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Ohio at center of presidential campaign

Sep. 26, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Ohio has emerged as the presidential race's undisputed focus. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are making multiple stops this week alone in a state that's trending toward the president, endangering Romney's White House hopes.

While some Ohioans find all the attention exciting, others are already tired of the fierce campaigning in the state and express their doubts about whether it will have any real impact after the Nov. 6 election is over.

"I'm tired of the TV ads and the phone calls," Dave Milem, a Burlington area resident, said Tuesday. "I got four calls Sunday evening asking me who I was going to vote for. I've gotten calls as late as 10 p.m. This is getting out of hand. Ohio has always been a battleground state, and it will be again this year. There should be a better way to do it."

Kathy Moore, a South Point area resident, said national candidates come to Ohio when they need the Buckeye State's crucial electoral votes "and then they disappear."

"All the commercials are kind of overwhelming," she said. "It's been so negative. It calmed down a bit when they started talking about families, but now it's getting nasty again."

There are still six weeks before the election, so the number of ads can only be expected to increase, she said. "It's just something you have to put up with."

Not even Florida has seen as many presidential TV campaign ads as Ohio, and neither nominee goes very long without visiting or talking about the state. Ohio has 18 electoral votes, seventh most in the nation, and no Republican has won the White House without carrying it. Ohio's electoral votes were crucial to George W. Bush's two elections.

When Obama touted his "decision to save the auto industry" on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, he mentioned not the major car-making state of Michigan but Ohio, which focuses more on car parts.

Four new polls underscore Romney's problems in Ohio. Surveys by NBC and Fox News found Obama ahead by 7 percentage points. A poll by a group of Ohio newspapers showed him leading by 5. And a Washington Post poll released Tuesday found the president leading Romney by 8 points. All of Obama's leads were outside the polls' margins of error.

One problem for Romney is that Ohio's 7.2 percent unemployment rate is below the national average, as the Republican governor, John Kasich, often reminds residents.

"We are up 122,000 jobs," Kasich told a panel during the Republican convention last month. "The auto industry job growth is 1,200," he said, perhaps trying to play down that sector's role.

Romney is scrambling to reverse the polls. On Tuesday, he made the first of his four planned Ohio stops this week, joining his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, for a rally near Dayton. On Wednesday, Obama will visit the college towns of Kent and Bowling Green, and Romney's bus tour will stop in the Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo areas.

Ohio residents in the Tri-State have varying views about what all the campaigning means to them.

Warren "Butch" Morford, a South Point lawyer, hopes it will lead to a more informed electorate.

"They're only here telling us what they think we want to hear," Morford said. "All they want is our electoral vote, and then they'll forget about us."

"Republicans can't win the White House without Ohio," said Dave McCown, an Ironton lawyer. The election will have lasting impacts after the polls close, said McCown, a registered Democrat.

"If the Democrat wins, it will hopefully have a positive impact on down ticket races," he said. "If it goes the other way, it will impact a lot of things the people need."

Lawrence County Auditor Jason Stephens, a Republican, said he finds all the attention exciting.

"Ohio is important. It's a 50-50 state. Sometimes it goes red, sometimes it goes blue. We just hope to stay close in the urban areas and win in the other areas."

Stephens believes Romney will win Lawrence County. "I think Romney and Ryan reflect Lawrence County values and priorities."

But he added that it's difficult to predict whether there will be any lasting benefit to the state after the election.

Lawrence County Clerk of Courts Mike Patterson, a Democrat, said the only impact from all the attention by presidential candidates is that it helps Ohio television stations running the campaign ads on an ever-increasing basis. "They'll forget about us when it's all over," Patterson said. "They aren't coming here. They seem to forget about Southern Ohio."

Ray T. "Moose" Dutey, a Republican who convinced former President George Bush to make a brief campaign stop in Ironton in 2004, said whoever wins Ohio will win the presidency.

"Republicans have to carry Ohio," he said. "It's going to be close, but I'm looking for a Romney win in Ohio."

Ella Lawless, an Ironton resident, is sick of all the attention and campaign ads.

"I'll be glad when it's over," she said. "I'm for Obama. I think he's the best candidate. They should be sending out absentees out soon. A lot of people don't like going to the polls and having things shoved in their face. I'll vote absentee. Absentees should be sent to every registered voter in Ohio. Absentees should be a big factor in the race."

Terry Null, an Ironton resident, said he thinks it's great for Ohio to receive the attention, but he hopes it continues after the contest is decided.

"This part of Ohio gets neglected. Ohio has 8 million people. That's why they're here."

David E. Malloy of The Herald-Dispatch and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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