By Dan Balz and Felicia Sonmez
The Washington Post
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Kathy Wade was out mowing her lawn on a raw and rainy Friday when Doyle and Jane Peyton, volunteer canvassers for Mitt Romney’s campaign, stopped at the curb in her suburban neighborhood 20 miles from Columbus. Doyle asked her: Had she decided how she would vote in the presidential election?
Wade paused. “I am one of those lovely, undecided Ohio female voters,” she said.
She was reluctant to talk much about the choice she faces in deciding between Romney and President Obama, she said, but the smile on her face reflected the understanding that she and every other voter in Ohio — decided or not — are at the center of one of the epic struggles in presidential politics.
Ohio has played a central role in presidential campaigns for many years, but at no time has its significance been as great as in 2012. It is as if the entire presidential campaign is being waged in this complex and sprawling state.
A cartoon by Rob Rogers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this month captured the symbolic significance of the Buckeye State. Three schoolchildren stood before a U.S. map with no lines delineating the states. The map said simply, “Ohio.” “I like the new map,” one of the youngsters says. “It’s a lot easier than memorizing fifty states.”
There is nothing cartoonish about the campaign here. Obama and Romney are engaged in a high-stakes battle for the state’s 18 electoral votes. If Obama can win them, Romney’s path to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency becomes almost — almost — insurmountable.
Two months ago, Obama had a small lead in Ohio. A month ago, after Romney’s “47 percent” comment, Obama’s lead rose to eight to 10 points, according to several public polls. In the aftermath of the debates, Romney’s campaign has been infused with fresh energy — based on the most recent public polling, the president now has only a slender advantage.