Mitt Romney took his campaign caravan through Ohio for a second straight day today with hopes rising among Republicans that the momentum from last week’s knockdown presidential debate in Denver will give their man the lift he needs to snatch the state away from Barack Obama and clear his path to the White House.
If until recently Romney lieutenants were openly fretting that Ohio and therefore the whole race was slipping from their grasp – no Republican has made it to the White House without winning the state – the feeling now is that the state may yet be in their grasp. Of the six days remaining before the second presidential debate on Tuesday, three will see Mr Romney on Ohioan soil.
It is a strategy that may be paying off. A new CNN poll last night showed Mr Obama leading Mr Romney 51 to 47 per cent among likely voters in Ohio, a significantly smaller margin than in previous surveys. The Romney camp hopes to see that gap erased entirely as Republicans in the state become energised by the prospect of prevailing.
“There isn’t any question that he has breathed new life and new energy into the Republican Party,” Ohio Goveror John Kasich told reporters. “We’re seeing that there is greater intensity among Republicans and a great willingness to get out and vote and participate than we're seeing with Democrats.”
Tuesday night saw duelling campaign events in the state with President Obama appealing to Ohio State University students to vote early and Mr Romney making an economic pitch to supporters in Cuyahoga Falls, near Akron. “This economy is not creating the jobs it should. We’ve got to fix it,” he said. “We’re going to do it here in Ohio.”
Distracting the Romney camp last night, however, were renewed charges from the other side that their candidate has been inconsistent on important issues, ranging from what his tax plan would actually do to his position on abortion. He surprised many by telling an Iowan newspaper that he would not seek legislation to restrict access to abortion services, a statement that his aides tried to row back on later.
“One more time we’ve got an example of Mitt Romney changing a position in public even though everybody knows what he believes,”, Robert Gibbs, a top Obama strategist and former White House spokesman remarked.
Supporters of Mr Romney know that if a window was opened by his strong performance in Denver, it could quickly close again and that momentum in the polls may falter. All eyes will be on the vice presidential debate set for tomorrow night in Kentucky, where the pressure will be unexpectedly intense for both Joe Biden and the Republican running mate, Paul Ryan.