What’s Happening In Ohio

All eyes are on Ohio, which Obama probably needs to win to have a chance of re-election. Currently most of the polls show Ohio a dead heat. Today the Romney campaign sent out this memo on the current state of play in the Buckeye State:

October 25, 2012

To: Interested Parties

Fr: Rich Beeson, National Political Director, Romney for President
Scott Jennings, Ohio State Director

Re: State of the Ohio Presidential Campaign

With less than two weeks to go, the Romney-Ryan ticket remains poised to win Ohio’s 18 electoral votes because our ticket has more enthusiasm, has a better ground game, is leading among independents by a wide margin, and is crippling President Obama’s early voting strategy by significantly slicing into his 2008 margin of victory in that category. Further, a steady upward trajectory among key voting blocs indicates a close race, but one that is unmistakably moving in Mitt Romney’s direction.

Some public polling shows the true nature of the race. Rasmussen this week showed it tied at 48%, Suffolk tied at 47%, and Angus-Reid tied at 48%. Our view is that the race is a dead heat with Romney on an unmistakable upward track.

Other public polling continues to vastly overstate Democrat partisan advantages in Ohio. For example, the Time Magazine poll this week shows a nine-point advantage for Democrats in party identification, which would be a stronger Democratic turnout than in either of the last two presidential campaigns in the state. A reasonable look at the political climate tells us the partisan boundaries of this race will be fought somewhere between R+5 (2004) and D+8 (2008). Anything more than D+8 shows a survey to be vastly out of touch with today’s political reality – Obama isn’t as popular, his base isn’t as energized, and Mitt Romney’s supporters are poised to shatter voter contact records in Ohio.

One thing all the public surveys have in common is that Governor Romney is winning among Independent voters. In the 19 polls released in the public realm since the first debate, Governor Romney leads among Independents in 15 of them (two did not include data among INDs). And, if you take an average of his lead among Independents in those 15 polls, the margin is 12 points (49-37).

The Time Magazine poll shows Governor Romney trailing by 5 points statewide, but winning Independent voters by a 53%-38% margin. That’s just not possible. Write it down – if Mitt Romney wins independent voters by 15 points in Ohio, he’ll be the next President of the United States.

This is a point I have made over and over. There is actually a remarkable degree of consistency in the polls this year. Where they vary is in sample composition, but virtually all of the competently-run polls show Romney winning independents by a wide margin, not just in Ohio but nationally. If Romney wins independents by a large margin, there is no way he will lose the election.

Looking back at the past five major statewide races in Ohio, the candidate who wins Independents has won the state:

2006 Governor (Blackwell-Strickland):
Result: 37-61, Independents in Exit Poll: 26-69

2006 US Senate (DeWine-Brown):
Result: 44-56, Independents in Exit Poll: 35-65

2008 President (McCain-Obama):
Result: 47-52, Independents in Exit Poll: 44-52

2010 Governor (Kasich-Strickland):
Result: 49-47, Independents in Exit Poll: 53-37

2010 US Senate (Portman-Fisher):
Result: 57-39, Independents in Exit Poll: 66-27

Another key indicator of where this race is headed lies inside the enthusiasm numbers and our efforts on the ground in Ohio. Matching what we’ve noticed for some time in our internal polling, the Quinnipiac Poll released earlier this week shows Republicans significantly more energized than Democrats. According to the Quinnipiac Poll, Republicans are more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting in the upcoming election by a double digit margin (52%-40%).

Beyond the polling and apparent lack of enthusiasm for Obama inside his core supporters, the GOP ground game in Ohio continues to produce record-high numbers of door knocks. The voter contact operation far exceeds what was done on the ground in 2008, and there are signs the ramped up volunteer efforts are having an impact on early voting, seriously slicing into Obama’s 2008 margin of victory during the early period. We have knocked on 21 times as many doors and made three times as many phone calls in Ohio compared to 2008. Sometime this week we’ll knock on the two millionth door and make our sixth millionth voter contact since May.

The Obama campaign has only offered one metric to back-up their implausible early vote statistics: that Obama ‘08 precincts are turning out more voters than McCain ’08 precincts. Among the flaws in measuring voter turnout this way: redistricting took place since 2008, so the precincts aren’t even the same, and there are countless “Obama ‘08 precincts” that are traditionally Republican and will be Romney precincts in 2012.

Turning their faulty argument on its head – if you looked at the early vote based on Kasich precincts vs. Strickland precincts, the GOP has a 10.5% edge!

* 2012 AB/EV activity in precincts Kasich won in 2010: 767,077 (55.1%)
* 2012 AB/EV activity in precincts Strickland won in 2010: 620,665 (44.6%)

* Kasich vs. Strickland advantage: +146,412 (+10.5%)

Consider the following statistics:

* Last week, the campaign knocked on 292,941 doors and made 402,989 phone calls. This week, the campaign will knock on over 300,000 doors and make more than 400,000 phone calls. Voter contact is exceeding all goals because of massive enthusiasm among the Republican base. First time volunteers are streaming into Victory centers asking to engage in this campaign, and we are prepared to accommodate their enthusiasm.

* We’ve made almost 3.7 million volunteer voter contacts in Ohio since the RNC’s absentee and early vote turnout program began nationwide. Since May, we’ve knocked on 1.8 million doors and made over 4 million phone calls. We’ll knock on the 2 millionth door and make the 6 millionth voter contact sometime this week. No other target state has knocked on more doors than Ohio. This is the most robust ground game in Ohio political history.

* Republicans are out-performing our share of voter registration in absentee requests and early votes by 8.61 points.

* Republicans have closed the gap on Democrats’ historic absentee and early vote advantage for 16 of the past 17 days.

* Compared to 2008, Obama is underperforming and Romney is over-performing in early and absentee voting:

* Obama is underperforming in several key Democrat counties, and Romney is over-performing in Hamilton County (Cincinnati):

… On top of these serious issues for Obama’s early voting strategy, the Republican National Committee has a chart out today that notes Democrats are cannibalizing their Election Day voters during the early period, while Republicans are turning out low- to mid-propensity voters:

It’s an interesting point. Apparently the campaigns are following different strategies with regard to early voting. The Obama campaign is concentrating on getting its most reliable voters to cast their ballots early, while the Romney campaign is focused on identifying supporters who are less certain to vote, and getting them to the polls early.

Given that Romney’s debate bounce has now leveled off, it seems likely that Ohio, like a number of other states, will be too close to call right up to Election Day. The key indicator to watch for is whether Romney maintains his lead among independent voters.