All-Star Panel: Political landscape of Ohio

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 6, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Welcome back to Wood County, Ohio. We're here at the fairgrounds. I wanted to talk a little bit about politics locally with a local panel.  We welcome to our panel Dave Murray, managing editor of The Blade, Melissa Miller, political science professor at Bowling Green State University, and Craig Thomas, anchor and reporter for Fox Toledo. Thanks to you all for being here. Craig, we were talking about TV ads. It's just nonstop.

CRAIG THOMAS, FOX TOLEDO: It is incredible. If you come here from a state that doesn't have the ads, and you watch TV for 10 minutes you have no idea how there could be this many political ads. For us, the advertising is up over 30 percent politically speaking where it was a few years ago.  Every single break on all the local channels you will see something for one of the candidates.

BAIER: Melissa, what is the big issue here? I know the car industry is huge and it seems like it plays a big factor.

MELISSA MILLER, BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY: Absolutely, I mean the economy is the number one issue in Ohio as it is elsewhere. But the bailout of the auto industry is especially critical here. And I think Obama is getting some mileage from that in Ohio, because so many jobs in Ohio are either directly or indirectly tied to the auto industry. So he is getting some traction.

BAIER: So when they run an ad that says, you know, he saved the auto industry, that plays here?

MILLER: That plays here. It plays certainly in northwest Ohio, where we have a jeep plant, auto parts plants. There's a lot of auto manufacturing type of jobs right here in this corner of the state. And I think it resonates.

Now, that doesn't mean everyone across the state believes it was a wonderful idea. I mean, you know, there are a lot of people in the state who still are opposed to big government and are opposed to the bailout. But I will tell you what, the Ohio economy, I think, has benefited from that bailout.

BAIER: So Dave, union presence in Wood County, pretty high?

DAVE MURRAY, THE BLADE: The unions count presence in Lucas County in Toledo is very high. It's said that 60,000 people a day wake up and somehow owe their job to the auto industry. That spills over to northern Wood County where there is a Chrysler plant in northern Wood County. But Wood County is more of an agriculture area, it's not as -- it's definitely not as heavily unionized as Lucas County.

BAIER: The interesting split here is that the Ohio governor, Republican John Kasich seems to be doing better now in the polls as President Obama is doing better.

THOMAS: People care about their jobs, and so if they can say well, my job is doing better and my family is doing better, then whosever is in power at a state level and at a national level, even though they probably have exactly the opposite ideas of how things should go, they're both going up.

BAIER: So there is a sense mostly, that this unemployment rate here is a little bit better than the national average.

MILLER: Absolutely. It is.


MURRAY:  -- at 7.2 as of June, which was a huge decrease.

MILLER: We peaked at 10.6 percent in 2009. So we have really come down. That is another reason. Auto bailout aside, when the president says that the economy is on track, the recovery is slow but it's underway, you can kind of buy it here in Ohio more easily than in other states where they haven't seen the gains that we have seen.

MURRAY: I think you'll see that in the poll numbers. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Obama up six percent over Romney. I think in large part it has to do with the falling of the unemployment rate in Ohio.

BAIER: Agriculture is also a big issue here. How does that play?

MURRAY: Right now they are worried about rain. There's not enough of it, the corn crop's terrible, the beans are hanging on. That's got nothing to do with politics. You can't blame Obama or Romney for the rain so it's one thing you won't see on the ads.

MILLER: I was going to say though, if one of these could actually be a rainmaker and produce rain, they would seal up the Ohio vote. That's sadly not going to happen.

And I actually think -- you know, Obama is in the lead right now, but I wouldn't start counting on if it I were the Obama administration yet. Things can still tighten up in Ohio. Funny things can happen in Ohio. This is the state that produced "Joe the Plumber" in 2008. That really shook up the race not far from here.

BAIER: There were more independents, at least that they say they're independents in Ohio than many other states. And it seems like it is one of the biggest swing states that we see.

THOMAS: It's always talked about the fact that no Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio. So that's already out there, that it's that important. And there's also -- while we talked about the auto bailout as being a big thing for Obama, it's not like there is that much love for him otherwise. In November, in Ohio, there was also a vote about ObamaCare, a vote against it, a non-binding, but a vote against it. It's still very much in play. I think that is why, you know, we will continue to see these ads and we will continue to see these candidates. President Obama has been more, here -- to Ohio, than any other state except Virginia since he got into office.

BAIER: Do you see a presence for the Romney campaign heavy in this area?

MILLER: One thing I can say is that the Romney campaign seems to be a lot better organized than the McCain campaign was four years ago at this time. And I think part of that is the Romney campaign has been better at fundraising than the McCain campaign was. And so they've actually opened up field offices. Not as many as Obama just yet, but the money factor is going to be mitigated somewhat as opposed to the situation in 2008.

BAIER: Dave, do you think the grassroots getting out the people --

MURRAY: Getting out the people wins elections in Ohio. Whoever gets out the vote will see it. The reason we had a flip from the Democratic Party back to the Republican Party in '10 was because the Democrats didn't get out the vote in Cuyahoga County. And that's why John Kasich is in office.

So, back to -- what you talked about Kasich – we have heard rumors of the Romney campaign has asked the Kasich office not to tout so much as an issue how well Ohio is doing. So here we have got the Republican nominee or soon to be nominee saying to the Republican governor, yeah, we know you've done a good job but hold off for a few months. We have don't want people to think -- it's against the message that Romney is putting out, which is that it's bad, bad, and getting worse.

BAIER: I think Governor Kasich is scheduled to speak at the convention. So you can see how this is all playing out. Dave, Melissa, Craig, thank you so much. It's very interesting to talk to you and I'm sure we'll be back. We'll be back here to Wood County and the fairgrounds after a short break.

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