In Ohio, It's All About Getting Supporters to the Polls

Key issues in Ohio are the economy and healthcare.

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Crowd awaits Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney at Bun's Restaurant in Delaware, Ohio. Photo by Rebekah Metzler

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"I am 62 years old and Obamacare scares the crap out of me," said Richard Ringo of Cincinnati, an Ohio Republican Party volunteer. He said he fears the idea of bureaucrats standing between him and the care he will receive when he's on Medicare.

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Pat Fry, a Cincinnati Democrat, has a different perspective on the president's signature legislation. She said she's a retired worker for the National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw cases from southern Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. There she encountered a coal miner who filed a suit against his employer who had stopped paying health insurance premiums for its employees, an alleged violation of their contract.

The case was winding its way towards a trial, when Fry received a call from the coal miner.

"This guy says, 'I just got diagnosed with a brain tumor, I have six months to live, I'm not going to have surgery if it takes all the money and my family is going to lose everything I've worked all my life for,'' she said. Fry said it was heartbreaking to hear someone decline potentially life-saving treatment because of the cost and she hoped Obamacare would prevent such instances in the future.

Fred Zolg, a long-time Republican Party volunteer from Sycamore Township, a Cincinnati suburb, said it seems the electorate overall is more polarized.

"I'm not doing any persuading," he said of his phone-bank calls. "In past elections, I can remember trying to do some. But in this one, I don't seem to have to do it."

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That change is the result of updated voter identification technology, which means he's just calling people who the Republicans or Romney campaign have determined are likely supporters, and a reflection of how fewer and fewer people remain truly 'undecided' in the current political atmosphere.

Zolg said what attracts him most to Romney is his plan to rein in entitlement spending.

"We need to get control of these entitlement programs and (vice presidential candidate) Paul Ryan's plan does it in a way that doesn't crush them, doesn't throw people out on the street, but would put them on a path to sustainability," he said.

The key to winning Ohio will be voter turnout – which campaign gets more of its supporters to cast their ballots - rather than tipping the balance with undecided voters, who are few and far between. It was only about 100,000 votes that separated President George W. Bush and John Kerry in 2004, out of more than 5.5 million cast.

Early voting has already begun in the state, with reports of Obama leading Romney among those who have already turned in their ballots, yet polls show Romney leading among voters who have yet to do so.

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  • Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at rmetzler@usnews.com.