Salena Zito

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Dave Betras is known in “The Valley” for his colorful language and his political antics and drama. Last Wednesday, however, when Vice President Joe Biden visited a local industrial park, Betras was all about numbers.

“Oh, the valley is going to turn out big for Barack Obama this year, big!” he said, spreading his arms wide for emphasis. The chairman of Mahoning County’s Democrats pointed to the shipping warehouse of M7 Technologies, a local manufacturer, filled with people waiting to hear Biden speak. “Turn-out like today, a full room,” Betras, 52, said.

If his job is to turn out Obama supporters on Election Day, he may want to check on their allegiances before he buses them to the polls. Many of the Youngstown attendees at Biden’s event do not support him or the president.

Bob McClain and his wife, Myra, went to M7 Technologies to support their friend’s family business. Neither supports the Obama-Biden ticket.

“We are friends of the owners – that is why we came, to show support for the Garvey family,” said McClain. At 71, he’s retired but volunteers full-time as a counselor for Mahoning Valley small-business owners.

“Our vote is going for who is best to lead on the economy. That is Romney, for us,” said Myra as her husband nodded.

Richard Furillo stood with his son Matthew at his son’s place of employment; a lifelong Democrat, he voted for Obama in 2008 but won’t again. “I don't know why I did it but I cannot stand anymore ‘change,’ ” he said, referring to the president’s old campaign slogan.

Father and son both said they attended the event to support the company.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a sitting vice president,” added Matthew, also a Democrat. He, too, said he will vote for Romney.

Standing beside them, Jeff Cunningham echoed their sentiments: “The biggest challenge in this country is creating jobs that last, jobs that sustain families.” The 36-year-old valley native said his vote will be for Romney.

Montgomery “Monty” Deruyter sat several rows from where Biden stood, addressing the crowd. The 43-year-old father of two started working at M7 as a machinist two months ago; uncertainty is driving him to favor Romney.

“I hold both parties at arm’s length but trust Romney’s business skills to lead on the economy,” he said.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.