- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2008

They have the same job, they want the same job, and neither Sen. Barack Obama nor Sen. John McCain has been particularly subtle about where the issue of jobs ranks in the closing weeks of their presidential battle.

“We need to pass an economic rescue plan for the middle class and we need to do it now,” Mr. Obama told a crowd in the critical battleground state of Ohio earlier this month. “It’s a plan that begins with one word that’s on everyone’s mind, and it’s spelled J-O-B-S.”

For his part, Mr. McCain bats away any suggestion his campaign is not focused on the same issue.

“Listen to me,” he said in an interview on CBS this past week. “I’m the candidate, and this campaign is about the economy.”

Truly Crain has listened to both men — and is distinctly unimpressed.

The 46-year-old mother and grandmother from Crooksville, Ohio, has been out of work since June, laid off after 28 years by car-parts manufacturer Lear Corp. The company, which has moved many of its operations to Mexico, employed some 1,300 union workers a decade ago and will be leaving town for good in mid-2009.

“Both of them just make me mad,” she said. “As far as I can tell, neither of them is addressing the fact that we’re losing jobs here. They’re just interested in making the other guy look bad.”

The loss of her $13.70-an-hour job has cut the family’s income nearly in half, and she has struggled to get creditors to stretch out the payments on outstanding bills and loans she and her husband have. She is going to school three nights a week trying to earn her high school-equivalency degree, which she needs to get a new job.

“Everyone is mad,” said Joe Haught, acting president of Local 1628 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Zanesville. “They’re just sick because [the plant] is leaving. Most of the people have been there anywhere from 30 to 45 years and they expected to retire from the company, but they’re too old to find any work.”

Mr. Haught, who will lose his job when the company closes down for good next year, said young people in Zanesville are leaving to find jobs elsewhere.

“We don’t have enough jobs in this town to cover all of the people who are going to be laid off,” he said.

Mrs. Crain and Mr. Haught are fiercely critical of the NAFTA free-trade deal and Mrs. Crain doubts she will vote for either candidate next month.

“If Hillary [Clinton] were running, I’d vote for her,” Mrs. Crain said, “but I get real mixed feelings about the two we have running now.”

Their worries are not unusual this election season.

Faced with collapsing home values, plunging stock markets, evaporating retirement funds, rising jobless rates and a global banking crisis, voters consistently rank the economy and jobs as their top concern, far ahead of national security, health care, the environment, hot-button social issues or the composition of the Supreme Court.

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