TOLEDO, Ohio - Democrats in Ohio were hoping on Labor Day that the sound defeat of a Republican-backed union law last year will carry over into the November election and give a boost to President Barack Obama.
The president spent part of the holiday campaigning at a United Auto Workers' rally in Toledo, a city where organized labor -- and the rescued auto industry -- has a big presence.
Obama has been heavily courting the labor vote, and Vice President Joe Biden visited a northeast Ohio union hall last Friday near a General Motors assembly plant in Lordstown.
There was no question for Ellen Stoner of suburban Northwood, a nurse and grandmother who's married to a Jeep auto worker, that Obama would win her vote.
"The unions have a strong voice and I think Obama showed he would listen to what they had to say," she said, juggling two grandchildren in oversized UAW Local 12 T-shirts on her lap. "My husband's an auto worker and he saved his job basically. So I think it's important to support those who support you."
Stoner's son-in-law Michael Powell, a worker at unionized Cooper Tire in Findlay, said he believes Ohio voters' successful repeal last year of collective bargaining limits of public sector workers emboldened union workers across the state.
"It's a way to be successful without Mommy and Daddy having to spend $100,000 to send you to college," said Powell, 30. "Not everyone can be a white-collar worker."
Labor unions came out in full force last November to reject the state law limiting the bargaining abilities of more than 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public workers.
Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who represents a district that stretches from Toledo to suburban Cleveland, said she hears public employees at union halls and firehouses who remain angry over attempts to clamp down on them.
"It's not old news there. It left a raw scar across the landscape," she said. "That issue resonated to the very core of every person in the middle class."
Republicans have downplayed any potential carry-over effect and note that Ohio voters rejected Obama's health insurance mandate in a largely symbolic vote. They say other issues will play a bigger role in the election.
Kenneth Harbin, 21, a member of the University of Toledo College Republicans, scoffed at Obama's decision to visit the labor stronghold as he waved Romney-Ryan signs outside the rally.
"He's gotta come home and say, `Here's what I did for you, now here's what you can do for me,"' Harbin said.
Asked what bothered him about the president's strategy, Harbin said, "He doesn't know what a budget is. I wish I could run my life like that. It's the auto bailout, it's the stimulus, it's all of it."
Getting union voters in Ohio to turn out in November will be crucial for Democrats. About 650,000 workers in the state -- or 13 percent -- are union members. The national average is just under 12 percent.
Biden has spent the past two Labor Days in Ohio. He attended a union gathering in Cincinnati a year ago and, the year prior, he marched in Toledo's Labor Day parade.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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