Ohio's floating voters get ready to make their decisive swing

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

For both candidates, the road to the White House goes through the Buckeye State – and it's still in play. Nikhil Kumar reports

Jim Lynch is the person President Obama and Mitt Romney have been fighting over. An unshaven, down-on-his-luck resident of Canton, the seat of Stark County, the largest swing county in the battleground state of Ohio, Mr Lynch was on his way in to the Salvation Army outpost in downtown Canton to have a free meal. "It's been really bad the last four years," he said, finishing off his cigarette by the door.

He's no Republican. "I heard he [Romney] is gonna kill Medicare and Medicaid and I'm middle aged. I'm getting to the age where I might need that stuff," he said, cracking a smile.

And the President? "I'm not enthusiastic or anything like that," was the curt reply. "I didn't know who to vote for," he says, shuffling his feet in the biting cold. "It's not like it's been good. I don't want to be coming here."

In the final stretch of what is predicted to be one of the closet electoral contests in recent times – "toss-up" and "down to the wire" are among the most frequently rehashed clichés – Ohio is one of a clutch of states that, by all accounts, will decide who gets to call the white mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home come January. A final pre-election poll from the University of Cincinnati today found the President and Mr Romney at 50 per cent to 48.5 per cent – or within the margin of error.

"I've decided ... I think," says Mr Lynch, adding that he's leaning towards voting Democrat. "I decided the other day. It was good the way he stopped talking about the election and brought the country together." Over Superstorm Sandy? "Yeah," he said, nodding before going through the door.

The President will be hoping that Mr Lynch is still nodding in his direction when he casts his ballot tomorrow.

In Ohio, Mr Lynch's county has backed the winner of the national polls 10 out of 12 times since 1964. And even when it has erred – the last instance occurred in 2004, when John Kerry took Stark – it was by the slenderest of margins. Mr Kerry carried Stark with 50.6 per cent of the vote; President Bush took Ohio with 50.8 per cent.

"We have our reputation. There's never been a Republican president who hasn't won Ohio and they say the way it goes in Stark is the way [it goes] in Ohio," Bob Brewster, a local florist, said. Firmly in the Romney camp – "I like his business forte" – he felt people had largely made up their mind on the eve of the poll.

"There's very few [people] that I know that are undecided," he said yesterday. Based on his encounters in recent days, Mr Brewster guessed that perhaps 10 per cent of the local population was still undecided. "But they'll still be making up their mind when they go down to that polling booth," he said.

Robert Capestrain, who runs a local jewellery shop, agreed. A former Stark County commissioner, he was holding court yesterday morning at a table in the back of the Arcadia Grill. Among those joining him at breakfast time was Tommy Sheridan, a former local election official. Both are confirmed Democrats.

"There's a lot of people who don't want to verbalise what they feel. You get a call asking you who you're voting for, and you don't know who it is," Mr Capestrain said.

"My big concern," Mr Sheridan said, "is are people going to be able to vote without any problems?" He was referring in part to the argument over early voting. Yesterday in Canton, the queue for early ballots was already stretching down to the end of the block outside the local Board of Elections, on the other side of downtown from the Arcadia Grill.

It has been thus throughout the weekend, with people waiting hours in the cold to have their say. Democrats have been grumbling about Ohio's Republican Secretary of State who, they claim, has been attempting to cut short the time that voters have to cast early ballots after a federal court overturned a state law and reinstated early voting on the final three days ahead of today's election.

According to the Associated Press, more than 1.6 million Ohioans had voted by early yesterday. Of these, 29 per cent were Democrats and 23 per cent were Republicans. The independent 47 per cent could decide the election. And with questions already being raised over the early voting regime and provisional ballots, which are counted after tonight's polls close and may been needed to declare a winner if the result is too close to call, many fear a post-election legal battle could be in store in critical arenas such as Ohio. "Oh it's close. It'll be close," Mr Brewster said.

Suggested Topics
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Karim Benzema celebrates scoring the opening goal
sportReal Madrid 1 Bayern Munich 0: Germans will need their legendary self-belief to rescue Champions League tie in second leg
News
Rohff is one of France’s most popular rappers
people
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes has claimed supporters understand the need to look at
sportScot thanks club staff and fans, but gives no specific mention of players
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
Arts & Entertainment
tv
News
news
News
peopleThis time as he’s awarded the Freedom of Stirling and handed an honorary degree
Voices
voices Furore is yet another example of shameful Westminster evasion, says Nigel Farage
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Construction Solicitor – Surrey

Excellent Salary Package: Austen Lloyd: This is a rare high level opportunity ...

Construction Solicitor NQ+ Manchester

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: This is an excellent opportunity within...

Corporate Finance

£80000 - £120000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: US QUALI...

Banking / Finance Associate - City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: Banking / Finance Associate - We have an exce...

Day In a Page

Migrants in Britain a decade on: The Poles who brought prosperity

Migrants in Britain a decade on

The Poles who brought prosperity
Philippe Legrain: 'The eurozone crisis has tipped many into disillusionment, despair and extremism - we need a European Spring'

Philippe Legrain: 'We need a European Spring'

The eurozone crisis has tipped many into disillusionment, despair and extremism - this radically altered landscape calls for a new kind of politics, argues the economist
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A moment of glory on the Western Front for the soldiers of the Raj

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A moment of glory on the Western Front for the soldiers of the Raj
Judith Owen reveals how husband Harry Shearer - star of This Is Spinal Tap and The Simpsons - helped her music flourish

Judith Owen: 'How my husband helped my music flourish'

Her mother's suicide and father's cancer also informed the singer-songwriter's new album, says Pierre Perrone
The online lifeline: How a housing association's remarkable educational initiative gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression

Online lifeline: Housing association's educational initiative

South Yorkshire Housing Association's free training courses gave hope to tenant battling long-term illness and depression
Face-recognition software: Is this the end of anonymity for all of us?

Face-recognition software: The end of anonymity?

The software is already used for military surveillance, by police to identify suspects - and on Facebook
Train Kick Selfie Guy is set to scoop up to $250,000 thanks to his viral video - so how can you cash in on your candid moments?

Viral videos: Cashing in on candid moments

Train Kick Selfie Guy Jared Frank could receive anything between $30,000 (£17,800) to $250,000 (£149,000) for his misfortune - and that's just his cut of advertising revenue from being viewed on YouTube
The world's fastest elevators - 20 metres per second - are coming soon to China

World's fastest elevators coming soon to China

Whatever next? Simon Usborne finds out from Britain's highest authority on the subject
Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture that causes men to miss out on seeing their children

Cityfathers tackles long-hours culture

The organisation is the brainchild of Louisa Symington-Mills, a chief operating officer who set up Citymothers in 2012 - a group that now boasts more than 3,000 members
Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable