On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, guests agreed that in order to win on November 6, both Romney and Obama should focus on Ohio. Recent polls show Obama at 49% over Romney’s 48%. Only two weeks ago polls showed Obama leading with 51% to 45%. Why should the Obama campaign be worried? It is losing momentum in a state in which it was previously favored. In a race that could come down to razor thin margins, Ohio’s 18 electoral votes could be the deciding factor for either candidate.
Ohio is the only state to vote for the winner of the last 12 presidential elections. It can also be a microcosm for the country as a whole. With its mix of industrial and agricultural roots, the state embodies "middle America", and it swings between parties in every election. Its unemployment rate is at 7%, arguably thanks to the resurgent auto industry that has saved its manufacturing sector. Yet there are parts of Ohio still struggling through sluggish economic growth, which could explain why the gap between Obama and Romney has tightened in the last two weeks.
Both campaigns have visited Ohio a combined total of 48 times since the beginning of September. They have built up their organizational and campaign infrastructure to turn out as many voters as possible. They have also flooded the airwaves with countless advertisements, without even accounting for the influx of third party spending. Each campaign knows how crucial it is to win this state, and both campaigns are doubling down.
There is little likelihood that Romney can win the election without winning Ohio. Even if Romney wins Florida’s 29 electoral votes, based on current polling data, he would lose by 11 electoral votes. Obama has 277 electoral votes based on current polling data, but he could pull off a win without Ohio if he can win the smaller battleground states.
Therefore, the stakes for Romney are considerably higher. There is no doubt that his campaign will concentrate on Ohio in the closing weeks. With two weeks left in the election, and the last presidential debate on Monday night, there is still time for polls to change and for predictions to be made.
Yet there is little doubt of the most important battleground state on November 6. If Romney or Obama wins Ohio, then they will win the election.