Mitt Romney’s Ohio Obstacle
Obama’s cash advantage and GM bailout may help him, but Romney is punching back hard.

Mitt Romney campaigns in Ontario, Ohio, September 10, 2012.


Robert Costa

Mitt Romney faces serious challenges in Ohio, a critical swing state. The economy there is improving, and President Obama is leading in state polls. On the ground, Romney has a large and well-organized campaign, but the question is whether it will be enough.

“It’s a tough state and it has always been a tough state,” says Ed Rollins, a Republican consultant and Ronald Reagan’s former campaign manager. “This year, it’s going to come right down to the wire, and Romney is going to have to push all of the right buttons to win there.”

Over the weekend, Politico reported that internal Republican polling in Ohio now “leans clearly in Obama’s favor, with a high single-digit edge.” Romney advisers pushed back. “Don’t get too worked up about the latest polling,” wrote Neil Newhouse, Romney’s pollster, in a memo to reporters. “While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar-high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly.”

Still, the Obama campaign appears to be holding steady in Ohio, whose 18 electoral votes are potentially integral to a Romney victory. Following the Democratic National Convention, Obama has maintained a three-point lead in the Real Clear Politics average of Buckeye State polls.

In one poll, Obama’s lead has climbed even higher. A recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, a firm associated with Democrats, shows Obama at 50 percent, leading Romney by five percentage points. That is the fifth time this year that Obama has hit 50 percent in an Ohio poll.

Romney, for his part, has yet to reach 50 percent in any Ohio poll. He has visited the state numerous times, including a visit to north-central Ohio on Monday, but his support there remains relatively flat, hovering near 45 percent, according to the RCP average.

Romney did see a slight bounce in Ohio immediately following the Republican National Convention, when a Gravis Marketing poll showed him up by three percentage points, but that was quickly erased in recent days. Gravis’s latest has Obama up by four percentage points.

Republican strategists credit Obama’s Ohio momentum to the president’s cash advantage. According to the Associated Press, $112 million has been spent on televised political ads in Ohio this cycle, which is one-sixth of total TV spending during the presidential campaign.

So far, Obama and liberal super PACs have “outpaced” Republicans in Ohio, the AP reports, and last week, Democrats outspent Romney by a 2-to-1 margin. As Jack Torry of the Columbus Dispatch recently mused, “You would assume Obama is running to be governor of Ohio.”

Over the past three months, Obama’s campaign “spent roughly $20 million to run commercials nearly 40,000 times here,” the New York Times reported this month, while the Romney campaign “spent more than $8 million to run more than 14,000 ads during the same period.”

“We’re still living in the convention bubble,” says former Minnesota congressman Vin Weber, a Romney adviser. “Obama has spent huge sums and that has helped him in Ohio, probably more than in any other state. Now, Romney has the financial advantage. He will come back.”