Challenged in Ohio Romney Turns to Slavery Ads

Mitt Romney in Ohio
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney

The key swing state of Ohio is officially a “tossup” capable of going to either President Barack Obama or his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, according to the Washington Post.

The president had previously enjoyed a solid lead in The Buckeye State, but a slew of new polls suggests that the race has tightened over the past month, even as the incumbent retains the slightest of edges.

With the move, there are now 95 electoral votes – including Ohio’s 18 – from eight states in the paper’s “tossup” category. President Obama has 237 electoral votes either solidly in his camp (186) or leaning his way (51). Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, has 206 electoral votes either solidly red (170) or leaning in his direction (36).

The state’s importance is why some groups have pulled out all the stops in an effort to squeeze out a victory. One super PAC has begun running an ad calling on African-Americans to vote against President Obama because Republican Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.

Cable viewers in several markets across the state are being treated to ads of this kind by an obscure self-described “alternative conservative” super PAC called the Empower Citizens Network. One of the group’s ads accuses Obama and Democrats of imploding the economy by forcing mortgage companies to lend to “unqualified borrowers” while the Soviet national anthem plays. Another promises welfare recipients that “Republicans can save your money source” by reducing regulations on business.

It wasn’t long ago that Obama was considered almost a lock in Ohio, with a high single-digit to low-double-digit edge in the state that is widely considered the swing state of the election. That surprisingly wide margin was attributed to a barrage of television advertising from President Obama, a state economy over-performing the sluggish national one and the sustained popularity of the auto bailout.

What’s changed since then? Well, let’s look at what hasn’t changed first. The state’s unemployment rate remains below the national average, holding at seven percent in September and the auto bailout remains popular, as evidenced by Romney’s weak attempts to muddy the waters the last few days.

What has changed is that Romney’s performance in the first debate in early October bumped him back into contention in the state – as it did in virtually every other swing state, as well as nationally – and the natural partisanship of the state started to assert itself.

The simple fact is that Ohio has been too close for too long to expect that Obama would win it by five points or more. Even the most optimistic pro-Obama types would have acknowledged that a month ago.

In the four presidential elections prior to 2008, Democratic candidates got 9,060,521 total votes in Ohio, as compared to 8,965,170 for the Republican candidates, according to calculations by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In 2008, despite routing John McCain nationally, Obama carried the state by just 262,224 votes out of more than 5.6 million cast.

No one expects Romney to underperform McCain in the state – both because he is far better funded than the Arizona senator was and the incumbent is far less popular than he was in 2008.

After reviewing all of the available public polling data as well as talking to operatives in both parties about the private polls they are privy to, we are convinced that Ohio is a 1-3 point race in President Obama’s favor at the moment.