Candidates Zero In on Ohio as Romney Gains in Polls

Candidates Zero In on Ohio as Romney Gains in Polls

By Alexis Simendinger - October 9, 2012

On Monday night, President Obama sounded like a candidate digging deeper for a late burst of speed and prepared to lean into the tape at a photo finish in November. Post-debate polls indicate Mitt Romney has edged past the president among likely voters, including in the Midwest, and on Tuesday both men rededicated themselves to the contest in Ohio with less than a month left in the race.

“I am pretty competitive and I very much intend to win this election,” the president told a donor audience in San Francisco. “But we’re only going to do it if everybody is almost obsessive for the next 29 days. . . . You need to mobilize every resource that you’ve got to make sure that we bring this home. And I’m confident we will, but we can’t take anything for granted.”

Some of the president’s critics argue that was his mistake during the debate last week, when Romney, determined to put some wind into his luffing campaign, presented himself as a reasonable, steady alternative to the incumbent, and sailed away from the president.

Obama is scheduled to appear Tuesday evening for a rally in Columbus, Ohio, and Romney is also campaigning in the state (Cuyahoga Falls). No Republican has won the presidency without capturing Ohio, and Romney’s electoral arithmetic is heavily dependent on winning there. The former Massachusetts governor is eager to exploit his well-reviewed debate performance to improve his Buckeye backing. State-based surveys have yet to update where each man stands after last week.

Both campaigns were focused on Tuesday’s voter registration deadline in Ohio, plus early voting there, which began Oct. 2. So far, Democrats outnumber Republicans among those requesting absentee ballots, according to early data collected by the Associated Press. Among the 691,000 people who have asked for absentee ballots in 49 of the state's 88 counties, 30 percent are Democrats and 24 percent are Republicans. Forty-six percent are unaffiliated voters, AP reported.

Polls released through Tuesday in the wake of the Denver debate suggest Romney improved his standing among key demographics, increased enthusiasm for his party, and sparked public curiosity about what promises in the final stretch to be an intensely competitive contest.

The challenger this week is trying to build on that surge, while Obama, aware that he risked too little in Denver and was judged the clear loser, is trying to halt Romney’s climb by assailing him as deceptive with the electorate, wrong-headed on policy, and a risk to America’s progress.

Among likely voters, Romney has pulled slightly ahead of Obama, 49 percent to 45 percent, in a survey conducted after the debate by the respected Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Among likely voters, the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. (The latest RCP average shows Romney with a narrow lead.)

The likability advantage Obama enjoyed going into the debate against Romney evaporated, according to Pew, and the GOP challenger’s standing among women and younger voters -- two groups the president is counting on for support -- surged in comparison with Pew’s findings in September. Romney is seven points ahead of Obama in the gauge of which candidate is offering new ideas, and he pulled even with the president as a “strong leader,” rolling up a gap of 13 points seen in Pew’s mid-September survey.

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Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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