Obama has been driving the auto bailout issue hard in this vital state that in many ways holds the key to his re-election bid against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Expect to hear more about it Monday as Obama campaigns in Cincinnati and Columbus, arguing that the auto bailout is fueling economic recovery in Ohio.
"The American auto industry supports one in eight jobs in this state," Obama said during a Sept. 3 visit to Toledo, and it was "flat-lining" when he took office.
Ohio Republicans say jobs are surging in their state -- but the car industry (and Obama) have had little or nothing to do with it.
Republican Gov. John Kasich, citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics, told USA TODAY that his state has added 122,300 jobs since he took office in early 2011, but only 1,200 of them are "auto jobs."
Kasich said he is "glad the auto jobs are there," but "out of 122,000 (jobs), 1,200 doesn't tell the story of our growth."
That story features Republican policies advocated by him and Romney, Kasich said, including lower tax rates and fewer business regulations.
During his speech to the Republican National Convention, Kasich said the Obama administration has created economic "headwinds," and that new federal regulations "have had a smothering effect on business and it has paralyzed the job creators."
Statistics aside, there is evidence suggesting that Ohio voters are giving Obama credit for an improved economy, and for the auto bailout. A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll gave Obama a 7-point lead -- 50%-43% -- over Romney in this key swing state.
While northern neighbor Michigan is the true home of American car-making, Ohio is also benefiting from the industry's comeback.
Democrats have hailed jobs added at the Jeep factory in Toledo and the announcement by General Motors that it will make the next version of the Chevy Cruze in Lordstown. Car construction also helps Ohio auto suppliers, from dashboard makers in Cleveland to hubcap sellers in Columbus.
In his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, Obama said he has "met workers in Detroit and Toledo who feared they'd never build another American car. And today they can't build them fast enough because we reinvented a dying auto industry that's back on the top of the world."
Romney backers say the economy is still struggling in Ohio, and that parts of the auto bailout created other problems.
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, noted that up to 20,000 non-union employees at the Delphi Corp., a major GM parts supplier, lost most of their pensions under terms of the bailout.
"People believe it cost the taxpayers billions of dollars," said Turner, whose district includes Dayton. "The administration picked winners and losers."
While extolling the auto bailout, Obama also knocks Romney for saying the government should have "let Detroit go bankrupt."
Romney, noting that General Motors did go bankrupt during the bailout process, said a better managed bankruptcy would have saved taxpayers money.
"That would have saved us $20 billion or so that otherwise would have been able to be invested in things like teachers and policemen, as well as growing our economy," Romney said this month on NBC's Meet the Press.
Losing Ohio -- the state that clinched Republican President George W. Bush's re-election win over John Kerry in 2004 -- would be a major setback for Romney's bid. No modern Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio.
Yet while Ohio is adding jobs, its economy is not all the way back -- a point Romney and running mate Paul Ryan make repeatedly during their many trips to the Buckeye State.
Ohio's unemployment rate is about a percentage point lower than the national average -- but in July it remained at 7.2%.
"Nobody's happy" with a jobless number that high, said John Green, a political scientist at Akron University, but there is also a sense by Ohio voters that the economy may be improving.
"The economy's not good," Green said. "But it's not awful compared to the nation as a whole. That makes Romney's job harder."
(Copyright © 2012 USA TODAY)