"I'm a white guy with a job. I won't get no help," says Tony Gern, a truck driver from Coshocton.
His girlfriend works two jobs, but they are still barely scraping by. Gern came up short one recent month and tried to get some government assistance but was turned down. "A guy that has no job, 10 kids, he can go to the welfare office and they hand him a check," he says.
Gern says he will watch the debates before deciding how to vote. Right now, he sees Obama as more of a regular guy than Romney.
"If I was digging a ditch, Obama would come down and get a little dirty. He'd probably do it with me," Gern says. "Romney, he wouldn't do it. He's never done that kind of work. He's never had his hands dirty."
But Romney's business career is a plus for Russell Banfield and his wife, Betty. The retired couple — he was a coal miner; she was a secretary — are classic Ohio independents who voted for Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama.
Now, they are disappointed by the president's decisions on the deficit and the stimulus.
"If I have a problem here on my property, will the USA bail us out?" Russell Banfield says, standing outside his one-story house in Belmont, population 453. "We're on a limited income. We have to make do. Why doesn't Congress? Why doesn't the president?"
"Romney is rich, he made money, he worked, he earned it," Banfield says. "He had a brain to know how to do it, so he has a brain to know what to do now."
An hour down the road, behind the cash register of a small market, Debbie Winland greets customers by name as they buy items like spaghetti sauce, beer, hot pepperoni rolls wrapped in foil and high school football tickets. Movies on VHS tape cost $5.
Winland is troubled by bailouts, the stimulus and people who work their whole lives but end up with nothing. Both candidates seem out of touch: "They're neck and neck, really. Zero to zero," she says.
"Give me someone to vote for."
Jesse Washington covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press. He is reachable at http://twitter.com/jessewashington or jwashington(at)ap.org.
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