COLUMBUS, Ohio – President Obama won Ohio on Tuesday, capturing the electoral battleground that Mitt Romney needed more than any other in his quest to oust the Democratic incumbent, according to exit polls for the Associated Press and news networks.
By laying claim to Ohio’s 18 electoral votes, Obama all but ensured his reelection after a grueling campaign against his Republican rival, the former governor of Massachusetts.
The results in Ohio appeared to vindicate Obama’s tireless pursuit of the white working-class voters who dominate the state’s election landscape.
The backbone of the president’s Ohio campaign was the federal bailout of the auto industry. Day after day, Obama reminded Ohio voters of the thousands of auto jobs saved at plants around the state.
And Romney, to his detriment, failed in his long struggle to find an effective defense for his opposition to the government bailout. It was a stand that might have helped him cement conservative support in the Republican primaries, but proved deeply damaging in the battle for Ohio.
Obama’s victory was also the result of withering ads depicting Romney as an out-of-touch financier who built a vast personal fortune in corporate takeover deals that spawned factory layoffs, then used offshore tax shelters to preserve his wealth.
As always, Ohio’s election map was a complex puzzle for both sides. Obama was counting on his base of supporters in the same urban centers that buttressed his 2008 campaign in Ohio: Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, Akron and Youngstown. Overwhelming support among African Americans was key.
Romney had hoped to offset those Obama strengths with a coalition of his own. Most crucial were the state’s more conservative white suburbs, especially around Cincinnati. Added to that would be the vast reach of rural and small-town Ohio -- always important for Republican candidates. That formula drove President George W. Bush’s defeat of his Democratic challenger John F. Kerry in 2004, but Romney fell short.