An old adage states, "as Ohio goes, so goes the nation." Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney apparently believes that statement.
So far, Romney has trailed in all but one poll in the major battleground state, while sources close to the campaign claim the internals show a rosier picture. But whatever the numbers are, Romney's most recent announcement shows that he is in no way prepared to let up on the state in the crucial final week of the election.
In fact, starting this Friday, Romney will go all in. Literally. The Washington Post reports:
Nearly 100 governors, senators, congressmen, mayors, Olympic gold medalists and other Republican luminaries are scheduled to join Romney and his vice presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), in a Cincinnati suburb Friday night for a huge rally designed both to inject new energy into their Ohio campaign and to launch the Republican ticket on its final, frenetic three days of barnstorming before Election Day.
Kicking off what the Romney campaign is dubbing the “Romney-Ryan Real Recovery Road Rally,” the event will be held in West Chester, just outside of Cincinnati, a populous and potentially decisive swath of southwestern Ohio where Romney needs to drive up turnout within his conservative base and win over moderate suburban voters.
The campaign announced that almost every Romney surrogate – from the candidate’s wife, Ann, and their five sons to a number of Olympic athletes to a lengthy roster of elected officials, including Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee – will attend, underscoring the importance of Ohio’s 18 electoral votes to Romney’s calculus.
This rally, described by the post as a sequel to the Republican National Convention, will almost certainly generate a titanic amount of attention in the Buckeye State, and given its close proximity to election day, could mark a turning point for the race.
It also stands as the most recent show of the Romney campaign's fundraising flexibility in the final week of the election. And with such a short time before the moment of truth, Romney has had an increasing number of such muscle flexing moments. Earlier this week, the Romney campaign announced ad buys in the Philadelphia media market in Pennsylvania, a move interpreted by Democrats as desperation, by Republicans as a sign that Romney might expand the map, and by independent analysts such as Time's Mark Halperin as a strategic move designed to keep the Obama campaign fighting for its supposedly safe territory, rather than moving against Romney himself. Romney's first Pennsylvania ad in this new ad buy attacks Obama for damaging jobs in the coal industry.
Moreover, Romney has begun fighting back against the Obama campaign's attempts to hammer him for his opposition to the 2009 auto bailout. A controversial ad from earlier this week accuses Obama of lying about Romney's record on the auto industry, and of allowing Jeep manufacturing to be done in China. Fact-checkers have denounced the ad, and Democrats have labeled it desperate, much the same way Romney supporters and fact checkers denounced earlier Democratic ads attacking Romney's tenure at Bain for being factually false and overblown.
All of this simply underscores the wider point that, as many political analysts suggest, Ohio may shape up to be the ultimate bellwether this election cycle. Neither Obama nor Romney technically need the state to get to 270 electoral votes, but for both men, the calculus becomes much harder without it, with Obama having to deny Romney a win in virtually any other state, and Romney having to sweep two to three additional swing states to make up for Ohio (Wisconsin and New Hampshire being seen by some as the most likely).
The state remains maddeningly difficult to call. To this point, President Obama has enjoyed polling advantages in the state, though the size of those advantages has been a subject of controversy due to inconsistent polling. Turnout numbers for early voting have become the subject of controversy as well, rendering the state even more of a cipher. Both sides claim confidence, even as external measures show little to validate that confidence.
In short, this election cycle, Ohio is arguably the perfect swing state. And right now, it's anyone's guess which direction the wind will blow it, which may explain Romney bringing this much force to bear this late in the game.