Obama, Romney Set Sights on Battleground Ohio

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  April 19, 2012 at 9:14 AM EST

President Obama; photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

From left, David Palmer, Bronson Hardwood and Duane Sutton meet with President Obama during a round table discussion Wednesday at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

President Obama marked his 20th trip to Ohio on Wednesday, illustrating that while the path to re-election might go through multiple states, this crucial battleground will remain ground zero for his contest with Mitt Romney.

For his part, Romney will make his first visit to the Buckeye State since becoming the all-but-certain Republican nominee, holding an event Thursday in Lorain not far from where the president spoke a day earlier.

With the men still closely matched nationally, each campaign is doing the electoral math and forging a strategy that gives him options for the fall. (I’ll take the Southwest for $200. What are states with strong populations of Hispanic voters?)

But as the New York Times’ Sabrina Tavernise and Jeff Zeleny reported Thursday, Mr. Obama and Romney face major hurdles in Ohio.

[P]utting together a winning strategy in Ohio will be a mighty challenge for both men, given that more than half of the state’s electorate — about 54 percent, according to the Brookings Institution — is white and working class, a group that both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney have had a particularly hard time connecting with.

“Ohio is really ground zero for the white working-class voting bloc,” said William H. Frey, the senior demographer at Brookings. “That’s the key in Ohio.”

The sentiments of this group, loosely defined as whites without a four-year college degree in the middle and lower parts of the country’s earnings bracket, reflect feelings of economic uneasiness nationwide even as the overall economic picture in the country brightens. Many have not felt the effects of the modest recovery that has lifted the economy here in recent months, leaving them unenthusiastic about the president. At the same time, Mr. Romney is seen as awkward, unsympathetic and distant, a fundamentally uninspiring alternative.

The Times has more here about how the economy is affecting Romney’s poll standings.

Politico’s Alex Burns outlines the campaigns’ tactics as they try to reach those all-important “persuadable” voters, who happen to be on opposite ends of the spectrum: the blue-collar working class and upscale, educated voters.

He writes:

Obama and Romney have tended to overperform among better-educated, upper-income voters. They have both struggled to connect with the working class. Obama had a hard time overcoming Hillary Clinton’s downscale advantage in the 2008 cycle and Romney repeatedly lost the category to Rick Santorum in this year’s GOP primary.

Complicating matters further, the two demographic groups — upscale and blue-collar white voters — can’t necessarily be courted with the same message; a populist pitch that motivates the blue-collar vote may alienate upper-income voters just as strongly. Consider it an exercise in symmetrical warfare: a campaign in which the two parties’ nominees are equally hobbled with the sliver of voters who are actually persuadable.

As the race to 270 gets more precise, visit the NewsHour’s Vote 2012 Map Center to see if Mr. Obama and Romney can win on Nov. 6 without Ohio.

QUINNIPIAC POLL

President Obama holds a 46 percent to 42 percent lead over Romney in a poll released Thursday by Quinnipiac University, the latest indication the two candidates are in for a close general election fight.

Romney received better marks on the economy (47 percent to 43 percent), creating jobs (45-42), gas prices (44-31) and immigration (43-39).

The president, meanwhile, rated better on women’s issues (52 percent to 32 percent) and foreign policy (46-40).

There was no clear favorite when respondents were asked which candidate would do a better job on the issues of health care and taxes.

The Quinnipiac survey also showed a gender gap found in other polls released this week, with the president holding a 49 percent to 39 percent advantage over Romney among women.

UN VOTO IMPORTANTE

On Wednesday’s NewsHour, Gwen Ifill spoke with the Republican National Committee’s Hispanic outreach director, Bettina Inclan, and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez about each party’s plans to draw support from Latino voters in the November election.

Both sides plan to zero in on swing states — Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado — and big issues such as unemployment, health care and immigration.

The two came to NewsHour on the same day that the Obama campaign launched ads that featured the president speaking Spanish.

Watch the discussion here or below:

Politico reports that the Republican firm Resurgent Republic has come up with an infographic showcasing an opportunity for the GOP with the growing number of Hispanics. The group’s site highlights that, “Every month for the next two decades, 50,000 Hispanics will turn 18.”

As it stands right now, the president holds a significant advantage over Romney with Hispanic voters. The aforementioned Quinnipiac poll puts him up 40 points — 64 percent to 24 percent — and other surveys have shown an even larger margin in the president’s favor.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • The Washington Post’s Dan Balz talked with a dozen Florida voters (Republicans and GOP-leaning independents) about Romney.

  • Ted Nugent will be meeting with Secret Service about his off-color comments critiquing the president.

  • Rick Santorum strategist John Brabender told Andrea Mitchell that the former candidate is starting to discuss a possible meeting with Romney in Philadelphia, NBC reported. “I would say as Rick Santourm’s advisor that it would be helpful to the process if he did play a major role in the convention,” Brabender said.

  • Romney told an Ohio radio station that all the fuss over Seamus is silly. “This campaign is ultimately going to become about jobs not dogs,” he said.

  • Female voters aren’t monolithic, CBS finds.

  • “George Clooney’s dinner party on May 10th in Los Angeles is shaping up to be the party of the year. The guest of honor is President Barack Obama,” Peter Nicholas writes for the Wall Street Journal.

  • Texas Rep. Ron Paul is spending money on a 30-second spot to air in Rhode Island ahead of its Tuesday primary. He drew big crowds to an event in the state Wednesday.

  • Chris Cillizza and Rachel Weiner write about the rumor that just won’t die. No, Hillary Clinton will not be running for vice president.

OUTSIDE THE LINES

TOP TWEETS

NewsHour reporter-producer Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama welcomes the BCS National Champion University of Alabama to the White House at 2:20 p.m. and attends a campaign fundraiser at the W Hotel in Washington at 4:20 p.m.

  • Vice President Joe Biden attends three fundraisers: in Phoenix at 2:30 p.m. and in Los Angeles at 7:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney holds a campaign event in Lorain, Ohio, at 1:15 p.m.

  • Ron Paul holds a town hall in Ithaca, N.Y., at 7 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich addresses the New York State Republican Committee at 7:30 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers and @kpolantz.