However, in recent years—and in 2012 in particular—the stakes have seemed higher in the minds of voters in Ohio. As I have traveled my district in the northeast part of the state, I have heard a growing chorus of voices expressing clearly that the choice they face this fall may have consequences unlike any other they have ever made before. And in a state as pivotal as Ohio that is saying something.

At a time when Ohioans—like all Americans—are suffering through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they are keenly aware that this is not just another election and that more is at stake now. When you consider what the American people have witnessed during the past three and half years, it is not hard to understand the heightened sense of urgency in the minds of voters, especially in a state as politically critical as Ohio.

Since 2009, voters have seen entire communities ravaged by crippling unemployment, which has gutted our labor force, leaving it at its smallest size in 30 years and with 23 million Americans left without full-time work. They have heard Washington promise that the $5 trillion in new debt racked up in President Obama’s first term would be good for our economy and create jobs—a promise which some believed until they saw the record 50 million Americans living in poverty, the 49 million on food stamps and the loss of America’s AAA credit rating for the first time in history.

They saw some of their elected officials ram through a 2,400 page government overhaul of health care that a vast majority of Ohioans did not want and cannot afford. They even saw some of their fellow Ohioans serving in Congress recklessly and inexplicably vote for a Cap and Trade bill that would have decimated a coal-reliant state like Ohio.

As I said, voters in Ohio have seen a lot in the last three and half years, and from what I can tell most of them have seen enough. During my 21 months as a member of Congress, I have held countless town halls and public meetings in every county across my district. The one, constant message I have heard from Ohioans of all walks of life is that Washington is broken—and I couldn’t agree more.

Before running for Congress in 2010, I spent 30 years building small businesses throughout Ohio, creating jobs and serving my community as volunteer fireman and later as Mayor. Having grown up in a union family of modest means I was the first in my family to graduate college. The success I was able to realize in business reinforced my belief in the American Dream and the idea that in America, anything is possible.

However, in 2009 I began to grow increasingly concerned about the wellbeing of that dream, which seemed to be disappearing under the weight of a growing and reckless government in Washington—which is exactly why I ran for Congress two years ago. Today, as I travel the district and talk with voters, those who do not think the American Dream is dead tell me it is on life support.

My guess is that sentiment is not limited to Ohio though. More than likely it is exactly what just about every other elected official is hearing across America right now. And that tells me we need to head in a new direction, one with a prosperous future not a slow decline into economic stagnation. Ohio may not be voting to put one of our own in the White House, but I have every confidence we will lead the nation in getting us back on the right track again.

Renacci is a freshman Republican from the 16th Congressional District of Ohio.