Why Mitt Romney can’t, won’t and shouldn’t give up on Ohio

October 31, 2012

The release of new poll numbers this morning that show President Obama not only at 50 percent but also with a five-point edge over Mitt Romney in Ohio has occasioned some chatter that the former Massachusetts governor should forsake the Buckeye State and look elsewhere for the 270 electoral votes he needs to be elected in six days.

Pish posh.

While it is true that there are paths to 270 electoral votes for Romney that don't include Ohio (wins in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado and either New Hampshire or Iowa being the most obvious), his march to the presidency is made significantly more viable if he can claim the Buckeye State.

And, there are any number of reasons to believe that Romney can't, won't and shouldn't give up on winning in Ohio. Here are three:

1. Romney has more money than he can spend: We like to think of this as Romney's "Brewster's Millions" problem. He, literally, has more money than he can probably spend between now and Nov. 6. (Remember that Romney raised $112 million in the first two weeks of October.) Romney's embarrassment of riches -- see what we did there? -- explains why he is going up on television in Pennsylvania.  And it's the main reason why there is absolutely no reason for him to pull back -- financially or otherwise -- in the state.  

2. It's hard to imagine Romney underperforms John McCain: In 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain came within 262,000 votes (out of 5.7 million cast) of beating President Obama in Ohio despite being heavily outspent and out-organized in the state -- not to mention the fact that the election nationwide was heavily tilted in Obama's direction. You can debate whether (and how much) Obama's Ohio organization is superior to Romney's this time around but it's impossible to debate that the financial and political landscape is far closer to parity now than it was four years ago.  "There is no way he will do worse than McCain in 2008, which means the state is in play," said one Republican consultant who has worked extensively in Ohio.  "If Romney can hit what he needs in the Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton media markets, the race will be very tight."

3. The race is (already) very close: A look at all of the available data on Ohio makes two things clear: a) Obama is ahead and b) that edge is decidedly slim. (While eight of the last nine polls in Ohio have shown Obama ahead, his average lead in the Real Clear Politics poll of polls is just over two points.)  Given the two factors we mentioned above, it makes no sense -- literally, none -- for Romney to take his foot off the gas in Ohio.  Would he rather be ahead by two points in the state rather than behind by two points? Yes.  Is erasing a two-point deficit totally doable? Also, yes.

The Romney campaign, likely employing much the same logic that we laid out above, is making very clear that Ohio will remain a major focus -- planning a huge rally in the state on Friday. And, earlier today, Romney traveling spokesman Kevin Madden predicted victory in the state.

Walking away from Ohio -- or even scaling back in the state -- is not something Romney can or should do. Any talk to the contrary is ridiculous and easily dismissed.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Chris Cillizza | October 31, 2012