As of Wednesday night, the Real Clear Politics average poll had the presidential candidates in a dead heat. President Obama was projected to have 47.4% of this years vote while former Governor Mitt Romney was pulling....47.4%. It doesn't get any closer than that. With November 6 only five days away, the candidates are desperately jockeying for that final 6.2% of voters. Ohio might just be the place to find the last few votes that could make all the difference.
With less than a week to go, the contest is effectively over in all but a crucial few states. From the electoral map, we can see that Obama can count on at least 201 electoral votes, while Romney has 191 squarely in his corner, with 146 still undecided. Since a presidential candidate needs 270 to win, a tempting prize like Ohio's 18 electoral votes cannot be emphasized. Right now, the state's average stands at Obama: 48.9%, Romney: 46.6%
While most of Ohio's counties lean Republican, Obama has been pinning his hopes on the liberal bastions of Ohio's major cities. Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Akron, and Columbus all went for Obama four years ago. The president's campaign has seemed confident that these cities and the counties in which they are located will provide a comfortable winning margin for Obama.
One flaw in that strategy is the surprising result of early-voter programs in the Buckeye State. As of Wednesday, early voting was down 10% from 2008 levels in Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is located.
This could be happening for any number of reasons, from persistent bad weather to complacency in an easy victory for an incumbent president.
Regardless of the reason for lackluster early voting, it means that voter turnout on November 6 is crucial.
Ohio is a complicated battleground, and victory will involve both nitty-gritty campaigning logistics and careful message management to an often-skeptical audience. Like all voters this year, jobs and the economy are the most important issues for Ohioans. These would include the auto industry, coal, and natural gas. The collective bargaining spat of last year means that unions are a taboo topic — at least for Republicans. In the end, voter turnout will determine which candidate the Buckeye State goes for