Steubenville is seeing some improvement. Its unemployment rate is down from its high of 15 percent in 2010 to 10.6 percent as of September.
How the region will vote next week remains unpredictable. Steubenville’s Jefferson County is a historically Democratic area, a party allegiance created by labor groups representing the steelworkers of decades past. But in 2008, the county split almost evenly between Mr. Obama and Republican John McCain. It was a similar story in Johnstown’s Cambria County, a Democratic stronghold but one that went for Mr. Obama by 1 percentage point, with 49.6 percent of the vote to Mr. McCain’s 48.5 percent.
Mr. Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, visited New Philadelphia, Ohio, about an hour west of Steubenville, last weekend and promised that help is on the way if the Republican ticket wins the White House on Nov. 6.
“We want to wake up that morning [after Election Day] and know that our coal jobs are coming to eastern Ohio, that our natural gas jobs are coming,” he said, speaking to a crowd of supporters at a local business.
Mr. Obama has made a similar pitch to those in areas where economic despair has led many voters to outright political disinterest and fomented doubt in political leaders of both parties.
For restaurant and bar owner Greg Froehlich, who runs one of Steubenville’s nighttime hot spots across town from Mr. Dressel’s bed-and-breakfast, neither candidate fully understands the challenges he faces to make it each month.
“They don’t have a clue,” he said as he sat back in his office chair in a back room at Froehlich’s Classic Corner, as a local musician serenaded about 20 patrons with classic rock tunes in the bar.
“They don’t know that I’m fighting a labor force that knows they can sit at home and make as much money through entitlement programs, rather than coming to work for me. Washington doesn’t know that,” he said.