President Obama was supposed to be winning Ohio in a walk. But he’s not. In fact, there are strong indicators that Mitt Romney is now well ahead in the state.
An early sign of the Romney rebound came from absentee ballot requests by early voters. The Washington Examiner reports, “While in 2008, 33 percent of the 1,158,301 absentee ballots went to Democrats and just 19 percent to registered Republicans, a 14-point gap, this year 29 percent are being requested by Democrats and 24 percent by Republicans, a five-point gap.”
The sea change is even more pronounced when individual Ohio counties are considered. “In Franklin County, home to Columbus, for example, a 2008 Democratic advantage of 5 percent is now a 5 percent GOP advantage,” the Examiner relates. “In Cuyahoga County, home to Democratic Cleveland, the GOP has shaved six points off the Democrat’s 2008 advantage. And in Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, Republicans have expanded their 2008 advantage to 13 percent.” Several Ohio counties are posting shifts of over twenty-five points toward Romney in absentee ballot requests.
This is stunning news, given the general assumptions about the shape of the race in the crucial battleground state of Ohio. But it’s even more significant when considering that Obama’s win in 2008 relied heavily upon a lopsided advantage in early votes. And the surprising shift of early voters to Romney was detected before Obama’s disastrous defeat in the first presidential debate.
Ned Ryun, president of the conservative American Majority Action, says a good deal of the phantom Democrat advantage has been dissipated by cracking down on voter fraud:
Ryun, whose group has opened voter registration efforts in Ohio and other swing states, said that the Buckeye State’s efforts to clean up voter rolls has also played a part in tightening the gap. He said that 450,000 dead voters and duplicate registrations have been nixed, and the majority were Democrats.
“Considering Obama won the state by 263,000 votes, Ohio’s cleaner rolls could make a big impact,” Ryun said. He added, “The five largest counties in Ohio have all shifted at least 6 percent and as much as 27 percent to the Republicans since 2008. While the polls show an Obama lead, these real votes–assuming registered voters vote for their candidate–demonstrate a Republican shift since 2008.”
(Emphasis mine.) A Rasmussen poll released on Friday shows Ohio narrowing to a one-point statistical tie, Obama 50 percent to Romney’s 49 percent. But the poll internals show 10 percent greater certainty among Romney voters. Romney is actually ahead 51 to 48 among highly enthusiastic voters (and 92 percent of Ohio voters say they fit that definition.) Among the equally remarkable 83 percent who say they’ve already made up their minds, Romney leads 52 to 48 percent. And that tally does factor in the effects of Wednesday night’s presidential debate.
This is all very different from the picture painted by polls only a few weeks ago, which gave Obama five to eight point leads in Ohio, well outside the margin of error. There is no reason to think Ohio is not a very active battleground state.