Kingmakers and Heartbreakers: Ohio’s Crucial Independent Voters

Do not trust anyone who claims to know what is going to happen in Ohio on Election Day.  The sheer number of variables in play here are plenty, and even the most experienced political observers are having difficulty decoding the Buckeye State.

Polling the electorate in Ohio is tough, and many public polls over-sample Democrats enough to skew results beyond their stated margin of error percentages.  This is nothing new for Ohio, though, as typical polling of just about any race in Ohio will show whether the election is an issue race or an election of officials.

At the time of this writing, the RealClearPolitics average has Obama up by just over 2 points but that includes a number of polls that are Democrat-heavy.  Regardless, the RCP number is probably a good measure of where the race actually is in this state.

There are two polls that seem to have figured out how to get realistic numbers in Ohio.  Rasmussen Reports’ most recent poll shows the race tied and has been within the margin of error for months.  The Ohio Poll by the University of Cincinnati is the other but they have not released a poll on this race since late August when they declared the race a toss-up.

There is, however, one piece of good news for the Romney campaign that seems to have been overlooked by most commentators covering the race in Ohio.  In all 19 of the public polls released since the first debate, Mitt Romney has gained and held the lead among Ohio’s independents.  Ohio’s independent voters have determined the winner in at least five recent major elections in the Buckeye State and are considered to be kingmakers or heartbreakers in any election here.

Polling only tells part of the story.  Republicans in Ohio tell of great strides being made on the ground and momentum appears to have shifted in their direction.  A recently released memo from the Romney campaign on the state of the race in Ohio highlighted a few items that illustrate that shift.

Ohio Republicans are outperforming their share of voter registration in absentee requests and early voting by over 8.5 points thus far.  They also claim to have closed the gap in early voting and absentee voting in the last two weeks as well by outperforming in Ohio’s largest counties.  This demonstrates that Republicans are impacting the momentum of the voting as Election Day approaches.

3.7 million voter contacts have been made by Republican volunteers on the phone and 1.8 million door knocks on the ground signify a vast improvement over 2008 totals.  Consider that Ohio’s Republicans have knocked on 21 times as many doors and made three times as many phone calls in Ohio compared to 2008.  They are expecting to knock on the two millionth door and make their sixth millionth voter contact since May.

One other factor that may have a significant impact this cycle is a holdover from the previous election.  Ohio’s labor unions came out in force against the Republicans’ attempt to reform public sector pensions and flaunted their power in a crushing defeat of Issue 2, a statewide referendum on Senate Bill 5.  It appears, however, that the Obama campaign failed to encourage continuing that momentum, as the unions have largely been silent this time, perhaps in part because of the administrations ongoing War on Coal, which has heavily impacted the southeastern part of Ohio.

Romney’s debate performance and Obama’s mishandling of the Benghazi terrorist assassination of our ambassador are two things driving momentum in Ohio.  In a purely unscientific survey of Ohio voters on Facebook, jobs and the economy still rank as top issues of concern, but a few sleeper issues have emerged as well.

Few people would suspect that national security and foreign affairs weigh on Ohio voters, but it is real, and if the sentiment expressed in these discussions are widespread across Ohio, Obama’s performance as Commander-in-Chief has been a dismal disappointment and potentially fatal for his re-election hopes in Ohio.

Tea Party concerns were also well represented in my survey.  The unrestrained growth of government and government spending were common themes, as were concerns about the national debt and the diminishing value of the dollar.  There is a wide mistrust of government in general and of this administration in particular that is motivating Tea Party activists in Ohio to work hard to defeat President Obama at the polls.

The sleeper issue that might have the most impact, however, is energy.  Whether it is the price of gasoline or the Environmental Protection Agency meddling in coal and oil policy, a significant number of Ohio voters will be affected by this election; the aftermath of which will likely determine whether thousands of energy sector jobs materialize in Ohio or not.

Ohio voters are well aware of the consequences of their vote.  Historically, no Republican has ever captured the White House without winning Ohio and this is another election season where Ohioans will likely decide the race.  The winner of Ohio’s 18 electoral votes will be whichever side maximizes turnout on Election Day.  Republican counties to watch are Butler, Hamilton, and Warren, all in the southwestern part of the state.  Democratic counties to watch are Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Montgomery.  If turnout is higher than 2008 in the red counties and we see an increase in Republican turnout in the blue counties, then it will be a good night for Mitt Romney.

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  • Banastre Tarleton

    Obama has well and truly ''organized '' the state of Ohio in the most professional , methodical , high tech election campaign in US history ;do you really believe those unionized auto workers are going to vote for Romney ?….he's clearly going to win Ohio and virtually every other swing state outside of the Ole South

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      Voters have this pesky habit of thinking for themselves when secured into a voting booth.

      And Ohio has been hit hard by Obama's policies. People know that, even if they know admitting it ahead of time will be used to smear them by their unions.

    • lcs

      Having grown up in SW Ohio in a union house (Teamsters), union members may be blue-collar, but are attentive and know GM will begin transferring their jobs out of the country – if they don't go under sooner rather than later. Few union members would run the risk of admitting to polls they are going to vote for Romney. Romney made a great case for gas and coal, and the newly discovered increased natural gas fields in NE Ohio is a huge issue. Obama has never faced an opponent such as Romney, as he was sliced and diced in all 3 debates. And if you want to continue drinking the KoolAid, just look at the post-debate swing with women and indies, not to mention the favorability numbers.

  • John Seet

    The majority of voters in Ohio ain't stupid. They know that a vote for Obama is a vote for gay marriages, lifestyle and filthy sexual practices. They will not choose the path to eternal perdition. Romney to take Ohio!

  • Karen Best

    I find it interesting that none ( that I've spoken too or heard from) of the dozens of leaders of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, representing tens ? of thousands of conservative thinkers all across the state, have ever participated in a poll. @John Seet- almost none of us are focusing on social issues. Economy, energy, healthcare freedom, religious freedom and yes the Middle East (and the Benghazi scandal in particular), are what is taking center stage. @Banastre Tarleton, He's not "clearly" going to win any of them : )

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      Conservative leadership?
      I think I can feel a 'look, over there! A squirrel!" moment coming on.

      They don't want us to realize that level headed people are speaking out anyplace, let alone someplace as pivotal as Ohio.

    • Banastre Tarleton

      And when Obama wins , and he's clearly going to , folks like you will create the most bizarre conspiracy theory to explain it all …you don't have enough sense to read between the lines and cut through the fog of political spin sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh

      Obama's going to win around 290 ECVs , but it will not even dawn upon you until he's back in the oval office ,with his feet upon the desk, smoking a large cigar hmm…hmmmmm…hmmmmmmmmm

      • Fritz

        Funny how I never saw any comments from you until about a month and a half ago. So yard signs don’t matter, those are so yesterday are they? Who are you trying to fool here? In ’08 there were religious style revival rallies, T shirts, bumper stickers, giant North Korean style posters proclaiming the coming of “The One”. But now apparently everyone still adores the man but can’t be bothered putting up a lousy yard sign? Where did you learn to do spin, the Baghdad Bob school of B.S. We all know that you are a partisan hack, DNC election committee,, media matters, it doesn’t matter because you are still full of manure.
        Funny the suggestion about Obama smoking a big cigar, so you admit that he’s got something lese in common with Castro?

  • Tarleton

    For those of you wondering why there's so few Obama signs it's because they are so retro and not worth the effort …..Team Obama use the latest cutting edge technology to target specific voters and then send volunteers to knock on their doors , register them and then take them to the polls to vote
    Obama has approaching this like a methodical and precise military campaign and is 4 years in the planning with 800 campaign offices nationwide compared to Romney's 300
    In comparison , Romney is amateurish , half assed , underfunded and merely following in Obama's wake and is surely going to lose in virtually every swing state outside of the South …organization and preparation in politics , as in war , leads to victory

    • lcs

      800 vs 300? Really impressed by this? Sounds like Obama (the community organizer) more is better vs. Romney (the businessman) lean and mean. I've had 2 sets of out-of-state college kids for Romney knock on my door (SW Ohio) during the past 3 weeks. There are 40 million Tea Party members ( recall how the MSM pronounced them "dead") running silently waiting for election day. Dem registration is down 250,000 vs 2008. Having worked both Bush campaigns, the GOTV effort this election is AWESOME. We (conservatives) don't go around publicly thumping our chests. Romney will take Ohio.

      • Tarleton

        You're deluding yourself …Obama will win every swing state outside of the Ole South …the so called Romney momentum is hot air , hype and spin

  • Banastre Tarleton

    Here is a fine example of the Obama re-election machine at work in Ohi0

    Gaylon Vickers
    2:05 PM UT
    I am not speaking from partisanship. This is what I saw when I voted about 3 p.m. Oct. 25 at the only early voter location in Franklin County, Ohio. If Romney has a ground game there, I didn't see it. There were 6 Obama volunteers in the parking lot near the center, wearing blue "OBAMA CAMPAIGN" T-shirts. The GOP presence was a small travel trailer, marked Republican, but I didn't see anyone at or near the trailer who was ID'd as a Romney staffer or as a Republican staffer. When I parked, a 7–passenger van was unloading brown and black people. When I left about 15 minutes later, a different 7-passenger van was unloading brown and black people. I saw about 5 cabs bringing minority voters to the center. Inside the center, I was one of only about 6 Caucasians among 100 early voters. Maybe 55 were black, 15 Hispanic and the rest were from different immigrant groups (we have a huge immigrant community in Columbus, with the latest wave being Somali and Eretraian

    • lcs

      At 3:00 p.m. on any given weekday (October 25 fell on Thursday), Romney voters are at work. Nice try though.

  • burt

    seen somewhere else:
    " THE GANGSTER PRESIDENT JUST CAN’T PLAY ANYTHING STRAIGHT – EARPHONE DISCOVERED DURING THIRD DEBATE."
    Somehow, I am not surprised…..

  • jmm64

    Ohio— Get out the vote for Mitt !! Each of us must bring voters to the polls to vote for Mitt !

  • Schlomotion

    I "know what is going to happen in Ohio on Election Day. " Two very similar candidates are going to be close in the polls. One of them is going to win. America will slip a little further down the totem pole.

  • NAHALKIDES

    " Democratic counties to watch are Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Montgomery."

    True – they need to be watched for fraud. Never underestimate the Democrats' ability to steal an election they can't win. Also, watch out for convicts voting illegally, and let's hope the legal felon vote (felons not incarcerated can legally vote in Ohio) is small, because felons always vote Democratic.

  • BLJ

    Looks like the usual Obama loving toadies are here trying to spin. Obama is in deep doo doo and even he knows it. Having to face an opponent who actually stands up for himself as well as having a piss poor record to defend is making life tough for the Chosen One.

    Anyone who for votes for this guy this time around is as dumb as a box of rocks. He does not care about anything other than stroking his oversized ego and appeasing his American hating allies. Hubris can be a you know what.

  • DebbieOhio912

    I was born, raised and stil live in Cuyahoga County (Ohio). The union grip here is tremendous. (For clarity, SB5 was aimed at public sector unions, which died a painful death due to firemen and teacher whining.) I am dying to ask these union punks if they will stand up for their so-called brothers and sisters in the coal mines. Unity, right?

  • DebbieOhio912

    How about Obama campaign workers setting up a "free food" table in the front the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to draw in registrants. Gee, I thought that kind of thing was illegal…..