Jane Prendergast reports:
With the whole country watching, Ohioans on Tuesday helped re-elect President Barack Obama, continuing the battleground state’s decisive role in a race of unprecedented intensity.Obama defeated Mitt Romney, with some states still to come in, once he hit the 270 electoral college votes. That total came while the race was still tight in Ohio, but the networks went ahead and called the race for Obama because the still-out Ohio counties were in urban areas that were expected to go for Obama anyway.
The president acknowledged the win at 11:19 p.m., via Twitter, saying: “We’re all in this together. That’s how we campaigned, and that’s who we are. Thank you. -bo.” He also tweeted a picture of him hugging his wife, Michelle.
He emailed supporters, telling them Tuesday’s decision was not fate.
“I want you to know that this wasn’t fate,” he wrote, “and it wasn’t an accident. You made this happen.”
The Romney campaign initially refused to concede they’d lost Ohio. Gov. John Kasich said at almost midnight that he was waiting for more information before making any statements.
As of midnight, with 88 percent of Ohio precincts in, Obama had 49.6 percent to Romney’s 48.7 percent, a difference of about 50,000 votes. Obama carried Ohio with 51 percent of the vote in 2008, over U.S. Sen. John McCain.
Hamilton County, which Obama won in 2008, went for him again, 51.7 percent to 46.9 percent.
Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said four words will go down as one of the most important reasons that Romney fell short in Ohio. Those words: “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”
Obama portrayed Romney in visits to Ohio as an auto-industry killer who’s out of touch with hard-working folks. He and Vice President Joe Biden hammered hard on their bailout of the auto industry, repeating over and over that one in eight jobs in Ohio is related to making vehicles.
Redfern, asked about a Democratic opponent for Kasich in 2014, said, “We’re coming. We are coming…We’ll celebrate for a few days and then we’ll get back to work.”
Republicans were leaving their party at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Columbus even as Treasurer Josh Mandel was conceding defeat. Worse news was coming, and they knew it. Obama won Ohio and the presidency.
Party leaders disappeared, retreating one floor up from the second floor ballroom to their war room, where the press was not allowed. Before midnight, crews were tearing down risers, shutting down the sound system and lights.
One of the few Republican leaders to emerge from the third floor was Ohio Sen. President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond. Term-limited, Niehaus was looking more relaxed than most folks at the Republican gathering. He was pleased with his party maintaining a significant majority in his chamber.
He said Romney’s problem in Ohio was that his message about improving the country’s economy didn’t resonate as well here.
“When a presidential candidate compares us to the rest of the country,” it’s difficult, he said. “We have a long way to go, but we’re a lot better than other states. We’re on the right track. Give credit to Gov. (John) Kasich and the (Republican-controlled) Legislature for that.”
Campaigning right through Tuesday
Election Day capped weeks of intense campaigning in the Buckeye State, where polls showed the race extremely close and even tied here as recently as last weekend.
Both men campaigned in Ohio up until almost the last minute. Romney added an Election Day stop in Cleveland for Tuesday after initially planning to go home to Boston for the day. At one point Tuesday, Romney, his running mate Paul Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden all were in Cleveland at the same time, their planes sitting together on the tarmac. Both men stopped in Columbus on Monday, the only state both visited the day before the election.
Residents were the targets of a ground game of unprecedented scope, with both campaigns making millions of phone calls, knocking on countless doors and using social media. With the race so close – a Monday poll put them tied with 48 percent of the vote each – it was all about turnout, so both campaigns pushed extremely hard to get people out to vote.
The campaigns spent more than $175 million on advertising in the state, trying to reach Ohio’s nearly 8 million registered voters.
That’s because both camps knew: No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio. The state has voted for the winning candidate in 27 of the past 29 presidential elections. No candidate has won the White House without Ohio since John F. Kennedy in 1960.
“I think Obama’s returns reflect the ground game he had here,” said Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, at the Democrat watch party downtown. “It’s intense.”
Cincinnati Councilwoman Yvette Simpson sent this via Twitter: “Obama the projected winner in the presidential election! All is well with the world!”
At the Democrats’ party in Columbus, the Bruce Springsteen song, “We Take Care of Our Own,” played after U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown addressed the crowd. Springsteen campaigned for Obama and the song was a rally favorite.
“Today in Ohio, in the middle of America, the middle class won,” he said. “Again.”
He lost his voice and let his wife, Connie Schultz, finish his speech.
‘We’ve got to take our medicine’
At the Hamilton County Republican party’s, held at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill, U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot had a grasp on the mood five members after arriving. He described all three parties he attended as “subdued.”
“We’ve got to take our medicine,” said Charlie Norman, president of Hamilton County’s Blue Chip Young Republicans. “Something’s got to change, and we’ve got to do a better job.”
Most voters said the economy was the top issue for them, but they were evenly split in deciding whether Obama or Romney would handle it better, according to exit polling. About half of Ohioans said at least some of Obamacare should be repealed, while four in 10 think it should be left as is or expanded.
Women helped put Obama over the top, going for him 54 percent to 44 percent, exit polls showed.
Seven out of 10 voters said their minds were made up before the final two months of the campaign – and before the inundation of ads and visits.
Obama portrayed Romney in visits here as an auto-industry killer who’s out of touch with hard-working folks. He and Vice President Joe Biden hammered hard on their bailout of the auto industry, repeating over and over that one in eight jobs in Ohio is related to making vehicles. He asked for more time to work on improving the economy, saying it wasn’t something that could be fixed overnight. “Our work is not yet done,” he said at many stops.
Romney insisted he would stick up for taxpayers by curbing the national debt. He said his business experience would make him better better at recovering the economy and that Obama didn’t deserve a second term because he hadn’t earned it. Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan emphasized his four years in Ohio, when he was a student at Miami University, saying he understands Midwestern values.
They used celebrities. Romney campaigned with Kid Rock, the Oak Ridge Boys, Jack Nicklaus and Meat Loaf. Obama used former President Bill Clinton, Bruce Springsteen, Pitbull and Stevie Wonder. They battled over crowd estimates at each other’s rallies.
Pundits called Ohio the president’s firewall, meaning it was his best shot at keeping Romney from winning the White House. Ohio holds 18 electoral college votes, a key number on the path to winning the 270 necessary to win the presidency.
Ohio remained one of eight “toss-up” states, according to the Rasmussen Reports’ Electoral College projections. The others: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin. The last Rasmussen poll of Ohio voters, done Monday, found Obama and Romney tied with 49 percent each.
The state’s a microcosm – the northern areas around Cleveland and Toledo (with lots of auto workers there) generally go Democratic, while the southwest part of the state around Cincinnati trends Republican.
But there were questions about a possible enthusiasm gap for the president: Would voters be as motivated to go to the polls for him as they were in 2008, when they helped elect the country’s first African-American president?
At the same time as Democratic interest may have waned, polls showed Republican enthusiasm was better than in the last election. That, too, contributed to the closeness of the Ohio race.
About 30 million people in the country – roughly 2 million of them in Ohio – had already voted before Election Day. Of those, polls showed, roughly 60 percent went in Obama’s favor.
Former Gov. Ted Strickland attributed Obama’s Ohio win this way: “Ohioans came to understand the very clear difference between the president and Gov. Romney in terms of their values, their truth, their concern for regular people.” He said there was a “growing awareness that Mitt Romney was a man who was out of touch with what life is like for most people.”
He said the issues were “really important” and created an environment for Obama to win. And “the ground game was magnificent. It was well-planned, well-financed and well-executed.”