recreation); and “New Beginnings” (young singles in transition). These people like to shop at big-box stores, read business and computer magazines and drive imported SUVs. (Source: Environics Analytics)
Golfer Jack Nicklaus; First World War aviation ace Eddie Rickenbacker; humourist James Thurber; folksinger Phil Ochs, and businessman Dave Thomas, whose first Wendy’s restaurant was in Columbus
Claim to fame:
In 2009, Business Week named it the best U.S. city in which to raise a family
Proportionately, the city has one of the largest gay communities in the United States – about 35,000