Share

POLITICS

York: With week to go, Team Romney is upbeat about Ohio

By |
Photo - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Avon Lake, Ohio (AP photo)
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Avon Lake, Ohio (AP photo)
Politics,Byron York,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

Jason Gloeckner, of Galena, Ohio, never told his wife, Jean, that he voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Never, that is, until a few days ago, when I asked as we waited for Mitt Romney to appear at a rally outside a Columbus-area steel-processing company.

"Last time I voted for Obama," Gloeckner told me.

"You did?" said Jean, standing nearby, a look of astonishment on her face.

"Whoa!" said their friend J.P. Valiulis, who had joined them in waiting for Romney. "The truth comes out."

"He was a good talker!" said Jason, trying to justify his vote for Obama.

I asked Jean whether she knew her husband had voted for the Democrat. "No!" she said. "We're a house divided now."

Jason admits he didn't pay much attention to politics four years ago. Since then, though, he's been repeatedly disappointed by Obama. He was leaning toward Romney but still undecided until the first debate in early October. That did it; like his wife, Jason is all in for Romney now.

Gloeckner has joined what appears to be a growing number of Ohio voters moving toward a vote for the Republican ticket. On Monday, pollster Scott Rasmussen released a new survey showing Romney leading Obama in Ohio 50 percent to 48 percent -- the first poll to show the challenger in front. Over the weekend, a poll done for Ohio's top newspapers showed the race dead even, with both candidates at 49 percent.

Of course, many polls have shown Obama with a slight lead in Ohio, but the newer surveys suggesting a tightening race have Romney forces confident that something is going on in the state. On Monday morning, the campaign sent out a new strategy memo from Scott Jennings, the Ohio campaign director, that used the word "momentum" six times. Team Romney sees it everywhere in Ohio: polls, endorsements, early voting.

And in the people coming to Romney's rallies. Jennings attended the rally at the steel-processing company, and as we talked while waiting for Romney to speak, a woman came over. "I'm taking it very, very personally that it's going to come down to the state I live in," the woman, Regina Gardner, of Columbus, said. "I'm doing a lot of volunteer work, I'm helping to get out the vote, I'm knocking on doors, I'm calling people, I'm going to be a poll watcher on Election Day. I'm trying to get my friends to realize, you can't just complain; you've got to do more."

After a pause, Gardner asked, "Is he going to win?"

I gestured toward Jennings and said, "Ask this man."

"We're winning," Jennings told Gardner. "Believe me, we're winning."

The Romney campaign is pinning its hopes on Ohio's independent voters. "The last five major statewide races in Ohio, the candidate who won independents won the race," Jennings explained. "Rob Portman, John Kasich, Sherrod Brown, Ted Strickland, Barack Obama -- they all have one thing in common. They won independents."

Pollster Rasmussen agrees. "I expect the partisan breakdown in Ohio to be fairly even, roughly the same number of Republicans as Democrats," he said in an email exchange. "If that's the case, whoever wins Independent voters wins the election."

The problem is, it's not clear who's winning independents. In the two polls that have energized Romney forces, Rasmussen and the Ohio newspaper poll, Obama actually had a slight lead among independents, but one that fell well within the margin of error. Team Romney argues that independents favor Romney on the most important issue in the race, the economy. That's true but doesn't prove much, at least at the moment.

Still, there just seems to be more enthusiasm on the Republican side in Ohio. "I've seen a lot more energy since that debate," said Rick Baumbach, of Lewis Center, Ohio, as he waited for Romney. "The people who knocked on my door, they said, 'I went and signed up to volunteer after the debate.' "

"I think it's increasing," said Bob Scherer, of Delaware, Ohio, when I asked whether enthusiasm had leveled off since the debate.

"There's a lot of excitement," said Bernie Skubak, of Powell, Ohio.

In his polling, Rasmussen has noted that Romney is doing a little better with Ohio Democrats than Obama is doing with Ohio Republicans. In the end, Romney has to change minds -- like Jason Gloeckner's -- in a state that Obama won by five points in 2008. Whatever Romney's momentum, there's not much time left.

Byron York, The Examiner's chief political correspondent, can be contacted at byork@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears on Tuesday and Friday, and his stories and blog posts appear on washingtonexaminer.com.

View article comments Leave a comment