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January 20, 2013

NATION: Ohio community's division over Obama reflects two realities of America

FREMONT, Ohio — On the same day, in the same county of northern Ohio, two new grandparents prepared to drive to the same factory for work. They had started their careers at Arm & Hammer in the same year, and for more than two decades they had stood together on a concrete floor and watched baking soda roll down an 80-foot production line. But, on this morning, what they saw looked nothing alike.

Bill Herr, 61, left a house that had declined in value by 20 percent, in a neighborhood blemished by foreclosures, in a town where he believed the economy for the middle class was "falling apart." He said goodbye to a wife who was recovering from open-heart surgery, which she blamed in small part on the stress and disappointment of the presidential election. He grabbed a coat purchased for $6 at Goodwill and walked out a front door where he had recently hung a sign created by a local Christian motorcycle group: "AMERICA NEEDS GOD'S HELP! PRAYER OUR ONLY HOPE."

Cathy Morris, 53, left a home she had bought with the help of a middle-class tax break and then drove by the mailbox where she sent regular $25 checks to President Barack Obama's campaign. She passed through a town that she believed was "almost back" and pulled into an Arm & Hammer factory where orders had increased by 5 percent and management was once again hiring. "Obama," she said. "Thank goodness."

This is the America that Obama will govern in his second term: A place divided not only by ideology, race and class, but also by the very perception of reality. Four years since Obama first took office, is the country better or worse off? Safer or more at risk? Principled or desperately lost?

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