Marcy Kaptur, the Democratic candidate for Congress here, had just finished a denunciation of Reaganomics before the West Toledo Kiwanis Club when the barrage began.
"Why do all political candidates always pick on unemployment?" asked one man.
"It's all rhetoric," another shouted.
"It's B.S.," came another voice. "There are more people working than ever before. There are 25 pages of want-ads in the Houston Chronicle."
Kaptur, stunned by the reaction, fired back.
"I don't think we should live in a country where the answer to unemployment is to move to Houston," she replied.
Then the Rev. Frank Musgrave, an Episcopal priest, rose.
"Somebody's got to help the people of this town," he said. "It's a tragedy that people who want to work can't find jobs."
Referring to the Reagan administration's arms buildup, he continued, "We don't want to pay for it out of the blood of 12 million unemployed people."
This was a measure of the passions on both sides of the political debate this fall.
So powerful was the exchange that, by the end of the luncheon, candidate Kaptur was reduced to being a spectator, wondering how it would end. It was a little like the campaign between her and Republican Rep. Ed Weber.
Both candidates are watching nervously to see whether the Democrats who ousted longtime Democratic Rep. Thomas L. Ashley two years ago now want to return to the Democratic fold. They wonder how angry people are with President Reagan and whether they will transfer those feelings to Weber.
By most measurements, Weber should be in trouble. The district is Democratic and went narrowly for President Carter two years ago. Unemployment in the old industrial center of Toledo is 12.2 percent, and, with the auto industry still in a depression, the outlook for improvement in the local economy is bleak. But a GOP poll several weeks ago found Weber in surprisingly good shape -- for many of the reasons that make freshman members of Congress difficult to defeat.
Weber, 51, won in 1980 by persuading voters that Ashley had lost touch with his district. Since then, he has dutifully returned home all but four weekends to solidify his home base, holding town meetings and building a reputation for constituent service.
He supports Reagan's economic program, but indignantly rejects Kaptur's charge that he is a "Reagan Robot." He offers a long list of issues where he differs with the president, from the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion to legal services for the poor and the Olympic coin legislation.
He also has scored points by raising the fact that Kaptur lived outside the district in recent years and returned only to run for Congress. It is an obvious attempt to remind them of Ashley, who grew too comfortable in Washington.
Kaptur, 36, is an aggressive opponent. A former Toledo city planner and member of the Domestic Policy staff in the Carter administration, she has been pressing Weber to explain his support of Reagan's economic policies, $35,000 in contributions from independent oil and gas sources two years ago and how he plans to revitalize the basic industries of the district.
Kaptur's fate is largely dependent on organized labor, which is working hard to get her elected. She had raised about $170,000 (to Weber's $300,000) through Sept. 30, with 40 percent coming from labor political action committees. In addition, union workers are running phone banks and distributing literature in her behalf.
Weber makes an issue of this "special interest" support, but Republican strategists recognize that Weber remains a choice target for angry blue-collar workers.
But Republicans believe he is comfortably ahead despite the economic problems here and that only an unexpected national Democratic landslide could topple him.
"If the Democrats come home this year," said one Republican campaign official, "I don't know whether Ed Weber can hold on."