TRAVELING WITH THE ROMNEY CAMPAIGN – As Gov. Mitt Romney meets enthusiastic, overflow crowds in Ohio from Cincinnati in the south to Toledo on Lake Erie, his campaign chief sees the election shaping up much like 2004.

If Romney wins Ohio, the campaign believes, he is likely to be the next president of the United States.

At each stop, Romney supporters patiently lined up at security checkpoints to see the candidate in a race the polls still show to be neck-and-neck in Ohio. But the campaign is exuding confidence, pointing to surveys of independent voters.

“In 2008, Obama won independents, but today we are winning independent voters overwhelmingly in Ohio,” Scott Jennings, the Romney-Ryan campaign manager told WND. “And there’s no way we can win independents by 10 points and lose Ohio.”

Jennings said the campaign, sometime this week, will cross the 2 million mark in number of doors knocked on since May.

“And we’re going to make the 6 millionth voter contact,” he claimed. “We are knocking on doors in all 88 counties. We think, absolutely, this face-to-face contact is what’s going to cut through all the clutter.”

He admitted Obama has an advantage in Ohio in terms of the number of offices and campaign workers.

But he argued the Obama offices are rented, and the staff are paid, absorbing resources.

“They’ve collected a lot of rent payments and a lot of leases,” he said. “We’ve collected a lot of volunteers.”

Jennings pointed out that in 2008, Obama won the early voting by about 20 percent, but with “their erosion and our surge” the Democrats are winning the early voting by only 6 percent this year.

“I’m not going to tell you we are going to win early voting, but we’re keeping it close,” he said. “We are going to blow them out on Election Day, and that’s how we’re going to win this race.”

Jennings noted that at this point in the race in 2008, Republicans suffered “an enthusiasm problem” in Ohio.”

“This year, we don’t have an enthusiasm problem,” he said. “All over the state of Ohio, even in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, you are going to see the Republican ticket return to the kinds of margins Bush picked up in 2004.”

He expects the counties that surround Cincinnati, which are strongly Republican, to return to the 2004 margins that helped re-elected George W. Bush.

“The I-75 western corridor – that whole western column of the state – there’s a lot of red counties out there,” he said.

Jennings was equally excited about the opportunity in eastern Ohio.

“There is a lot of opportunity in the eastern part of the state, especially the southeastern part of the state, because of energy,” he said.

“Barack Obama does not like ‘in the ground’ energy,” he added. “In Ohio coal country, there’s a lot of fear about what a second Obama term would look like. We aren’t conceding any territory anywhere in the state, not even in the blue counties.”

Now into the final days of the presidential campaign, the election comes down to getting out the vote, what today is known as the “ground game.”

Here, Jennings is confident his team is beating Obama.

“Everybody senses we can win Ohio,” he insisted.

“This drives out more volunteers and more people to vote early,” he said. “Over the last two weeks, we are seeing more Republicans who voted in primaries than Democrats who voted in primaries turn in absentee ballots from Republicans than Democrats. This tracks with our polling. When we saw a ramp up in favor of Romney in the polls, we saw more Republican absentee ballots coming in.”

In the first stop of the day, Cincinnati, some 3,000 people packed into an open warehouse to hear Romney speak.

The theme, written in big letters against the podium backdrop, spelled out “JOBS” – perhaps the key concern in this year’s presidential election.

Gov. Mitt Romney at Cincinnati rally today (WND photo)

Ohio and jobs

On Wednesday, Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich warned of an economic slowdown ahead of the presidential election, exhorting Ohioans not to believe the state was in economic recovery simply because the latest Department of Labor statistics showed the state’s unemployment rate ticking down to 7 percent in September, after three consecutive months of holding steady at 7.2 percent.

There were still 406,000 unemployed Ohioans in September, a month in which the manufacturing sector lost 6,400 jobs, according to state figures. The decrease resulting primarily from losses in machinery and metal manufacturing, not from automobile manufacturing.

With an estimated one in eight Ohio jobs tied to the automobile industry, Ohio has the second-highest total automotive industry employment after Michigan.

Some 850,000 Ohio workers, many of them union workers, are being pressed by the Obama campaign to vote Democratic in thanks for the bailout of GM and Chrysler, for which the Obama administration takes credit, even though the bailout began in 2008 under George W. Bush.

In Ohio, Democrats are pounding Romney for an editorial he published in the New York Times, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” in which he argued for a court-managed bailout, without tax-payer money, even though he was not opposed to government loan guarantees after the automakers emerged from bankruptcy procedures in court.

Republicans in Ohio counter by arguing that a court-administered bankruptcy procedure is properly viewed as a restructuring, not an end to a corporation’s life. In the government restructuring of GM and Chrysler, over $25 billion in assets, many of which were held by secured lenders, were redistributed to the United Auto Workers, a union that gave 99 percent of its PAC funds to Democrats in 2008.

The closure of Delphi auto parts has hit Ohio particularly hard, with some 20,000 retirees in Ohio losing part of their pensions, including 2,000 in the Akron-Canton region of central Ohio and the Dayton region of southwestern Ohio.

With the government restructuring of GM and Chrysler, one in five car dealerships in Ohio were closed.

‘Nightmare scenario’ in Ohio

Ohio elections officials readily admit there is a nightmare scenario when it comes to early voting.

With some 7 million registered voters in Ohio, approximately 1.43 million have requested absentee ballots through Oct. 19, but only 618,861 had returned their vote by mail, USA Today reported.

The early voting rules under Ohio law could cause the nation to face an excruciatingly long process of waiting for Ohio to report, reminiscent of the Florida recount in 2000, if a large percentage of Ohio voters requesting absentee ballots change their minds and decide to vote in person.

Under Ohio law, those not returning absentee ballots will be given provisional ballots if they show up in person to vote, with the caveat that provisional ballots do not have to be counted until Nov. 17.

So, depending on how close the final vote is and on how many voters requesting absentee ballots end up getting provisional ballots because they voted in person, the nation might have to wait 11 days after the Nov. 6 election to find out who will be the next president.

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