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Economy Plays Key Role In Trump, Biden Battle For Ohio

President Trump and Joe Biden in a screenshot from the debate in Cleveland on September 29.
Screenshot, PBS NewsHour

Polls are showing a very tight race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden in Ohio as both campaigns see the economy as an important issue with voters. The presidential candidates are taking different approaches in discussing the economy in Ohio.

Rebecca Sommer is the owner of Sommer House Gallery in Grove City, a suburb in central Ohio, where she's been custom framing pictures for 30 years. From nailing to mounting, Sommer meticulously goes through every step of the process, even using an air compressor for the finishing touches.

Rebecca and her business partner Thomas Chanine are worried about the recovery of their business after a statewide business shutdown. If people are worried about going into the shop, it doesn’t bode well for business. And this is just one reason they are backing Joe Biden for president.

Thomas says he’s the best choice for the economy because he'll take a holistic approach, with a plan that focuses not just on businesses but on public health and social services as well.

"If we are not healthy, we are not productive. And if we're not productive, we are not getting an income from our work. And if we're not getting an income, we are unable to consume any products, meaning we can't stimulate our economy," says Chahine.

It's not a view shared by Mike Kovach, owner of City Machine Technologies, in northeast Ohio, which provides repair services to large industrial companies. Despite being from the Mahoning Valley, a region with a long history of voting Democrats – Donald Trump’s populism message appealed to business owners and workers, flipping several counties in the northeast Ohio area in 2016. Kovach says Trump is the businessman Ohio needs.

"He gets things done. And he's making a difference and he's made a difference in our business. We had we really turned around in the first three years of his administration," says Kovach. "He's a corporate executive. He sees the situation, sizes it up, takes input from everyone, and then makes a decision."

Trump's campaign has touted the first three years of his term as a booming economy with increasing wages, a spike in stock markets, and an unemployment rate that hit a 50-year low.

Chris Walker, the Trump Victory campaign's regional communications director, says the president accomplished this by cutting taxes, creating a deregulatory environment, and connecting with everyday people.

"This is a president who has a true relationship with the voters and the people. Again, he was he came in from the outside because voters have been fed up with decades of a Washington establishment," says Walker.

But critics argue Trump inherited a thriving economy from the Obama/Biden administration and say the 2020 economy is a different story. Biden supporters say the economy tanked because Trump played down the severity of COVID-19 and failed to deliver a unified nationwide strategy.

Aside from the coronavirus, Democratic U.S. Senator from Ohio Sherrod Brown says Trump spent his years in office placating to large corporations. Brown says those tax cuts benefited the wealthy, leaving the labor force that helped him get elected in Ohio, behind.

"Workers have seen Trump break his promises towards workers, betraying them with this phony populism. And I think Election Day is going to show a lot of people who voted for Trump have been unhappy with this, with how he's governed and always siding with corporate interests over workers," says Brown.

Biden supporters Sommer and Chahine and Trump supporter Mike Kovach all say the economy will play a pivotal role in the election, claiming whoever is in the White House next year will set the tone for the country as it attempts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession left in its wake.

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