Ohio has been ground zero of Campaign 2004 since Kerry wrapped up the Democratic nomination, swarmed over by the candidates, bombarded by television ads, and blanketed by organizers for both campaigns and America Coming Together (ACT), the Democratic 527 group. It also is critical to Kerry's hopes of winning the White House. Four years ago, Gore pulled out of Ohio weeks before the election to concentrate on Florida, only to lose by a surprisingly small three-point margin.
In the intervening four years, Ohio's job losses (230,000) have exceeded Bush's 2000 victory margin (167,000 votes). Kerry has made the economy the heart of his argument for change and seized on the Timken Co.'s decision to close three plants around Canton as evidence that Bush's policies have failed. The president stayed out of the state for almost three weeks, leading some Democrats to believe he had given up on Ohio, but in the closing days both he and Kerry are hopscotching through the state with celebrities -- Kerry with rocker Bruce Springsteen and the president along side California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Kerry appeared to be gaining momentum in the middle of last week, but a Cleveland Plain Dealer poll Friday gave Bush a narrow lead.
Voter registration is up almost 1 million voters in the state, and with it has come a series of pre-election disputes. Republicans are warning of fraud by Democratic registration groups, while Democrats are accusing the GOP of trying to suppress turnout in Cleveland and in minority communities. The state's provisional ballot law could tie up counting well beyond Tuesday, if the outcome from the day's tally is close or in dispute. Democrats are depending on a massive ground game to carry the day for Kerry.
Sen. George V. Voinovich (R) is coasting toward reelection, and an anti-gay marriage ballot initiative, despite opposition from Voinovich, Sen. Mike DeWine (R), Gov. Bob Taft (R) and many businesses, appears headed for victory.