Why Ohio Will Decide the Presidential Election

As Obama's margins in swing states shrink to a hairbreadth or vanish altogether, Ohio has emerged as the President's firewall, its 18 electoral votes his best hope of stopping the surging Romney campaign from winning the White House.

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Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME (2)

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden during a campaign rally in Dayton, Ohio

Barack Obama speaks in a different dialect when he stops in Ohio, which seems to be every other day now. Even when delivering his basic stump speech, he will aim a few extra Buckeye-friendly zingers at his rival, Mitt Romney. “Does anybody actually look at that guy and think, ‘Man, he’s really into coal’?” the President asked recently at a rally in Athens. “I wasn’t born into fame and fortune,” he continued. “Nobody was picking me–’Boy, that guy Barack Obama, he’s going to be President someday.’”

On flat screens now from Marietta to Toledo, there is one particularly edgy chord being struck: “Mitt Romney. Not one of us.” That phrase was once used as racial code by Southern segregationists to rouse white voters. Obama uses it to paint Romney as a sort of rich Uncle Pennybags, defined by his Cayman Islands holdings, a Swiss bank account and his opposition to Obama’s auto-industry bailout. “We won’t take your vast business advice,” Obama thunders at his rival on the stump.

Obama once decried such tactics as a relic of the past, but one need only look at the polls to see why he has dusted them off for 2012. As his margins in swing states shrink to a hairbreadth or vanish altogether, Ohio has emerged as the President’s firewall, its 18 electoral votes his best hope of stopping the surging Romney campaign from winning the White House. It’s a familiar role for the state that has voted for the winning candidate in 27 of the past 29 presidential elections. Obama’s Chicago operation is well aware of the tradition: no Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio.

A new Ohio poll for TIME by Abt SRBI shows that Romney still has a ways to go with just two weeks remaining. Among those who have already voted and those who are likely to vote, Obama holds a clear advantage, winning 49% of the state, compared with Romney’s 44%. The President’s advantage is accounted for by those who say they have already voted, a group Obama is winning by a 2-to-1 ratio. Among those likely to vote who had not yet cast a ballot, the race is tied at 45% each.

This could rattle nerves at Romney’s Boston headquarters, given Ohio’s history as a bellwether for the nation. But the state is behaving differently from the rest of the country this year. Long mired in recession, its economy is on the mend, buoyed by the auto bailout three years ago. The Chevy plant outside Youngstown is revving up again, and shifts have been added at the Jeep factory near Toledo. A fracking boom in northeastern Ohio has steel plants humming. The unemployment rate has dropped from 8.6% to 7%, well below the national average, putting a crimp in Romney’s argument that Ohio can’t afford four more years like the past four. The TIME poll found that Ohio voters are relatively optimistic about the future–at least the future in Ohio. While 54% believe the nation is on the wrong track, 51% say the outlook in Ohio is brightening. “Romney is trying to say that it’s cloudy when people are seeing sunshine,” explains David Cohen, a political-science professor at the University of Akron.

Obama’s controversial decision to bail out the American auto industry in 2009 lost him friends in conservative think tanks but has bolstered his support in the state, providing what one Obama aide calls “a message contrast that is really hard to achieve in presidential politics.” In Ohio, 1 in 8 jobs is tied to cars and light trucks, a fact that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden point out on their frequent visits. Romney, meanwhile, has struggled to explain the nuances of his “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” position. He opposed Obama’s up-front government financing of Detroit and the terms that went with it, arguing instead that the industry could be saved by government guarantees of debt after the bankruptcy process. “There’s no question that the automobile issue has probably cut into some traditional support we’d be running away with,” admits Bob Bennett, longtime head of the Ohio Republican Party.

The Five Ohios
Ohio is the whole nation in miniature. The northeast is a Democratic stronghold, home to Cleveland, Akron and Youngstown, with sturdy minority populations and many union households. Southeastern Ohio, at the northwestern fringe of Appalachia, is rural and white, its rolling hills dotted with signs lamenting Obama’s “war on coal.” The two western quadrants more or less mirror the demographics of the broader Midwest, with progressive urban centers like Dayton and Toledo offset by conservative rural communities and staunchly Republican Cincinnati. Anchored by moderate Columbus, central Ohio has been thriving thanks to stable government jobs and a sprawling state university.

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71 comments
row1519
row1519

You certainly missed the message. There was no criticism of President Obama in my statement. As a matter of fact, if you check the postings for the past month or longer, you would see that I have been one of the most fervent supporters of the President.

LenSimpson
LenSimpson

This article saves me the gallon of gas it would take for me to vote.

ArmandWinter
ArmandWinter

How does Mitt Romney get away with laundering billions of unreported income in the Caymans through a bank owned by his church?

VegasIndependent
VegasIndependent

I have a series of blog posts on my Independent Investigations blog that deal with reasons why I and many others can not vote for Republican candidates and specifically Mitt Romney.  Reason #7 involves the fact that we just can not trust him because every word out of his mouth seems to be the opposite of prior words out of his mouth.  Feel free to visit the blog and click on the "follow" button to receive new posts as they appear.  Opposing views always welcome.

http://independantinvestigations.wordpress.com/

mickey66049
mickey66049

Actually, as I recall, Nixon won in 1968 w/o Ohio.

JuneBensinger
JuneBensinger

If Ohio's votes are to win  the Presidential election, why are the rest of us casting our vote?

DeeDee
DeeDee

Ohio will "decide the election" because our political system was created over 200 years ago, and it's completely outdated and ineffective. I say, if we don't change it before the next election for Hillary Clinton, that we all move to Ohio and make it a real election...for the first time in 200 years. For America to go around the world demanding Democracy when we don't have it here at home is an international joke.

PANATAG
PANATAG

IN CASE OF EMERGENCYBRGY SAN JUAN

MC ARTHUR HI WAY

BALAGTAS BULACAN

+HOT DEAL+DUTIES LOCAL OFFICIALS TO RELAY/ENFORCE MANDATE & DECLARATIONS OF AUTHORITIES*+PROGRAMS OF AUTHORITIES DUE TO VARIOUS UNSETTLED,INCOMPLETE MULTI CULTURAL ISSUES*+local officials are not authorized to FORCE MEMBERS TO SHOULDER OTHER MISTAKES CRIMES!

MissClarity
MissClarity

Ohio will not decide the election. Tagg Romney's voting machines will win the election. I just hope someone is on top of the dire situation.

MissClarity
MissClarity

Romney Bain has been attacking and destroying America from within. Bain buys, sucks the money out of, bankrupts American Companies and sends your jobs to China.

hamptonsweethearts
hamptonsweethearts

We will go backwards with the Romney/Ryan ticket....supporters of Romney/Ryan say don't blame Bush but think about it people, IF Romney/Ryan are elected? The same Bush/Cheney folks. This week Cheney will be attending a Romney/Ryan fundraiser and next week Bush will be attending another fundraiser for them. Do you really think Bush policies aren't coming back??? Romney doesn't have a backbone to stand up to his party or anyone else. He can't stand up to Akin (Mr. Legitimate Rape), Murdock (Mr. Rape is God's will and the ONLY senate candidate he endorsed to do an ad for).

C'mon people, there is more than 2 names in the Romney/Ryan ticket...it's the whole Bush folks. Romney is just a puppet to execute their plan. If you don't believe me then why can't Romney speak up when wrong is wrong instead of ignoring it hoping it will disappear. Heck, Ryan has more balls than Mitt Romney.

cageydog
cageydog

The democrat war on poverty is going great, poverty was @14% 50 years ago when it started, still @14% today. Hasn't helped anyone get out of poverty, even though 1 trillion dollars we spent on welfare last year, divided evenly among welfare recipients, would have taken every single one of them out of poverty. Then again, the war on poverty wasn't every really about getting people out of poverty, it was about getting the poor to vote for liberals, hence the results. Problem is that we have less than 10 years left where we can carry the entitlement levels we have now and it will all come crashing down. Politicians keep talking about putting the burden of this debt on future generations, in reality it is just around the corner. Will be interesting to see how priorities change when the country falls unto economic collapse. For calendar year 2013 the Congressional Budget Office predicts the follwing: Unemployment will exceed 9%, real GDP will  drop an additional .5% (from the already catastrophic 1.3% today) and we will be back in recession. 4 more years of Obama are not going to be 4 more of the same, things are going to get worse.

MacdonaldBank
MacdonaldBank

Religious Republican zombies are coming out of the woodwork -- descending on America! Scary or what?Romney; would be the equivalent to the Taliban -- in his treatment of women’s rights and the gay community -- with his extreme cultist attitude … if ever elected!Religion; is the biggest bully on the block!IRS codes prohibit churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates!The IRS … should immediately tax churches -- that break that rule!Churches -- are opposing gay rights -- based on a cult! Tax them or shut them down!Roman Catholic; Baptist & Mormon churches who were involved in Proposition 8; against the gay community – should be shut down immediately and/or have their tax exemption status revoked!Church manses; mansions; corporate jets and Christian college campuses … should face taxes or be shut down -- based on corruption and/or being involved in cultism!Mormons are nothing more than homophobic bigots and lustful religious lunatics; who harvested women … attempting to scrutinize themselves; into eternity – without success!Obama should be praised for standing up for human rights … by supporting the gay community! To see the religious lunatics try to manipulate government and our lives – isshameful.Romney as President; would mean the darkest & meanest period in the United States of America’s history. Homophobic -- witchcraft would rule the government from Rome & Salt Lake City …!

BarryOBama
BarryOBama

President Obama inherited the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, and the War on Terror. He was elected following Bush's First Recession, and in the middle of Bush's Great Recession, the Collapse of the Housing, Financial, and Banking Industry that plunged the world into the Great World Recession. He faced rising unemployment and underemployment, as well as lower wages and record poverty. He went to work before he was inaugurated and job loss started going down right away. He pulled us out of recession, brought the GDP back up over 11% from a negative 9.5%, and cut underemployment over 2%, from over 10%. He put safeguards in place to prevent any more collapses and there were no fiscal disasters or economic crisis during his term. We have had economic improvement every month the President was in office from day one. Republicans are lying and twisting the stats to blame Bush's disasters on president Obama to avoid the stigma of Bush's failed economic policies that Romney has adopted.

Kapoor Aayush
Kapoor Aayush

Since Kennedy, whoever bagged Ohio took office...let us see.

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

Latest from Nate Silver show over 73% (and climbing daily) chance that Paulie and Rusty will have another four years of barking at the moon.

Ronnie_Matrix
Ronnie_Matrix

@TIME Ohio also if I recall impacted the previous elections so looks like we should brace our selves for the same drama.

clevelandirish
clevelandirish

Keep in mind that Ohio's SOS Husted was pretty much forced to mail out absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in Ohio. He originally proposed that zero absentee-ballot applications be sent to the counties because he wanted "uniformity". Cuyahoga County Executive Fitzgerald went ahead anyway because a good chunk of Cuyahoga County's population relies on absentee ballots. Husted was pissed, but then both Husted and Fitzgerald made an agreement where absentee-ballot apps would be sent to all 88 counties in Ohio. This was not Husted's original idea.

Ptaray
Ptaray

@TIMEComms @michaelscherer @BashirLive @TIME WOW! way to just drop to your knees Micheal. worshiping at the Altar of beltway Deception much

MrObvious
MrObvious

Hey Time, could you guys please have a MMR every single day - no need to waste your time adding to many things that we must read. It seems to be a great way of composting most of the rightwing nuttery into one thread.

Without it every single post now gets invaded by the same carpet bombing of unrelated subjects that happen to confuse righties - you know like squirrels running around.

I mean I don't care and my scroll button gets a lot of practice but there might be people who look at the link and hope for argument for or against the actual subjects.

ClaritaValle
ClaritaValle

@ArmandWinter YOU  are so wrong !  He paid regular taxes for his earned money, then  his Trust  invested that money  and on that Romney  pays low taxes because it is  THE SECOND BITE OF THE APPLE  that the GOV.  

takes.  An he does  not have billions .... and  he is not a baby killer 

-  ---     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZMjnxjddUg  ----Please Click on below : You must SEE THIS   ---

http://giovanniworld.wordpress.com/2009/01/24/obama-oks-killing-of-babies-world-wide/

PaulDerengowski
PaulDerengowski

@DeeDee You are absolutely correct.  The EC is antiquated and the voting system needs to be updated to reflect the times.  Otherwise, one state is going to continue to dictate the presidential election outcomes, meaning that 20 people are going to decide for 300+ million, which is not a Republic or Democratic form of government.

cal7912
cal7912

Ir is one poison or another:  If it were not for the electoral college, voters in the small states would be irrelevant and all the attention would be devoted to the big-vote states. 

Qt
Qt

You make a very good point. If you really relate people to who they associte with then I suggest that you watch Obama 2016.

I am not trying to change your vote Just watch it. I watched it with my girl friend and she is still voting for obama even though she found it disturbing. Ohio can watch it free for the next two weeks on payperveiw.

DebbieLeonardBordelon
DebbieLeonardBordelon

At this point in the game, the only response I'm going to give to this is GO ROMNEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

row1519
row1519

The sky is falling ! The sky is falling!......Boom!

row1519
row1519

Gloom and Doom again!

DeeDee
DeeDee

Hello Mister Ignorant...please don't forget that the Democrats have a 75% better record for job creation than Repubs since 1964. And we haven't destroyed two countries, put two wars on the U.S. credit card, and killed hundreds of thousands of people, including 4,000 soldiers, to get one man "in a rat hole" (quote from Ted Turner).

shalompaz
shalompaz

You spread hatred and fear just like your candidate, very sad!!!

Qt
Qt

That was cool!!

filmnoia
filmnoia

Not the previous election, but 2004. I have no doubt whatsoever that Kasich and his Sec of State have the "fix" in for Willard, as does the GOP Gov. in Florida.This is what the GOP is, a privileged club of white males. No one else need apply.

PaulDerengowski
PaulDerengowski

@cal7912 Just stop and think about what you just wrote.  It does not make one ounce of sense.  For not only is the EC vote determined by population, only certain states are focused on anyway by the candidates since certain states are already a bygone conclusion long before the election even takes place.

Again, the presidential election system needs to be completely overhauled and let the people decide who their leader is going to be; not just a bunch of political elitists who think they know more about the needs of the people than they do.  http://derengowski.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/the-process-of-electing-the-president-of-the-united-states/

cal7912
cal7912

All the "wait until 2016" stuff about Obama from the people who started saying four years ago "watch how this four years turns out."  It wasn't so bad, so now it's 2016.  Isn't "Obama 2016" a movie or something?  Too lazy to google it but it rings a bell.

jess524
jess524

Actually two thirds of the US troop deaths in Afghanistan have occurred under the Obama administration even though he has only been in office for four years compared to Bush's eight.  Along with that, the Afghani soldiers that we have been training are now killing our own soldiers.  Also 500,000 manufacturing jobs have left the USA since Obama was inaugurated.  On top of that, he just lied to all of the American people about what happened in Benghazi.  I realize that Romney is not a great pick either, but he is better than Obama. 

Piacevole
Piacevole

Well, he's been doing it for four years now.  Things are better than when he took office.

Would you like to provide some proof of your assertion that President Obama is a communist?

Qt
Qt

Really what about Condalisa Rice?

Piacevole
Piacevole

Condaleeza Rice isn't exactly the face of the Republican party, now, is she?  (And if you're going to cite her, at least spell her name correctly.)