Even before voting ended in Ohio on Tuesday night, the presidential campaigns had teams of lawyers standing by, ready to do battle over the counting of ballots in the most hotly contested state in the election.
But their services weren't needed as President Obama patched together a nationwide victory. With 78 percent of precincts reporting in Ohio, Obama seemed set to narrowly win the state where the two sides had spent $148 million on political ads.
Preliminary exit poll results showed that Obama's support flowed from widespread voter approval of the federal bailout of the auto industry. Ohio is home to many jobs linked to the industry. Fifty-nine percent of Ohio voters said they approved of the auto bailout, and they picked Obama by a thumping 3-to-1 margin, according to exit polls. In the final days of the campaign, Romney also collided with General Motors and Chrysler executives, who said the GOP candidate falsely accused Jeep of planning to move U.S. jobs to China.
Despite the auto bailout flap, Romney edged out Obama on whom voters trusted more to handle the economy by a 50 percent to 47 percent.
Obama received a critical boost from black voters, who made up 15 percent of the electorate, up from 11 percent in 2008, and who backed him by 96 percent to 4 percent. The president lost ground among white voters, and he also lost the majority of independent voters, who mostly backed him in 2008.
Obama beat Romney on favorability ratings by 55 percent to 45 percent, exit polls showed.
Voter turnout was heavy. The AFL-CIO's Ohio spokesman, Mark Gillis, said the federation had been in touch with 800,000 Ohio voters during the last four days of the campaign, reaching out to non-union households as well as union members. Exit polls indicated that 22 percent of voters came from union households, down from 28 percent in 2008 but still substantial. Moreover, those union household voters favored Obama by more than 20 percentage points, while Obama and Romney split the vote from non-union households almost evenly.
In 2008, Obama won by rolling up huge margins of victory in the heavily populated Cleveland, Youngstown, Columbus and Toledo areas, while losing most of the rest of the state. With the vast majority of returns in on Tuesday night, he was winning similarly large margins in those cities.Reuse content