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Ohio Voters Could Give Dems a Black Eye at Polls

President Obama speaks to a group Sept. 8, 2010, at Cuyahoga Community College West Campus in Parma, Ohio.
Getty Images
President Obama speaks to a group Sept. 8, 2010, at Cuyahoga Community College West Campus in Parma, Ohio.
Getty Images

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With a persistently high unemployment rate and little reason for optimism, voters in Ohio seem on the verge of taking out revenge on the party in power, the Democrats.

Special Section: Campaign 2010

Even though it was a Republican administration that was in power when the economic collapse took place, voters here are increasingly impatient, according to Ohio State University political scientist Paul Beck.

"I think people are frustrated," he told CBS News during an on-campus interview.

Nor is there much hope that young, first-time voters who turned out in droves for Barack Obama in 2008 will repeat the act in 2010.

"I think most of them in 2010 will sit on the sidelines," Beck said. The Obama drama is missing from this mid-term, of course. The president is not on the ballot.

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But all across Ohio, Obama is casting a long shadow. As Beck points out, Obama could energize the base, but independents, whom endangered Democrats need this year in tough congressional races, might be turned off.

A new CBS News-New York Times poll provides a few answers as to why people in Ohio feel that way.

  • Fifty-eight percent of Ohioans are disappointed in the Obama presidency.

  • Fifty-five percent disapprove of the way the president is handling the economy.

  • Forty-eight percent say he has not brought the change he promised to Washington.

  • And just 12 percent say his economic policies have helped them.

Poll: Ohioans Dissatisfied, Angry at Washington

For Obama and the Democrats, it gets worse. Seventy-four percent are disappointed or angry with how things are going in Ohio, and seven out of 10 say the country is on the wrong track.

In Ohio's 15th Congressional District -- made up of Columbus, its suburbs and some rural communities -- freshman Democratic incumbent Mary Jo Kilroy is in a tight re-match with Steve Stivers, the Republican she defeated two years ago.

Kilroy won a squeaker back then and could just as easily lose a squeaker this time around. Kilroy has been a down-the-line supporter of the president during her brief tenure. Stivers is a former banking lobbyist and state legislator.

"She can't defend her record on jobs," Stivers said of Kilroy, "and she can't defend her record on spending."

Stivers said Kilroy is trying to distract voters by bringing up his ties to the banking industry, but Kilroy said her opponent is a doctrinaire conservative who wants what the Republicans gave the country during the Bush administration. In addition, she said Stivers wants to abolish the 17th Amendment, which calls for the direct election of U.S. senators.

The poll also shows the Republicans hold an enthusiasm edge here and elsewhere, but Kilroy argues that it's manufactured by moneyed interests who desire a Republican takeover.

"There's no reason for Democrats to be demoralized," she said. "And as far as this GOP energy, I think a lot of it is 'astro-turf.' That means it's not real grassroots. It's these phony grassroots."

Early voting started in Ohio Tuesday, which means this will really be a 35-day election. The Democrats have out-organized the Republicans on early voting in the past, but the GOP says it's ready this time around.

"Early voting is a critical part of our strategy," said Ohio GOP Executive Director Jason Mauk. "Quite frankly, you can lose an election in Ohio before Election Day."

Dean Reynolds is a CBS News correspondent based in Chicago. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.