The Swing States: Ohio Could be Crucial for Barack Obama and John McCain

The candidates are locked in a tight race in this battleground state.

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A week of early voting caused a new surge of campaigning throughout Ohio by John McCain and Barack Obama. Not that they needed any encouragement.

Ohio was crucial to President Bush's narrow victory over Democratic nominee John Kerry in 2004 and, with the national race so close, it will probably be crucial to the outcome this time. Both Obama and McCain know that Ohio's 20 electoral votes could put the next president over the top. And recent polls show a tight race. A SurveyUSA poll of likely voters in late September gave McCain a lead of 49 to 48 percent, while a Quinnipiac University poll, conducted after the debate, showed Obama ahead, 50 to 42.

What caused the latest political push, which included a barrage of TV ads and personal appearances by the candidates and their surrogates, was Ohio's decision to allow voters to simultaneously register and cast ballots during a one-week window at the start of October. As voting begins, the candidates are ratcheting up their rhetoric. In his first public appearance after the presidential debate September 26, McCain told a rally in Columbus that Obama supports tax-and-spend policies that "will deepen our recession." The choice, McCain declared, comes down to "country first or Obama first." For his part, Obama said McCain was resorting to an "angry diatribe" that wouldn't "make up for his erratic response to the greatest financial crisis of our time." He added that McCain is out of touch with everyday Americans.

Perhaps the most important issue is the economic downturn in the state, which has lost 200,000 jobs over the past eight years, especially in the manufacturing sector. In some ways, the Buckeye State endured its own financial meltdown long before Wall Street, and voters aren't happy about it. In the end, Ohio will probably go to the candidate who makes the best case that he can bring back the good times.