Ohio voters speak out as poll shows Trump and Biden tied in battleground state: "I see the country divided"

Voters speak out in battleground Ohio
Voters speak out in battleground Ohio 06:21

Ohio is a state that has an uncanny ability to pick presidents. For the last 14 presidential elections, the winner of Ohio has also taken the White House — including 2016, when President Trump narrowly won over Hillary Clinton.

The purple state could be poised to flip again in 2020, with CBS News' battleground tracker poll showing the president essentially tied with his Democratic opponent Joe Biden. From what "CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil saw, Ohio voters in Wood County, just outside of Toledo, do not take their responsibility lightly.

"I've been trying to do as much research as I could going in and I was looking forward to it," Ohio voter Yarin Mercer said of the upcoming election. 

Mercer spoke to CBS News at an early voting location. Across the U.S., issues like the economy and the coronavirus pandemic have played main roles during this election cycle — for some Ohioans heading to the polls early, the issues take on a personal role.

"I'm still very scared to go into a post-Trump America in my career field," Mercer said.

As part of a family that has served in law enforcement for five generations, Mercer plans to continue the legacy, but also worries that the country they are living in and the country that their "family has served for generations" is no longer the same — and that as a queer American, their own rights may not even be protected. 

"It wasn't protecting my rights… the rights of my friends who are less privileged than I am," Mercer said. "That wasn't something I wanted to serve. I didn't want to feel that shame."

However, Mercer was optimistic that a "new wave of voters" is ready to bring change.

"I can speak from personal experience and from discussions with peers that we've all been very, very anxious to vote in this election, and finally have our voices heard," they said.

Another voter, Tonya Farmer, said she was confident Trump would take 2020.

"I see more Trump signs than I do Biden signs," she said.

As Dokoupil made his way through the battleground state of Ohio, he spoke with truckers at a truck stop along Interstate 90, America's longest interstate highway.

A trucker who did not provide his name said he was "absolutely" excited to cast his vote, "because of where the country's at right now."

"I see the country divided. I don't like that," he said.

Biden supporter Mary Gase's vote, she said, would be cast for her daughter — a 4-year-old who fell ill when she was four. Gase is concerned about how a Trump win would affect her daughter's health care with her preexisting condition. 

"When everything passed with Obama, we're like, awesome, great," Gase said. "Just knowing that's one of the first things going before the Supreme Court is scary."

With just over two weeks until the election, University of Dayton political science professor Nancy Martorano Miller said President Trump's failure to secure a lead at this point is "surprising."

She said national-scale trends in polling may be behind the tight race in Ohio, as well.

"There's an increasingly growing gap with suburban women," Miller said. "And, you know, it is so much harder to run as the incumbent. It's very easy to run as, 'I am something different, I see you. I'm going to help you.'"

This time, the president's case in Ohio involves his record, in addition to his promises — which even supporters believe is mixed.

Asked what grade they would give Mr. Trump's infrastructure plan, one supporter answered "B."

With health care, they knocked the president down to a "C," having yet to replace the Affordable Care Act as he promised. 

On the economy, however, this voter awarded Mr. Trump a confident "A plus," despite record unemployment linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

For him to win Ohio once again, however, the president will need a boost from Democrat supporters, who turned out for him in 2016.

One of these crossover voters is 94-year-old Betty Fagan.

"He's accomplished what he said he would do," she said. "I didn't like Hillary and he was the best — it's awful to say — the best of two evils."

Now, however, she has no qualms about voting Trump — when asked her opinion, she called him "the best…period."


Tony Dokoupil's series "At America's Crossroads" continues on "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday at 7 a.m. and a special hour at 8 a.m.