Ohio comes down to one-on-one voter contact

Sep 16, 2012

Just how all-pervasive is this presidential campaign in Ohio, the swing state of all swing states?

Well, we know that the presidential candidates, President Obama and Mitt Romney, are camping out in the state with regularity – Romney at a rally at Lake Erie College in Painesville Friday; Obama on his way to rallies in Cincinnati and Columbus on Monday – but that it only part of the story. GO

Both Vice President Biden and the Republican nominee for vice president, Paul Ryan, were in Clermont  County within days of each other last week.

But here’s one you might not expect:                                                            

A week or so ago, we logged onto Facebook and found a most interesting photograph posted from the Highland County Fair in Hillsboro.

There, surrounded by a group of local Republicans and 2ndCongressional District candidate Brad Wenstrup, was Craig Romney, one of the five sons of the GOP presidential candidate, standing by and looking admiringly at the prize-winning calf at the Highland County Fair, which a group of local Republicans had bought in the junior fair auction.

They are campaigning everywhere, even in cattle barns on the fairgrounds in a tiny southern Ohio county.

The four candidates, their spouses, their children and a host of other high-profile surrogates will swarm the state for the next seven weeks.  

No matter where you live in Ohio, you won’t have to go far to find a presidential candidates or one of his stand-ins.

Ohio, and its 18 electoral votes, matter.

It matters more than most battleground states. The consensus among the pundits and the politics-watchers is that for Romney, Ohio – which went for Obama by a small margin in 2008 – is a must-win state. For Obama, somewhat less so, but matching his 51.5 percent of the vote against John McCain four years ago might well put him over the top.

You could see it at the recent presidential nominating conventions – high-profile speeches on the convention podium by Gov. John Kasich, House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Rob Portman at Tampa’s Tampa Bay Times Forum; a prime-time barn-burner of a speech by former Gov. Ted Strickland and speeches by a number of lesser known Ohioans (including Cincinnati firefighter Doug  Stern and Nate Davis, the director of Xavier University’s office of veteran affairs) at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

The Democrats in Charlotte even went out of their way to make sure that the Ohio delegation had the rather meaningless  honor of casting the votes that put President Obama over the top for the Democratic nomination, as if that were in doubt.

All the hoopla at the conventions and the countless campaign trips into Ohio are fine, but both sides know that what will win Ohio is organization – good, old-fashioned (with a high-tech twist) get-out-the-vote efforts.

The most recent polls show Obama ahead in Ohio, but they also portend a close race.

Real Clear Politics, a website which tracks key state polling, has Obama up by an average of 4.2 percentage points in four polls done this month. The polls range from a Rasmussen Reports poll that gives Obama only a one percentage point lead to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll that has the president ahead by seven percentage points in Ohio.

It will almost certainly be closer than that by the time the votes are counted on Nov. 6.

Ohio is not a red state; Ohio is not a blue state – Ohio is a purple state. And purple states generally produce winners who barely escape with the state’s electoral votes.

Do the candidate and surrogate visits help?

Yes, they draw the attention of the local media; and they help fire up the troops.

But what really matters is the organization on the ground.

In Charlotte, the Ohio Democrats said they now have 104 offices scattered across Ohio’s 88 counties – from inner-city neighborhoods to the smallest of rural counties.

The Ohio Republican Party, along with the Romney campaign, has 35 “Victory Centers” around the state, along with an additional half dozen mobile phone banks that run from Monday through Saturday.

On the surface, the Obama forces would seem to have the advantage – after all, the Obama political arm, Organizing for America, has been working on this since the last election ended – but Ohio Republicans say they will match them in terms of voter-to-voter contact.

That means phone banks making calls by the millions to voters; thousands of volunteers taking to streets (often in their own neighborhoods) to make personal contact with voters they think are inclined to support their candidate, and volunteers from other states making phone calls into Ohio for Romney and Obama.

One-on-one contact with voters – voters the campaign has identified as being likely to give their support. Convincing voters to cast their ballots early.

That, and not campaign rallies or multi-million dollar TV ad campaigns, will decide Ohio.