Obama: I voted for you once but I'll never do it again

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Reporting from Canton, Ohio

By Alana Semuels, Los Angeles Times, January 3, 2012

Reg Rozell and Kim C. Sweitzer seem like they'd be sure-fire Obama 2012 supporters.

Both have good-paying union jobs at a busy steel mill here and are benefiting from a manufacturing surge that's keeping their employer operating three shifts and granting overtime to whoever wants it.

But though both voted for Barack Obama in 2008, they say they won't vote to reelect him, even though they're noticing positive signs in the economy. They already voted Republican in 2010, helping elect Gov. John Kasich, who has been battling with public employee unions ever since.

"I've basically been a Democratic voter, but I won't vote for Obama again," said Rozell, 61, standing outside the steel plant, which was belching smoke into a drizzly Ohio afternoon. "I don't like the bailout, I don't like taxes, I don't like talking about trillions of dollars of deficit."

Here in Stark County, which has voted for the winner in every presidential election but one since 1980, the concerns of people like Rozell and Sweitzer reflect the challenge confronting President Obama. Despite blue-collar job creation in steel mills, ball-bearing manufacturers and meatpacking companies, many working-class white voters here, and in much of Ohio, say they have reservations about him this time around.

Although this swing state's 20 electoral votes went to Obama in 2008, the latest poll from Quinnipiac University suggests a tight battle, though it is still 10 months before election day. In head-to-head matchups against the president, Romney and Gingrich each were favored by 43% of those surveyed to 42% for Obama.

"I just don't think he's doing the job," Sweitzer said.

On Wednesday, the president will make his 17th trip to Ohio. He will be talking about the economy, though voters here have other concerns too.

They are increasingly choosing the candidates with whom they most identify, says David Wasserman, an editor specializing in House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "Lifestyle and culture is driving politics more than regional economic circumstances," he said. "Obama is more arugula than chicken and dumplings, and that's a problem."

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