A Sober Look at Ohio

Sorry to go all “Debbie Downer” with this post, but I think this is a good piece on the difficulties for Romney in Ohio.

In nearly every mention of Ohio, I refer to it as a tough nut or tough terrain for Romney.  It’s not without reason.  This was a state 12-months ago the Obama campaign privately thought was out of reach for them.  But rather than conceding the point, they redoubled their efforts and changed the narrative.  Now it is Romney looking at at increasingly difficult numbers in Ohio (even with appropriately balanced polling) and it is his campaign that needs to change the narrative.  They are already redoubling their efforts evidenced by the current three-day immersion in the state but that must only be the beginning.  Peter Hamby of CNN takes a sober look at what troubles the Romney campaign in a very fair assessment of where things stand:

Interviews with some two dozen Republican strategists and elected officials across Ohio revealed an array of explanations — and no easy answers — for Romney’s failure to catch on there. Some pointed to the Obama campaign’s aggressive effort to hang Romney’s opposition to the federal bailout of Chrysler and General Motors around his neck. Others said a hangover remains from the divisive 2011 battle over collective bargaining rights that hurt the GOP’s standing with working class voters. A handful of GOP strategists blamed Romney’s standing on campaign staffers who aren’t Ohio natives. One longtime Republican strategist griped about the “arrogant top-down” approach of the Romney team and said they have done a poor job listening to the advice of savvy Ohio strategists — a charge rebuffed by Romney aides who point out that field staffers from the Ohio offices of Sen. Rob Portman and House Speaker John Boehner have come on board. Still others cited Romney’s lackluster political skills and said his stiff CEO demeanor as a turnoff for Ohioans, with one Republican officeholder saying that former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour wasn’t far off when he said recently that Romney is being caricatured as “a plutocrat married to a known equestrian.”

A man without a message

The main criticism that emerged, though, is that Romney is man without a message. “We are still at a point where I think it’s still a winnable race for Romney,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “Generally when you talk people, there is a feeling that Obama hasn’t done that great a job. But Romney hasn’t made the sale. He still can. But he hasn’t made the sale yet.” Another statewide Republican officeholder who — like others interviewed for this article — did not want to be identified criticizing the Republican ticket, offered a blunter assessment. Both Romney and Obama, this official argued, have provided nothing but “narrow arguments” and “fantasy land” policy prescriptions for the country. “Why is Mitt Romney running for president and what will his presidency be about?” the official asked. “I don’t think most Republicans in Ohio can answer that question. He has not made a compelling case for his candidacy. Don’t make your campaign about marginal tax rates. Make it about your children and your grandchildren and the future of this country.”

Fallout over bailout

Obama forces have persistently reminded voters about the auto bailout — on television and in small-scale earned media events around the state — and Republicans faulted Romney for failing to develop a succinct response to the criticism in a state where one out of every eight jobs is tied to the auto sector. Romney wrote a New York Times op-ed in 2008 titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” and argued for a managed bankruptcy for the industry, without the use of government funds. In May, he took credit for proposing the bankruptcy idea. In August, he tapped a running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who voted in favor of bailout. Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has aired multiple TV ads on the issue and synced their pro-bailout message with down-ballot Democratic candidates such as Sen. Sherrod Brown. According to The Washington Post poll, 64% of Ohio registered voters view the federal loans to GM and Chrysler as “mostly good” for the state’s economy. Only 29% said the bailout was “mostly bad.” Putting a finer point on the matter, one longtime Ohio GOP strategist called Obama’s advantage on the auto bailout “a kick in the balls” for the Romney campaign.

Ground operation a bright spot for Romney

One aspect of the Romney operation that earned praise from Republicans is the campaign’s ground game, which has made more than 3 million volunteer voter contacts so far this year and knocked on 28 times as many doors in Ohio as John McCain’s campaign did in 2008. “It’s one of the better operations in the country, as it always is,” Romney’s political director Rich Beeson told CNN. “Ohio has always led the way and it is again this cycle.” The so-called “victory effort” — a joint venture of the Romney campaign, Republican National Committee and Ohio Republican Party — has 40 offices statewide. The humming ground effort, combined with Ohio’s traditional GOP lean and what’s expected to be a more animated conservative base than in 2008, has Republicans confident that the final margin on Election Day will be much closer than the 5, 6 or 7-point Obama lead seen in recent public polls. “Nobody will win Ohio by 5,” said Mike Weaver, a Republican consultant with more than two decades of campaign experience in the state. “Anybody who tells you that doesn’t know Ohio. This state is too close. It’s too divided. It will not be Obama by 5 or Romney by 5.”

Mixed message from Kasich irks GOP

Republican Gov. John Kasich’s relentless boosterism for the uptick in Ohio job creation runs counter to the national Republican message that Obama’s policies have kept the economy from bouncing back. The statewide unemployment rate has fallen to 7.2%, roughly a point below the national average. In bellwether central Ohio, home to the capital city of Columbus and its thriving suburbs, the jobless rate fell to 5.9% in August. Kasich is not shy about talking up Ohio’s job growth, even if it muddles the Romney campaign’s arguments about the state of the national economy. At a recent campaign event in conservative Owensville, a fiery Kasich boasted that “Ohio is rocking!” — moments before turning the microphone over to Paul Ryan, who proceeded to issue dire warnings about Obama’s economic policies. The mixed messaging has rankled Republicans in the Romney and Kasich camps. Both sides have done their best to keep the tensions under wraps, but they occasionally spill over into public view…One Washington-based GOP operative involved in the campaign and closely watching Ohio accused Kasich of not doing enough to help Romney win the state. “No single swing state Republican has been less willing to criticize President Obama at important junctures in this campaign than John Kasich,” the Republican told CNN. “Anyone who doesn’t want an Obama second term should be furious at him.”


  1. Harold Smith
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I know you spend a lot of time on your website crunching numbers and your posts are very educational and uplifting, I would assume your background is in math or engineering. My question for you: forget about the numbers and the polls, what is your gut feeling who will win this election?

    • Posted September 26, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Two weeks ago I thought Romney was ahead by the narrowest of margins. Today I’d have to give the slightest of leads to Obama. Romney has plenty of time and opportunities to take the lead (it’s virtually tied no matter who you think is leading in any one moment) but he needs to be out there “making the sale.” Obama is vulnerable but he is not going to give this election away. And his turnout machine will get every vote possible so Romney needs to both get the Republicans motivated and win the Independent vote by a couple percent.

      The nightmare scenario is what happened to John Kerry in 2004. He thought if he won Independents he would carry the state. If I recall correctly he won Independents by 1% but Bush had such an incredible turnout of Republicans Kerry still lost. This is why he wouldn’t concede the night of the election. He couldn’t believe he was winning Independents and still losing in the state. Team Obama is gunning for this exact scenario in reverse for the 2012 election.

      Keep fighting the good fight!

      • Harold Smith
        Posted September 26, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        I’m in Texas. I own my own business. Started in 1995. Stated with a pickup truck an $400.00. built it to $4,000,000 revenue a year company. Back then when I talked to a customer or anybody you never brought up politics, because you didn’t know who was democrat or republican. Now wherever I go that’s all anybody wants to talk about is how bad Obama is hurting us and when we can vote him out. Maybe it’s just here in Texas where it is so animated. What has me confused is how the Tea Party has just kinda disappeared. Everybody was fired up when they were having rally’s and town hall meetings everywhere it looks like the Romney people would organize with those guys because a lot of republicans are beginning to get depressed.

      • UncleFred
        Posted September 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        Your point independents and turnout in 2004 is relevant, but the polling data that you site on the Ohio thread suggests your gut is off. Obama trails by 1% among independent but get support from only 46%. He’ll lose most of the undecided independents, and you can bet that the Republicans are going to pull out all the turnout stops. If Romney only needs to win independents by “a couple percent” he’s on track to win Ohio.

      • Posted September 26, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        UncleFred, I hope you’re right I just think Romney needs to “earn” those Independents. Something he’s trying to do right now barnstorming the state. I’m hopeful.

  2. Eric
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wow, another right wing “poll expert” who thinks all of the polls showing Obama with a nearly insurmountable lead at this point are biased against Republicans. What a shock! Oh, except Rasmussen. That one outlier poll is the one to be trusted, because, well, because it tells you what you’d like to believe.

    * RCP shows Obama with 265 electoral votes when counting “leaning states” in each candidates’ column. AND…. he leads EVERY “toss up” state, often by 4 or 5 pts.
    * Nate Silver’s 538 model shows, that if the election were held today, there would be a NINETY-EIGHT PERCENT CHANCE that Obama would win.
    * Obama is up 6 its in Gallup, which is a poll that has lagged behind other positive Obama polls
    * Obama is up huge in several other recent polls

    And Keith is giving Obama the “slightest of leads” ???

    Okay guys, keep telling yourselves what you’d like to hear. You’ve wasted a lot of “analysis” trying to prove something that isn’t true.

    • Posted September 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for visiting Eric. I hope next time you intend to offer something to the discussion and not just spout things in an effort create problems. That helps no one, the least of all you.

    • Daggerboy
      Posted October 28, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Liberal media pollster who is a mathmatician. Oh great! Might as well stay home and not vote so Obama can run this Country further into the ground.

  3. David Boette
    Posted September 26, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Permalink | Reply


    Kerry ‘04 got some 30,000 more Votes than did Obama ‘08.

    And what’s more interesting is that in2004, G.W. won OHIO 50.86% to 48.7% with 2,859,768 votes.

    • Posted September 26, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

      David I know the point you are driving at but your numbers are slightly off.

      2004 Bush (2,859,764) — 51%
      Kerry (2,741,165) — 49%

      2008 Obama (2,933,388) — 52%
      McCain (2,674,491) — 47%

      My numbers were initially off below so I deleted my original comment and am substituting this in its place:
      The aggregate vote totals between the two major parties in the two most recent Presidential contest is strikingly similar. 2004: 5,600,929 votes cast versus 2008: 5,607,879 votes cast. However, in 2004 non-Whites made up 15% of the vote and in 2008 non-Whites made up 17% of the vote. But if the aggregate vote totals are the same, that means 2% of White voters in Ohio who voted in 2004 did not vote in 2008. If the White vote in 2008 totaled 4,760,790 (85% of the aggregate) and 2% stayed home, that’s 95,216 voters who are overwhelmingly likely Republican voters. Barack Obama’s entire margin was 258,897. Give 80% of the stay at home vote to Republicans (76,172) and you’re ~30% closer to flipping the state before you flip one 2008 Obama supporter. For discussion purposes, those figures all assume a static White population in Ohio which is neither true for Whites or non-Whites.

      • David Boette
        Posted September 26, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

        my bad… I was citing from this NY Time map… http://elections.nytimes.com/2008/results/president/map.html

      • Posted September 26, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

        Something’s fishy Dave. The New York Times #s don’t match the CNN numbers which I am using. Hmmmmm. Must get to the bottom of this because your comment inspired me to put up the latest post and its hugely important I get the #s correct.

      • Posted September 26, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

        Dave, I checked the #s. Mine are correct. That’s what you get for reading the New York Times :p

        Thanks for making your point though. It really help me clear up some misconceptions. But now I may have to do it for every battleground state!

      • David Boette
        Posted September 27, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        I love looking at the numbers… I really am curious about how big the tea party is. They definitely weren’t motivated in 2008. And so I looked at the numbers comparing 2006 republican voters, to 2010… and then i compare the difference with Obama’s 08 voter margin of victory per state, and I compare… Just wondering how much better the Romney has to be in increasing turnout, and persuading independents that voted for Obama once before… And for making that comparison, I used these two websites: http://www.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2010/2010house.pdf
        I’ve done an excel sheet doing the comparisons and so far I have Nevada, Oregon, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Florida.
        If you want it email me, at dboette at yahoo . com

  4. Kevin
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 1:21 am | Permalink | Reply


    Are you aware of the 5 to 9 percentage point oversampling of Democrats done by the polling companies?

    That also means that Republicans are being heavily under sampled. Thus, why Obama has such big leads in the swing states.

    Facts can be such a pesky thing, can’t they?

  5. Yong
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 2:23 am | Permalink | Reply

    I wonder about Obama Machine in Ohio. From my understanding, they have more offices. Are they micro-targeting to get as many votes from the auto workers, women, etc. I do see that Romney is winning the 1st wave, but I am concern how big Obama machine is operating. Biden does not seem to get much crowd. Not sure, if Bill Clinton has make any stops lately. I am hoping that other teams for Romney there like the Evangelicals, Senior groups, Catholic groups,etc. How about those Tea Party? They seem to be silent.

  6. Don
    Posted September 27, 2012 at 2:34 am | Permalink | Reply

    “On Wednesday, the Romney campaign reserved $3.4 million worth of advertising time in eight swing states. Nearly half of that — more than $1.5 million — was for Virginia. The rest was spread across Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin. His total ad spending for the week is more than $10 million.”

    Follow the money. None of the latest Romney ad buy is being spent in Ohio. Ballgame.


    • Posted September 27, 2012 at 2:41 am | Permalink | Reply

      Don, I don’t think those #s mean what you think they mean. Your comments are as if that’s the last 3.4mm Romnney has. He saturated the airwaves ahead of his 3-day barnstorming in Ohio and now he, along with his ad dollars, are moving to Virginia. That’s how campaigns work. It’s the identical pattern for Obama.

      Thanks for visiting.

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