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Ohio voters are going to the polls today as part of Super Tuesday. We’d love to hear why you voted the way you did. Are you voting on issues, or personalities?

Cast your vote first, and then take our survey.

And check out some responses from Michigan voters in last week’s primary.

Super Tuesday is here, and political pundits say that if Mitt Romney wins Ohio, the Republican primary race will be over. 

That’s a big “if” and of course, the former Massachusetts governor has not yet locked up the delegates he will need.

But a Romney victory over Rick Santorum would give him a moral boost, assuming it is by a large enough margin. There is no guarantee of that, however.

At the end of the day Monday, the race for Ohio’s 66 delegates still seemed to be a statistical tie. Romney and Santorum made six collective stops in Ohio yesterday. Santorum battled perceptions that Romney is more electable than he is; Romney aimed at President Obama’s policies. 

Our partner station ideastream and our friends at PBS Newshour will have plenty of political coverage. Washington Week host Gwen Ifill posted a list of five things to look out for in tonight’s results.

And, some people are already looking past Super Tuesday to the Illinois primary later this month. Check out what our partner WBEZ in Chicago has to say.

We’ll have results and analysis on Wednesday.

 

With Super Tuesday primaries looming next week, the political world’s eyes are on Ohio, one of the richest prizes on the big day. 

(Okay, there are a lot of eyes on the Arnold Sports Festival, but he’s a Republican too, after all.)

On Friday, the latest poll from Quinnipiac University declared the Ohio primary too close to call between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Pennsylvania’s former Sen. Rick Santorum.

It showed Santorum with 35 percent of likely Republican voters, and Romney at 31 percent. On Monday, Santorum had a 36 percent to 29 percent lead, a day before the Michigan primary. About 34 percent of Ohioans surveyed said they could still change their minds

“At this point, the Buckeye State is too close to call and is clearly a two-man race between Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mitt Romney,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“A third of the electorate say they still might change their mind. With five days until Super Tuesday, they certainly will be exposed to enough negative television ads to provide fodder for those who might want to switch – or switch off.” 

There’s also support for the two less-visible candidates. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had 17 percent, with 12 percent for Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

ABC News reported on a never-seen video that showed Romney in 2002, boasting about federal funds he had attracted for Massachusetts. Our friends at PBS NewsHour say the video has reignited debate over which candidate is the biggest Washington insider.

Candidates can’t focus all their efforts in Ohio as they could in Michigan, which received a 10-day dose of attention. That resulted in $7.6 million in advertising spending ahead of the state’s primary this week.

According to our partner Michigan Radio, Romney’s campaign spent $1.5 million, while a pro-Romney Super Pac spent nearly $2 million. Santorum spend just under $1 million, and a Super Pac spent over $1 million on his behalf.

Breaking down the numbers, Romney and his Super Pac spent about $8.45 for each vote the former Massachusetts governor received in the primary. Santorum and his Super Pac spent about $5.81 per primary vote in Michigan. Third place finisher Ron Paul spent a relatively frugal 48 cents per vote.

We’ll leave you for the weekend with this little tune that’s familiar to all Ohioans.

(It’s) Round on the end and “Hi” in the middle.
Tell me if you know.
Don’t you think that’s a cute little riddle
Round on the end and “Hi” in the middle
You can find it on the map if you look high and low.
The O’s are round, it’s high in the middle. O-H-I-O That’s the riddle!
Round on the end and “Hi” in the middle.
O-HI-O!


Manufacturing promises Reuters asks economists whether the new political focus on manufacturing will actually create jobs. The answer is, basically, no.

Driving downloads The state of Ohio is spending $10 million to increase its broadband internet speeds tenfold between colleges and universities.

It’s over After 13 weeks, the Cooper Tire lockout in Findlay Ohio is finally over. The Toledo Blade reports that workers approved a new five-year contract yesterday. They could be back in the plant later this week.

Split opinions Yesterday, we asked “Who gets credit for the bailout?“ Meanwhile, the BBC looked into why opinions of the auto industry bailout are split, even in Michigan.

Want to become a landlord? The federal government has a new plan to auction off foreclosed homes owned by Fannie Mae and turn them into rental homes. Chicago is one of the first cities where it will happen.

Ready for a recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has decided not to challenge any of the 1 million recall signatures filed against him. That means the recall election will almost certainly move forward.

Something fishy The US Supreme Court once again declined to weigh in on the debate over what to do about Asian Carp. Partner station WBEZ has the story.

UAW speech President Obama will give a speech to UAW members at a conference in Washington this morning. The event starts at 11:45, and you can watch it live here.

Big day There’s something going on in Michigan today. What was it? Maybe Michigan Radio can help.

We admit it, we’ve been a little poll-obsessed lately. But last week, a poll caught our attention that had nothing to do with the upcoming GOP primaries in Michigan and Ohio. The poll was done by Public Policy Polling and it basically ranks U.S. states based on popularity.

Turns out, the Midwest didn’t do so hot. No Midwestern states were in the top 10, and Illinois had one of the lowest scores of all states. But buried deep in the data, we noticed that opinions of states varied hugely depending on who was being polled. And, since we spend a lot of time in the Midwest talking about how to attract young people, we wondered how the poll results would be different if you just looked at people aged 18-29. So we put together some charts. As you can see, the results are a little surprising. Tennessee? Really?


A new poll out Monday shows the Michigan Republican primary race is tightening. Public Policy Polling says former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is down to four percent.

PPP’s earlier poll showed Santorum with a 15 percent lead over Romney, raising the prospect that the Michigan born candidate was in danger of losing his home state. It was one of two polls showing Santorum ahead.

Romney’s gain is coming as he spends more time in Michigan ahead of next Tuesday’s primary.

Says PPP: ”What we’re seeing in Michigan is a very different story from Florida where Romney surged by effectively destroying his opponent’s image. Here, Romney’s gains have more to do with building himself up.”

Santorum has double digit leads among Protestant voters, union members, evangelical Christians, Tea Party members, people describing themselves as “very conservative” and men.

Romney is leading with women, seniors, moderates, people who say they are “somewhat conservative” and Roman Catholics. Last week, Romney gained the endorsement of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Sunday, he held a conference call with voters. According to the Detroit Free Press, he asked a woman from Franklin, Mich., if its cider mill was still there (it is).

Romney is set to be in Jackson, Mich., on Monday, while Santorum is campaigning on the west side of the state. Santorum picked up his own key endorsement although not in Michigan. On Friday, he drew the backing of Ohio’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, who used to be a Romney supporter.

Ohio holds its primary as part of Super Tuesday on March 6.


The State of Steubenville Ohio governor John Kasich delivers his State of the State address tonight. But instead of giving the speech at the state capitol, he’ll be at a public school in Steubenville. Partner station WCPN Ideastream explains why.

Tech jobs Chicago is landing more tech jobs, mostly in the digital advertising sector, reports Crain’s Chicago.

Detroit panel to meet in public A judge says there will be no more secret meetings to determine the fate of Detroit. A state-appointed panel is looking into the city’s finances to determine whether the city should be put under the control of an emergency manager. Now, partner station Michigan Radio reports the panel’s meetings must be held in public.

A pickle of a plant A plant in Detroit that once made auto parts is about to start making pickles.

Here’s hoping you never have to use it A couple of Clevelanders are launching a new startup company: eFunerals.com.


Indiana’s busy day Yesterday, the big news in Indiana was that legislators approved a new Right to Work law. But that wasn’t all the legislature accomplished. They also put the nail in the coffin of a $1.3 billion transit plan.

What the frack Bloomberg News says Ohio officials are hoping to stop the flow of fracking waste into their state. Meanwhile gas companies are still pushing their new natural gas drilling techniques further. Get ready for “super fracking.”

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Police The city of Cleveland is getting a  $10 million tax windfall this year thanks to new construction. The Cleveland Plain Dealer says the money will help pay for an extra 20 police officers.

Notable tax credit news A new report in Michigan says tax changes will hit poor families 1000 times as hard as families that are well off. One of the main reasons is the elimination of the state’s child tax credit. Meanwhile, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proposed adding child credit in his State of the State speech last night.

700 jobs short Google is celebrating its fifth birthday in Ann Arbor. When the company first opened its Ann Arbor office in 2006, it was huge news for the state. The company said it would hire 1,000 workers in the first five years. The actual number is closer to 300. (We tried asking Google: “Where are the rest of our jobs?” The search didn’t turn up anything useful.)


Honda, like Toyota, has suffered through a lot in the past year — sluggish sales, the Japanese tsunami and earthquake, and floods in Thailand. But it’s vowing to get its mojo back and plans to do so by  revving up its American production.

This morning, Honda said it will invest $98 million at its engine plant in Anna, Ohio, the one you’ve probably driven by Interstate 75. The investment comes on top of a $120 million investment at Honda’s transmission plant in Russells Point, Ohio.

The money is going to build a new engine and transmission family called “Earth Dreams.” The transmission plant will make what are called Continuously Varying Transmissions, or CVTs, which don’t have gears but shift up and down smoothly, and the engine plant will produce parts for those transmissions.

“Earth Dreams” will be available for the first time in the United States on the 2013 Honda Accord, which will be built at Honda’s assembly plant in Marysville, Ohio.

Honda’s goal is to increase its sales this year by 20 percent, and it has aggressive plans over the next few years for both its Honda and Acura lineups. Its push is getting kicked off during the Super Bowl this weekend, which, just in case you haven’t seen it, will feature this familiar looking ad.


Kate Davidson

Matt Ghazal runs a Buy Here-Pay Here business in West Michigan. He's trying to change the sector's reputation.

In the Midwest, it’s hard to get around without a car.  These days, people are holding onto them longer.  The average vehicle is almost 11 years old and used cars prices are on the rise.  All this adds to the pressure on the bottom rung of consumers: people with bad credit.  For many, the only way to finance a car is at a Buy Here-Pay Here lot.  Here, dealers loan to deep subprime customers at interest rates up to 25%.

Buy Here-Pay Here makes up more than 15% of used vehicle financing in states like Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.  That financing goes to people like Willie.  That’s her nickname.  We’re driving around Toledo in her ’99 Chevy Express.  It’s got 130,000 miles on it.

“You’re gonna hear it really well,” she says.  “It’s gonna be a pop pop.  And then you’re gonna hear my belt.”

Honestly, Willie, Toledo and the van have all seen better days.  Willie got laid off a few years ago. Now she lives on child support and she scraps.  Literally.

“I’m a scrapping scrapper.  I’m garbage picking basically just to feed my kids and taking whatever little job I can find,” she says.

No conventional lender wants to touch that.  But when Willie’s dad was diagnosed with brain cancer, she needed a car to care for him.  So she agreed to pay six thousand dollars for a van worth, maybe, half that.  She keeps a tool kit handy in case it breaks down.

“Now I don’t even need it cause my dad passed away in August,” she says.

Philip Reed is Senior Consumer Advice Editor at the car site Edmunds.com.  His take on the Buy Here-Pay Here market?

“It’s not one that we recommend.”

In fact, he uses the word predatory.

“Because people are taking advantage of people that are in a bad situation,” he says.  “And they know they’re between a rock and a hard place.  And they know the lure of having a car.”

The average Buy Here-Pay Here customer has a credit score less than 550.  That’s considered deep subprime.  They may have experienced foreclosure, bankruptcy, or a prior repossession.  What makes Buy Here-Pay Here different is the dealer finances their loans himself.  He is the bank, he takes a lot of risk, and he charges for it.

Melinda Zabritski is Director of Automotive Credit for Experian Automotive.  She says Buy Here-Pay Here offers a valuable service to consumers who might otherwise be shut out of the market.

“You typically will see higher rates,” she says.  “However, there’s also a much higher frequency of delinquency.  People who work in this space might end up repossessing 60% of the vehicles that they’re financing.”

Now, critics see high repo rates as evidence of loans that are designed to fail.  Matt Ghazal is trying to fight that shady reputation.  He runs a Buy Here-Pay Here chain called Express Auto in West Michigan.

“The biggest misconception is we’re loan sharks and we gouge on payment and we gouge on price,” he says.  “Although there are some that do, the vast majority of dealers out there are fulfilling a niche.  And making an honest profit and providing an honest service.”

In the office, Ghazal posts tips on test driving, building credit, and not committing to more than you can pay.  (Here’s a longer version of those tips, from the Federal Trade Commission.)  He says about one in five of his customers don’t complete their payments.  But the other four do, or they trade up.

“We try so hard to keep them in the vehicle,” he says.  “We win when they stay in the vehicle.”

And come back to do business again and again.  Still, it’s striking just how much it costs to have no money.  Grace Diaz is 19, works three jobs and goes to school.  Every other dealer turned her down.  No credit.

“I’ve been trying for so long,” she says.  “This is really nice to be finally done.”

She settles on a 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix.  Team leader Paul Lucas breaks down the cost.

“The price of your vehicle is $8,995,” he starts.

Add in taxes, fees and a service contract:

“$11,010.10.”

Plus almost 20% interest over three and a half years:

“The total estimated amount of your payments comes to $15,375 and 30 cents,” he says.

$15,375 for a 2002 sedan.  With the money she’s paying in interest alone, Diaz could buy a car outright.  But she doesn’t have a lump sum, she has enough to pay the bills this week.  When she drives off, Grace Diaz is excited and very grateful.  She has to be at work in an hour.