Southeast Ohio Counties With Highest Unemployment Rates Vote Republican

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UPDATE 10:53 PM All of the top seven counties in Southern and Southeastern Ohio who had high unemployment rates voted for Republican challenger Mitt Romney in 2012 over President Barack Obama.

Pike County, which had the highest unemployment rate of 11.5 percent, voted narrowly for Romney.  The GOP candidate nipped the President by just 45 votes out of a total of just more than 11,000.  The Pike County vote for Romney is 5,535 to Obama’s 5,490.

There is no clear winner or mandate for which candidate would do best in bringing jobs to that county that needs jobs.

While Ohio's unemployment rate in declining and hovers around 6.5 percent, seven counties in Southeastern and Southern Ohio lead the state in jobless figures, a factor that could have a major impact on Tuesday's election. 

As of September 2012, according to figures released by PBS election statistics, Pike County (Waverly) leads Ohio with 11.5 percent unemployment, and is followed by Jefferson County (Steubenville) with 10.8 percent, Meigs County (Pomeroy) with 10.7 percent, Scioto County (Portsmouth) with 9.7 percent, Adams County (West Union) with 9.6 percent, Morgan County (McConnelsville) with 9.4 percent and Vinton County (McArthur) with 9.1 percent.

Bill Whitfield, director of the Pike County Job and Family Services, said many candidates and others have visited his area, but will need to create jobs to make a difference and win votes.

“The main thing that we need here is the revitalization of the uranium processing plant because it had so many jobs for the county and involved other companies that were spun off,” Whitfield said. "Unless the thing gets a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, it won’t continue and they’ll have to let people go.  That was the backbone of Pike County from the late 1950’s onward." 

He thinks Pike County voters will select the candidate they believe can revitalize the plant.

“We’ve had politicians come and go from here over the years, promising to get the thing going again, and they haven’t come through. So I guess it’s just a matter of how people see that,” Whitfield said. “The people are thinking which of these guys is likely to get this plant going for us, and it’s whichever one they judge to be most likely.”

Whitfield said surrogates of the presidential candidates have visited the area and have promised to try to get the plant up and running again. But, nothing is certain. 

That uncertainty also breeds uncertainty at the polls.  Pike County has traditionally been a Democratic county, but it barely went Republican in 2008. Sen. John McCain out-polled Barack Obama by just 129 votes.  

Whitfield predicts that this election will go to the candidate who has made the best argument for being able to bring jobs to the county.

"People have noticed that we've gone from a city to a town. People have left to go elsewhere to make a living so that was kind of a wake up call for folks," he said. 

The plight of Pike County is similar to all of the other Southeast Ohio counties that have unemployment totals above the state average.  All are looking for a panacea of jobs.