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Obama-Romney Race May Hinge on 2 Ohio Counties

Obama-Romney Race May Hinge on 2 Ohio Counties

By Erin McPike - October 26, 2012


CLEVELAND -- If the race for president can be boiled down to two key counties in one key state, then those jurisdictions are Hamilton and Cuyahoga, here in the Buckeye State. Mitt Romney began a three-stop tour of Ohio on Thursday in the former, and President Obama ended a 40-hour blitz of swing states in the latter.

Both campaigns are placing a heavy emphasis on this state as Election Day draws near, but the frequency of Romney’s visits underscore the belief on both sides that he must make up ground quickly to win Ohio’s 18 electoral votes and thus have a shot at the White House. Meanwhile, as the candidates hold big events in the two counties to draw out their bases of support, their running mates are sniffing out votes in less populous areas of the state.

And so it was that Obama staggered into Cleveland near the close of a whirlwind week that had taken him all over the country.

His Ohio team excitedly talked up the closing rally of the two-day tour all week: Air Force One would fly into Cleveland over Lake Erie just after the sunset, and the president would step off the plane into a sea of supporters.

Sure enough, in that dramatic fashion, Air Force One landed at Burke Lakefront Airport and wheeled once past the entire length of the rally setup. The pilot turned the aircraft around and paraded by again, giving the crowd of 12,000 a full view of the opposite side of the famous plane, then finally turned once more and parked behind the podium.

Obama disembarked and jogged wearily up to the stage, but his first few lines were nearly inaudible. “Ohio, I've got to tell you, even though I've been going for about 38 hours straight, even though my voice is getting kind of hoarse, I've still got a spring in my step,” he said.

Throughout his speech, the president pressed voters to vote early. His stump message is also getting more positive: Voters can trust him (the implicit suggestion, however: they can’t trust his opponent).

“After four years, you know me,” he said. “You know every single day when I get up in the morning, I’m thinking about you.”

He ended on this telling note: “If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and work with me, knock on some doors with me, make some phone calls with me, we’re going to win Cuyahoga County. We’re going to win Ohio. We’re going to win this election.”

As of last year, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 1.3 million of the state’s 11.5 million residents live in the Cleveland-area county, more than 11 percent of the entire state. (There are 87 other counties.)

Voters don’t register by party in Ohio, but parties count their totals based upon the last primary in which a registered voter participated. And in Cuyahoga, Democrats count 345,000 voters, and Republicans count about 126,000. Overall, as of Oct. 1, some 916,000 Cuyahoga residents were registered to vote.

What’s more, 30 percent of the county is African-American, whereas just 12.4 percent of the state is.

In the 2010 governor’s race, Democrat Ted Strickland lost narrowly to Republican John Kasich. But Strickland outperformed Kasich in Cuyahoga, 251,000-149,000, giving him a cushion of more than 100,000 votes there alone.

Four years ago, Obama more than doubled up on John McCain in Cuyahoga, winning 458,000 votes to the Republican’s nearly 200,000. How telling was this margin? Obama won the entire state by a smaller number of votes (206,830) than he won the county by (258,542).

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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