Obama keeps eye on Ohio ground game

President Barack Obama gives a speech in Bowling Green, Ohio 26 September 2012 Recent opinion polls have shown President Obama leading in Ohio

"It's been a long, long, long time coming." The young man wrings every last ounce of emotion from the Sam Cooke classic that became the theme of the civil rights movement.

He ends up - to laugher and applause from the audience - crooning: "With President Obama change will come... Ooh yes it will."

He is the star act at the opening of the Democrats' latest field office in the key swing state of Ohio. This one, in the small city of Xenia, means there are now over 100 field offices in this vital state and the volunteers gathered seem imbued with a sense of righteous mission.

Billions of dollars are being spent on adverts, President Barack Obama is in the state for his 29th visit and the Washington Post has an article detailing how federal money seems to have poured into the state, where unemployment is now lower than the national average.

Ohio is seen as critical - it has voted for the winning candidate in the last 10 presidential elections.

Art of canvassing

Ads, money and visits will all have an influence on the outcome of the election, but perhaps the people in Xenia, and those like them, are the foot soldiers who will really deliver victory - or defeat. This is the ground game.

The walls are decorated with signs of varying degrees of professionalism. Some are glossy printed products: Women for Obama, African Americans for Obama, and Gotta vote.

Dorris Adams Dorris Adams came out of retirement to canvas for President Obama

Others are home-made reminders in felt-tipped pen of the countdown to postal voting, the need for someone to buy loo paper and an introduction to the senior staff.

Twenty-something Nicki's favourite colour is green, and favourite foods are mac-and-cheese and sushi (not together, one hopes).

When I start asking questions about strategy and ask for an interview, she tells me she is too cute to be interrogated. Too acute, too, probably. The ground game is Team Obama's secret weapon.

It is frustrating trying to get a handle on how it works in detail. At the Obama HQ in Chicago I have seen the relentless focus on the individual groups that made up the Obama coalition in 2008 - from Hispanics to gay people to single mums.

Here, I do not detect that narrow targeting. But there are a lot of lists and a lot of data and a reliance on the old-fashioned art of canvassing.

Race to the White House

The Democrats' county chair, Doris Adams, tells me Xenia is the belly button of Republicanism - and she seems to be determined to give the rival party a poke in the tummy.

She tells me that at 65 years old she had hoped to start her retirement re-watching Midsomer Murders and Poirot, the British murder mysteries she loves, but the cause is too important.

She believes in the old-fashioned art of personal canvassing.

"Every vote counts and we are going after every vote, sharing our vision for the future," Ms Adams says.

"When somebody talks to me about the issues that they are afraid of we can reassure them there is hope for the future and not listen to the smoke-and-mirrors and the fear that is mongered."

Encouraging voter turnout

Earlier, I went out canvassing in another area of Ohio, near Dayton, with volunteer Terrance Hodges.

This is the basics, the foundation. He has a list that will say how someone voted in the last election and his job is to find out what they will do this time round.

One Strong Obama has switched to Strong Romney. He will report back to his field office, but moves on without trying to persuade.

He has two sets of leaflets. Someone leaning to Mr Obama will get a glossy brochure, setting out the case for the president's re-election.

But strong supporters get instead a form encouraging them to use a postal vote, or absentee ballot, as they are known here. This has multiple benefits (and the Romney team are doing the same).

Mr Hodges says: "It's a lot easier. It's not a hassle for them. They could be watching TV in their house, filling out the form and mailing it back out.

Terrance Hodges knocks on doors

"As soon as you start putting limitations on people's voting behaviour you are disenfranchising them.

"Voter turnout is not that high and we want to keep that number, raise those numbers, and make voting as easy as possible".

I suggest it also makes it easier to check up whether people have voted, and push them to do so, but he demurs.

I bet if people say they will use a postal vote, they can expect a follow-up phone call or two.

I have long said the key to this election will be turnout. President Obama has to reassemble as much of his 2008 coalition as possible to win.

For him, people who prefer him to Mr Romney, but cannot be bothered to get off the sofa on polling day, could end his hopes of a second term.

That is why I am cautious about those opinion polls for President Obama in this state.

People may describe themselves as "likely voters" to pollsters, and still not do the deed on election day.

Persuading them to vote by post means the vagaries of the weather, last-minute doubts or a car that won't start are removed from the equation.

Elections are like war in one thing at least - what goes on in the air is vitally important, but in the end the game is won by foot soldiers on the ground.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

Is Obama right over Iraq?

The Obama doctrine says the US will only go to war if its vital interests or those of its allies are threatened, so what does that mean for Iraq?

Read full article

More on This Story

US Presidential Election 2012


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    @104 poor soul - Fox News is nothing but opinion pieces, and low quality at that. The current GOP is a mythology based on beliefs that: (1) we will each win the lottery some day, and so care about whether the wealthy are taxed, and (2) for-profit multi-national corporations will self-regulate themselves for the benefit of the American people

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    110.Looney Limey
    "Today is September 27th, 2012"

    Really? Ooh, thank you for letting me know what today's date is. What a truely insightful, astutue, and intuitive person you are. One should consider applying for a position in one of several executive departments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    107 Lou Cypher
    Rueters News
    Dateline: 4:00 pm EST, Friday November 16, 2012

    Today is September 27th, 2012

    Do you use a crystal ball or skull?

    Nine more years can just as easily be nine more months with a Congress that is actually representing the interests of the people instead of their party
    Banks own the governments, no matter which party thinks they are in control it is all pretend calculus

  • Comment number 109.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    103 Curt Carpenter : Check this out :-

    The biggest Tea Party Extremist is trying to go "business Conservative"

    He must be loosing in the polls & afraid of loosing to the very reasonable and responsible looking Democratic contender

    The Extreme Edges are imploding & trying to morph

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Rueters News
    Dateline: 4:00 pm EST, Friday November 16, 2012

    President Elect Barrack Obama formally announces today that based upon newly released US economic forecast data that economists predict it will take the United States nine more years to fully recover from the failed economic policies of former president George W. Bush.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Banks world wide are bigger and gambling with even more pretend money than before the World Wide Depression
    No one is able to do anything about it
    JP Morgan/Chase is so big it cannot be managed
    Banks are still playing with 401K and depositor assets morphed into CDS's that are calculations and stacking up pretend profits that go......to the rich!
    Like Romney
    Who wants to give them tax breaks

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    95.modelling king ,
    Thanks for the links.
    I don't see any connection between the Rothschilds & current events in the ME, but I do sense anti-semitic conspiracy theories that have circulated for generations.It saddens me that stuff like that won't just go away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Sure. But that is the point I am trying to make here. That Fox News and is the only news outlet, out of six of them, that does this. None of the other news outlets wont even make any attempt to ask hard objective questions of this administration. The main casualties of the 2012 Presidential race are truth and impartiality and it will be the American people who will suffer for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    The fact is that this election is between the "every man for himself" Republicans and the "lets all shoulder our share the burden" Democrats.

    The people will choose one path or the other this November. This doesn't always work well (see Bush, George) -- but it's democracy at work, and that's a higher value.

    Then the question is: can real conservatives ever regain control of their party?

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    White on Rice says it all! Ignorance is bliss and Romney seems to be blissfully ignorant of the fact the GOP Tea Party Extremists are all backing down, even Murdock who beat out Luger is changing his tune and trying to "evolve" into a more "Business Conservative" like Mitch Daniels
    Now we have to muddle thru Romney doing another shape change to accomadate the shifting sands of public opinion

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Chomsky! Really? Well deserving of plaudits and laurels for his linguistic and cognitive studies but not for his socio-political views professing that a anarcho-syndicalist society was the final product of achieving a true Marxist socialist utopia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    @97Lcypher - did you read that on Fox or The Blaze LOL ? Cuz if you read those other media sources you would find criticism of the current administration - nothing so rabid as on Fox mind you - maybe you have become de-sensitized - if it ain't rabid, in bold caps, grossly exagerated and partisan, then it ain't criticism perhaps ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    And - sorry for two comments - I just noticed 42, Portugal etc. Sensible man! I've always kept the canvassers for the candidates I like least talking on the doorstep to keep them away from the more easily swayed; I have never, ever, told the truth to an opinion survey, and go to considerable lengths to sabotage all those who seek to intrude upon the privacy of my voting intentions.

  • Comment number 98.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    It is beyond any rational understanding why ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN over the course of the 2012 presidential race have failed to make any critical statement or to ask any critical questions on both Obama's problematic economy recovery plan and his Mid East foreign policy. If this had been anyone else, but Obama, these news corps would be all over this person like white on rice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    What evidence that Romney has intelligence, ability, or integrity (more well kept secrets I guess) ? His business 'acumen' seems to have been dependent on inside tips from the Bain consulting arm, the Olympic episode ended with gov't bailout, and it appears his one-term record in Mass left them in debt and contradicts his current stances on health care, gun control, gay marriage and abortion

  • Comment number 95.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 94.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    @89.modelling king,
    What's a "Rothschild bank?"


Page 7 of 12



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.