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Trump flexes Ohio muscle to fight Democratic rivals for White House

Jonathan Garber

No state is more important for President Trump’s reelection bid than Ohio.

The winner of Ohio has captured the White House in 35 of 39 elections since 1860, and no Republican has ever become president without winning the state.

“The economy in Ohio is doing well,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, a Republican, told FOX Business. “We've seen steady employment growth. We've seen all sectors of the economy succeed.”

TRUMP: WE WON'T STOP UNTIL US INFRASTRUCTURE IS 'ENVY OF WORLD AGAIN'

Ohio’s economy grew at a 1.7 percent rate in the third quarter, good for 36th among the 50 U.S. states, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. By comparison, the U.S. economy grew at a 2.1 percent rate in the July to September period.

While the state typically lags the country’s full-year growth, according to data for the past 18 years analyzed by FOX Business, its economy has accelerated sharply during Trump's presidency.

Once heavily industrialized rust-belt states such as Ohio have lagged behind the growth of other parts of the country as the U.S. has become a more service-based economy, and their voters were swayed by Trump's campaign promises to restore American manufacturing might.

He has visited many of them repeatedly, to assure voters that he's delivering and tout his work on global trade.

Last month, Trump sealed two of the biggest deals in history, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and a phase one pact with China. Both deals will have big implications for Ohio, but especially USMCA, as more than 50 percent of the state’s exports go to Canada and Mexico.

The partial deal with China will likely be a boon for the state as it is a leading producer of hogs. China's hog supply has been decimated by African Swine Flu and the country needs the U.S. to fill the void.

“With the potential of a China trade deal and certainly the USMCA, we only expect things to get better,” Husted said.

But it's not just trade deals that are giving Ohio's economy a boost. Companies are also bringing jobs to the state, and working to curb the impact when they take them away.

Last March, General Motors ceased production at its Lordstown, Ohio, plant after more than 50 years. The plant recently produced the Chevrolet Cruze, a once-popular compact car that fell out of favor with consumers.

GM and the United Auto Workers said they would start talks in September or October to figure out what to do with the plant. Trump urged the two sides to start right away, saying he wanted the jobs to “stay in the U.S.A.”

Two months later, General Motors said it was in talks to sell the plant, and that it would invest $700 million in three other Ohio facilities.

In November, GM reached an agreement to sell the plant to Lordstown Motors Corp., a startup electric truck-maker.

And General Motors wasn’t done. On Dec. 5, the automaker announced it was forming a $2.3 billion electric-battery joint venture with Seoul-based LG Chem. The partnership would create one of the world’s largest battery facilities and bring more than 1,100 jobs to Lordstown.

Trump, who pressured GM to keep as large a workforce in Ohio as possible, told the audience at a Toledo rally on Thursday that his policies are intended to push businesses to bring operations back to the U.S. that they previously moved abroad.

“I used to go around talking about how everyone’s leaving. They’re all leaving. A lot of you are victims of that leaving. These companies would leave, they’d go to Mexico, they’d go to Canada, they’d close up, they’d buy from China, now they’re all coming back," he said. "Many of them are coming right here to Ohio."

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