ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland stumped for the Obama-Biden Heartland Tour 2012 on Monday near the Belmont County Courthouse in St. Clairsville.
The Democrat Strickland was joined by Ohio Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, and former Governor's Office of Appalachia colleague Fred Deel. Strickland talked about Ohio's economy, about the auto industry and jobs.
But Strickland primarily was on hand to talk up the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
"When the president made his acceptance speech, he looked into the camera and said to the people, 'I need your vote and I need your help,''' Strickland said in front of about 40 or so Obama supporters. "And that's our message. The fact is, Ohio is the battleground state. I believe it will determine the winner of the presidential election."
Public Policy Polling's first post-convention poll for Ohio shows Obama with a five-point lead over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, 50-45. This is a slight increase from the 48-45 edge for the president reported in August.
Strickland pointed to Ohio's economic recovery as a sign that Obama's policies are working for the people of the Buckeye State.
"There is some debate as to why Ohio's economy is experiencing an economic comeback," Strickland said. "Ohio's unemployment rate is lower than the national rate, which is unusual for a manufacturing state like Ohio. Gov. (John) Kasich would like to take credit for it. But who deserves the credit is Barack Obama and Joe Biden."
Strickland cited the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as well as the government bailout of the auto industry as two key factors.
In Belmont County, the unemployment rate has declined steadily since July 2010, when it was at 8.5 percent, to 6.9 percent in July. And Belmont County received nearly $44.4 million through the ARRA.
And while Strickland didn't touch on the president's policies on coal, Gentile did. He said eastern Ohio is blessed with an abundance of coal, oil and natural gas and that the Obama campaign supports the responsible development of those resources.
"We support those natural resources and so does President Obama," Gentile said. "He believes with the responsible development of oil, gas and coal, we can create sustainable, living wage jobs and that's what he's done."
The bus tour continued through eastern Ohio on Monday, also making a stop in Steubenville.