Salena Zito

   COLUMBUS – From the Great Depression to today’s recession, Ohio’s capital has weathered economic downturns marginally better than her Rust Belt neighbors thanks to a diverse economy.

Now it is now ground-zero for Democrats to prove they really are connected to Main Street’s needs.

President Obama came here on June 18 to prove just that, with a kick-off to his “Summer of Recovery” marking the 10,000th stimulus project. Hard to say what he proved by spending 58 minutes in the state – 12 of them speaking, 5 shaking hands, the rest getting back and forth from the airport.

With use of Air Force One billing out at $100,000 per hour, and adding the cost of military aircraft ferrying limos and Secret Service vehicles, the event cost taxpayers $500,000 to $1 million. It also cost the construction workers at an adjacent site a day’s pay – all for a 720-second speech on economic recovery.

A year ago Ohio showed her displeasure by handing Obama his first dip in job-approval ratings. The country caught up with the Buckeye State last week in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that showed 62 percent of adults feel America is on the wrong track; it also marked the first time more people disapprove than approve of Obama's performance.

A trip across the state reveals a very dissatisfied electorate, even among Democrats such as Cheryl Guy, 56, of Canton. “To put it in the simplest terms, this country is heading in the wrong direction, and they have no idea who we are or how we feel out here,” she says of Team Obama.

Guy, a registered nurse, says voters need to put on the brakes, starting with November’s midterm election. She initially supported freshman U.S. Rep. Ryan Boccieri, D-Alliance, who represents chunks of Northeast Ohio, but “after his appalling vote for the health-care (bill), he has lost my support.”

Glenn Beck

With enthusiasm for Obama and his party diving among centrist, independent voters as well as rank-and-file Democrats, House races in Ohio are critical to the control of Congress.

“At the moment, the Democrats have a 10-8 advantage over the Republicans in who we send to the House,” explains Miami University of Ohio political-science professor Chris Kelly. “But that will likely change some after the 2010 elections … it could very well be 10-8 in favor of Republicans.”

Here is a rundown of congressional seats held by Ohio Democrats that are in play:

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.