Buckeye Statis

Every four years, since at least the 2000 presidential election, the people of the Buckeye State have braced themselves.  They know that, as residents of a “battleground” state, they are going to be subjected to an onslaught of campaign ads and campaign appearances,  questions from pollsters and reporters who will clog the streets, and the disruption of traffic and everyday life that naturally comes along with regular visits from presidential and vice presidential candidates and their surrogates.

unnamedAnd, as part of that process, every four years politics becomes a much larger part of the daily lives of Ohioans than it would be otherwise.  People talk about the election with their friends, debate the choices, and post yard signs and maybe even attend a rally or volunteer for their candidate.  It’s as if, with the pressure of “battleground” status, Ohioans feel a certain obligation to the rest of the country and think hard about how to cast their vote.  And good-natured discussion with your friends, family, and colleagues about the choices was a big part of the whole decisional process.

This year, though, has a decidedly different feel to it.  There’s not as much activity from the campaigns.  One night last week both President Obama and Donald Trump were in Columbus for speeches, which resurrected some of the hectic feel to which we’ve become accustomed in presidential election years, but it also reinforced how things have changed since 2012, and 2008, and 2004:  in those years, visits from the competing campaigns were virtually a daily occurrence.  This year, not so much.

And this year the vibe of the people of Ohio is different, too.  There are still some true-believer advocates for both candidates in Ohio (although in my neck of the woods you won’t see any pro-Trump signs), but for the most part the population seems to be sad and depressed.  People don’t want to talk about the election, or the candidates, or anything having to do with politics.  The only passion comes when people start talking about how deeply flawed the candidates are, and how rotten the choice is, and how the process really needs to be changed so we don’t end up with such a terrible choice, ever again.  Sometimes this feeling comes out in strong words about what a disaster it would be if one candidate, or the other, were elected — but it is always strong words against a candidate, and never strong words for a candidate.  The only real energy seems to be negative energy.

What does this mean?  It means people talk about the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cleveland Indians even more than they would otherwise.  It means you try to avoid any mention of the election at lunch or at social gatherings, for fear of loosing another eruption of that terrible negative energy.  It means you really don’t want to live in a battleground state anymore, and would rather just forget about the whole thing.

What does it mean about how Ohioans will vote come Election Day?  I don’t know, but I do think I wouldn’t really trust the polls this year.  I think we are dealing with an electorate that is deeply guarded about their feelings and trying to work through a bleak, deep reservoir of disappointment and bile about parties, processes, and candidates.  I’m skeptical about how many Ohioans are sharing their real feelings with pollsters.  Pollsters just remind us about how the system has let us down.  Who really wants to share their true feelings with walking, talking reminders of a failed process?

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Is Mitt Romney Rising Or Falling In Ohio?

At yesterday’s Ohio State home game a Mitt Romney for President blimp circled Ohio Stadium and its vast tailgating areas and drew lots of comments from people favoring and opposing the Republican candidate.  It’s the first time I’ve seen a presidential campaign blimp at an OSU game.

The blimp is an apt metaphor for the overriding question about Battleground Ohio:  is Mitt Romney rising, or deflating?

As always seems to be the case in this unpredictable swing state, the signs are decidedly mixed.  Romney held a huge rally Friday night north of Cincinnati, attracting thousands of people who patiently stood outside listening to speeches on a cold evening.  On the other hand, the final Columbus Dispatch mail poll of Ohio voters, released just this morning, has President Obama up by two points, 50-48.  However, that lead is well within the poll’s 2.2 % margin of error and represents a huge comeback for Romney since the last Dispatch poll, taken before the debates, in which Romney trailed by nine points.  But, the poll shows that Obama has a huge lead among people who have already voted.  On the other hand, the poll is based upon the statements of those who returned it, who represent only 15% of the ballots that were sent out in the first place.

Get the picture?  It’s whisker-close here in the Buckeye State.

My unscientific sense is that the Hurricane Sandy episode helped President Obama stem the Romney momentum that had built since the first debate.  One hurricane, however, isn’t going to be decisive.  From talking to fans craning their necks at that Romney blimp, I think most people have made up their minds.  There may be undecideds ruminating on how to cast their ballot on Tuesday, but the vast majority of Ohioans are ready to be done with this election.  That means that the outcome will hinge on turnout, and the “ground games” we’ve heard so much about over the past few months.  Not coincidentally, both candidates and their proxies are here today and tomorrow, hoping to whip their supporters into a turnout frenzy.

The forecast for Tuesday, incidentally, is for clear skies and temperatures in the 40s — and no storms to discourage people from going to the polls.

A “National” Election, Fought Only In A Handful Of States

Our “national” elections have become increasingly odd.  Many states are written off by the campaigns from the start as being solidly in one column or the other.  Residents of those states never see candidates (except for the occasional quick fundraising trip) and don’t have to endure the avalanche of TV commercials, robocalls, in-person visits, and candidate motorcades.

If you look at the RealClearPolitics electoral map, you see huge states that have become “flyover country” for the campaigns.  In California, Illinois, and New York — three of our most populous states — the President is far ahead.  The average of recent California polls, for example, has the President up by 14 points.  I’m sure many people in those states wonder what the heck the fuss is about; they go about their daily lives and rarely encounter people who support the other guy.  The same is true, but in the other direction, in states like Texas — where the most recent poll, taken at the end of September, has Mitt Romney leading by 19 points — and across a huge swath of the South and Midwest.  People in those states no doubt are similarly astonished that President Obama is even keeping it close.

That’s why it is so curious to live here in “Battleground Ohio.”  Everyone is focused on us.  The Washington Post carried a story yesterday calling Ohio the “Bull’s-Eye State.”  The National Review website has a special section called “Battleground Ohio” that features stories exclusively about Ohio.  The National Journal running total of ad spending shows that more than $160 million has been spent in Ohio alone, and as the last week before the election approaches the spending of the President, Mitt Romney, and their supporters are spiking.

Here in Ohio, you can’t watch any TV program without seeing a host of political ads.  Yesterday, in our tiny sliver of northeast Franklin County, located in the middle of the state, we had campaign workers visit our door (we used hyped-up Penny and Kasey as an excuse not to talk to them) and today we’ll probably see more.  The candidates keep coming, and coming, and coming, holding rallies on airport tarmacs and in high school football stadiums.  We’ve grown used to the ads, the stopped traffic as candidate limousines barrel past, and all of this attention.

I do wonder, however:  what is the reality in this supposedly national election?  It is the frenzied activity in Ohio and a handful of other “battleground states,” or is it the quiet inactivity in the vast majority of the country?  How can an election produce any kind of meaningful mandate when the experience of voters during the campaign is so profoundly, diametrically different?

A Taste Of Battleground Ohio

Those of you loyal Webner House readers who don’t live in battleground states are being deprived of the opportunity to enjoy endless campaign ads.  As a public service, we hereby offer those who don’t live in the Buckeye State the opportunity to watch two new campaign ads — one from each campaign, with the Obama campaign ad above and the Romney campaign ad below — that will be played, over and over and over again, at every commercial break, from now until Election Day.

Welcome to the world of Battleground Ohio!

Dodging Incoming Fire In Battleground Ohio

Here in Battleground Ohio, we’re hunkered down.  For months, we’ve been battered by the attack ads, the ceaseless motorcades, and the haphazard, inexplicable appearance of a TV anchor or minor celebrity.

But now, with the end of the campaign in sight, it looks like the fight over Battleground Ohio is going to get even more fierce — and that is a scary proposition for those of us in the field of fire.  The ad spending in the Buckeye State has been nothing short of extraordinary, as the National Journal‘s ongoing chart indicates, and it obviously is growing.  The reason is that the roster of “swing” states seems to be narrowing, but Ohio remains squarely in the crosshairs.  With Mitt Romney’s recent surge, the Republican ticket is increasingly focused on Ohio as a state that might be the difference maker, and the Obama campaign is doing whatever it can to hold onto our state’s precious electoral votes.

So here in Battleground Ohio, we’re steeled for the next wave of attack.

We recognize that if you are going to walk outside, you have to be prepared to dart across a no-man’s land of pollsters, candidates flipping burgers at your favorite diner, random campaign “surrogates” cluttering every street corner, and insistent campaign volunteers.  We understand that the next call on our phone will almost certainly be part of a broad-based robocall assault and that the next commercial on the football game will be part of a new offensive.  We know that we can’t express any political opinion without catching some serious flak from friends and colleagues who support the other guy.  We’re tired and shellshocked, and when you walk down the street you see fellow citizens with that grim-faced, wild-eyed, had-enough-with-campaigns-and-ready-to-snap-at-any-moment look about them.  We just want the fighting to stop so we can be relieved of our hellish duty and go back to our normal lives.

I’d say we’re all in our foxholes, but some of my Ohioan friends on the left might take offense at being associated with a TV news channel they despise.