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Oct 24, 2012 | 11:42 PM

Twelve days and counting

Tags  Presidential campaign, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Ohio, swing state, presidential candidates, platforms, infrastructure David Brooks

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They may be high-profile but Barack Obama and Mitt Romney aren’t the only guys-in-ties making whistle-stop tours of the great state of Ohio. Yours truly spent the past several days meeting with a number of companies in the Buckeye State and most of the people at the helm of the businesses I visited had a similar story to tell.

Although the folks I met ranged from equipment manufacturers, to service centers to mills, most agreed that the first half of 2012 was relatively solid while the second half has been disappointingly soft. Their economic EKG squares with many of the third-quarter corporate results we’ve reported and the Dow seems to be mirroring the late-inning softening.The key question, of course, is whether we’ll see a return to strength in the first half of 2013 as we did this year after the late-inning swoon in 2011. On that particular subject, the Ohioans I met with were divided.

Many said that they hoped for a bounce after the election, reasoning that the economy is, perhaps, in a holding pattern until the electorate knows who’ll be in the White House come January 20, 2013.

How huge an impact the election will actually wield on the U.S. economy remains to be seen, although the immediate effect will be based mostly in sentiment. No matter who comes out on top it will take months, more likely years, for either man to make a significant mark.

From the perspective of the companies I visited this week—and for the country’s manufacturers in general—it’s far from clear which candidate offers the best hope, or short of that, a better bet. From a steel and metals industry perspective, Obama and Romney each bring with them pros and cons.

Streamlining regulation would appear to be a tick for Romney; investing significant money on much-needed infrastructure, a tick for Obama. Romney is generally seen as the low-tax candidate although, as Forbes reports  Obama is also promising tax cuts for small businesses, a pledge which would help buoy a portion of the manufacturing base.

Both candidates have rattled sabres on China and referenced how far they are willing to go to enforce international trade laws and protect American manufacturers from dumping. Romney has been particularly vocal on this front as well as on the much-discussed issue of currency manipulation, although Obama has noted—and economists on the left have agreed—that the under-valued renminbi currency is less of an issue today than it has been for several years. (see Krugman)

If you’re unsure which candidate offers the best bet for you, your business, your industry, and your country, you’re in good company. Even Dan Dimcco appears to be riding the fence, which is not somewhere we’re accustomed to seeing the Nucor boss.