Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Battleground analysis: Ohio

Having reviewed the battlegrounds overall it is helpful to consider them as they relate to some of the different elements of strategy on a case by case basis. Thus I'm offering my thoughts on what I consider the crucial states of VA, CO and OH. After the debates and with the close of early voting in mid-October we'll review the state of play in these key states once again.

And with that, onto the Buckeye State, where the dreams of many a humble field worker (myself included) died in 2004...

2004 result
Bush: 2,859,764 votes
Kerry: 2,741,165 votes
Democratic deficit: 118,599 votes

The best Ohio Democratic Primary polling was conducted by Survey USA. PPP and the University of Cincinnati are also well respected.

Current polling is as follows:

New registrants
Per the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Across the state, nearly 40 percent of the 700,000 newly registered voters live in precincts that Democrat John Kerry carried with at least 60 percent of the vote in 2004." 25% of new registrants come from Democrat-heavy Cayahoga county (Cleveland).

Ground game
As of early August, Obama led in field offices by 33 to 9. As of mid-September, Obama had 70 field offices to McCain's 9.

Per the well respected Wisconsin Advertising Project McCain edges Obama in advertising by $812,000 to $801,000 per week.

With the unemployment rate reaching a 16 year high, "It's the economy, stupid."

Candidate visits
McCain has visited the Buckeye state 13 times Obama has visited only 5 times

Best OH coverage
Politicker OH, Buckeye State blog, The Field, 538

The 2004 network exit poll for Ohio revealed the following demographic breakdown of the OH electorate:

Female: 53%
Male: 47%
White: 86% (estimated 2008 decrease: 84%)
African American: 10% (estimated 2008 increase: 12%)
Hispanic: 3%
Other: 2%
Under 30: 21%
31-64: 67%
Over 65: 12%

Party ID 2004:
Democratic: 35%
Republican: 40%
Independent: 25%

Party ID 2006:
Democratic: 40%
Republican: 37%
Independent: 23%

Party ID 2008 estimate:
Democratic: 41%
Republican: 35%
Independent: 24%

The host of recent Ohio polling seems to confirm that self-identifying Democrats are willing to break with party and vote for McCain in sizable numbers. As such, the crucial number in the Buckeye state will not be the party ID divide but rather the party loyalty number (namely that percentage of declared Dems who wil actually vote for the Democratic Candidate).

Obama strongholds: Cuyahoga County (Cleveland)
McCain strongholds: North West counties, South West counties and South East counties (Appalachia)
Key clash: Trumbull County/Youngstown (Mahoning Valley)

Source: Matt Ross, Trumbull County Field Organiser, Kerry/Edwards 2004

With a deficit of just 118,599 votes, over 700,000 newly registered voters, a disastrous economy and a new Democratic Governor, Ohio should be ground zero for Team Obama - but as the polls show, it isn't - likely due to a combination of disaffected Hillaristas, race hangover and McCain's above average personal popularity in the state.

As such, Obama's route to victory lies in adding so many new voters that even lower Democratic party loyalty will be overcome. Hence, the centrality of his field operation. Still, as his tactical defeats to date in advertising spending and candidate visits show, Obama is not prioritising Ohio as highly as he might.

The new registration numbers in two weeks time (as well as indications of where early voting has been prevalent and in what numbers) will give us a far clearer idea of just how in-play Ohio actually is. Until then I'm saying Ohio is just too-close-to-call.

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