Editor's note: CNN's T.J. Holmes will be travelling through four states on the CNN Election Express bus this week, talking with voters about their thoughts on the economy and the upcoming midterm elections. The following is a post he filed from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The first person I had a conversation with after landing in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon was the guy driving me to my hotel. On the way, he refused to talk about politics or midterm elections or President Obama or unemployment rates. We couldn't talk about anything until we first discussed the other pressing matter for the people of Pittsburgh: the Steelers' quarterback situation.
Their starting QB (Ben Roethlisberger) is suspended for the first four games of the season. The backup is out 4-6 weeks with an injury. The No. 3 quarterback has been unimpressive in preseason games. So, the No. 4 QB might be starting in the season opener.
As soon as we got that out of the way, the gentleman was ready to open up about anything.
He said he works two jobs and has been doing that a while. Days off are rare, but he told me he'd be off work Monday. Not long after he told me that, his phone rang. Someone on the other end informed him that he wouldn’t be getting Monday off after all.
He's a registered Republican but says he voted for Clinton the first time around but not the second. He also voted for Obama in '08 but said he wouldn't be voting for him again. Why? The economy.
Here in Pennsylvania, the unemployment rate has been below the national average for the past year. Problem is, the unemployment rate here has gone up a full percentage point in the past year while the national rate has gone down or pretty much been flat each month.
My conversation with the driver was just the first of a number of conversations I'll be having this week as I travel with the CNN Election Express bus around the Midwest. There are lots of sport-crazed places in the Midwest, and given the country's economic situation, sports can often serve as an escape. But in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates are in last place in their division, the 15th-ranked Pitt Panthers were upset in their season opener on Saturday, and the Steelers are in a quarterback crisis … people here could use an escape from their escape.