CLEVELAND – When the Democratic National Committee stripped Michigan of its delegates to its convention scheduled for later this year, some in the state worried that issues facing the Great Lakes State might not be addressed during primary season.

Brian Merlos

But if the candidates had campaigned in Michigan, they likely would have pitched stump speeches similar to the ones they’ve been using in Ohio.

Much rhetoric used by candidates in the Buckeye State has related to the state’s economy, which, like Michigan’s, has struggled with unemployment and recession.

Fully aware that tomorrow’s nominating contests – which include Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont – could determine who wins the Democratic nomination, Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D–Ill.) have focused much of their attention on the delegate-rich state of Ohio.

The Michigan legislature moved the state’s primary before Feb. 5 to emphasize the state’s suffering economy, defying the rules of the Democratic Party. As punishment, the Democratic National Committee stripped Michigan of its delegates and prevented candidates from campaigning in Michigan.

Both Michigan and Ohio suffered economically as manufacturing jobs were sent overseas, and now both have unemployment rates significantly greater than the national average of 5 percent. Ohio is ranked 44th in the nation, with 5.8 percent of workers currently jobless, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Michigan’s unemployment rate – 7.6 percent – is the highest in the country.

Since Nov. 2001, Michigan has lost 20 percent of its manufacturing jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Ohio has lost 15 percent of its manufacturing jobs over the same span.

As a result, residents of both states have moved elsewhere looking for work. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the national population has grown by 7.2 percent while Ohio and Michigan’s populations have grown by just 1 percent over the same amount of time.

In an address to students and teachers at Lakewood High School on Saturday, former president Bill Clinton promised his wife would revitalize Ohio’s economy.

“I believe you will have more prosperity, more jobs more fairly shared in the next term than you had in the 1990s when I was president,” he said. “She will be better for you, better for the economy, better for middle class Americans.”

At a rally here last night, Mrs. Clinton said she was “absolutely optimistic” about her plans to achieve economic recovery – plans that are very similar to Obama’s.

Both candidates have criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying it took a toll on Ohio’s middle class workers.

Both have said the manufacturing jobs outsourced or eliminated in recent years won’t be returning to the state. Both have promised to create “green collar” jobs – occupations that will move toward finding alternative energy sources – and education programs to former manufacturing workers who are now unemployed. Clinton called jobs in the renewable energy industry the “jobs of the future.”

Republican candidates, who campaigned in Michigan because the Republican National Committee only stripped the party of half its delegates, discussed the creation of green collar jobs to stimulate the hurting Michigan economy.

At a town hall meeting in Parma Heights, Ohio, Obama promised to eliminate tax breaks for companies who outsource jobs. He said he would provide tax incentives for the creation of jobs in new research and development fields in the United States.

Obama’s economic plan calls for a $150 billion investment for the creation of more green collar jobs over the next 10 years to move toward finding alternative energy sources and creating more jobs in those fields.

“Our economy is strongest when the middle class grows,” Obama told The Associated Press last week.

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