In Clermont, Energy Seems in Short Supply

Politics: What They're Seeing in Ohio

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BATAVIA, Ohio ( -- Despite the "swing state" designation, life in Ohio isn't always as exciting as it sounds. Presidential elections are the notable exception -- except this year.

For all the national media focus on Ohio, the campaign in this Republican stronghold in the southwest of the state seems surprisingly sedate -- so far.

2004 election in Ohio

Mya Frazier in Columbus:

Twenty-Four Hours of TV in Franklin County
Politics: What They're Seeing in Ohio
But what's really missing is the ground game and signs of personal involvement in the presidential campaigns. Yard signs and bumper stickers on both sides are so sparse you'd never guess the election is about a month away.

I still see more Bush bumper stickers from four years ago than I do McCain stickers. On a trip across the Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway north of Cincinnati Thursday, the only bumper stickers were double-barreled Obama action on a Lexus SUV. Only recently did I see the first McCain-Palin yard signs around my neighborhood, and then relatively few.

Outdone by Kerry?
The Obama campaign is even less evident on the ground, particularly compared to the Kerry campaign four years ago. Kerry yard signs and bumper stickers were surprisingly abundant four years ago. Obama signs and stickers are almost nonexistent today.

Sure, Mr. Obama keeps texting me like a stalker, reminding me of the registration deadline and my chance to vote early.

I did. So quit already.

Somewhere in the state, he even got someone to paint a barn for him. But if more enthusiasm for Mr. Obama doesn't become obvious on the ground soon, I still have trouble believing he can win Ohio. It's bitter, and many people are still clinging to their antipathies.

Unless the McCain base is even less energized. And maybe that's the super-secret strategy. All that work on the ground for Mr. Kerry four years ago probably did more harm than good by helping mobilize the GOP base.

Theatre of war
The massive air war, on both sides, also could help discourage the GOP base this time.

On TV here, McCain has been hammering Obama relentlessly since June. He remained largely unanswered until September, when Obama began firing back with his ad outlining the lobbying careers of the McCain campaign staff.

But lately, as his fortunes have improved, Mr. Obama has turned almost entirely positive. He's running 60-second fireside-chat-style ads outlining his plans for the economy and health care, trying to position himself as a centrist.

McCain's campaign has turned unrelentingly negative, with even the "Original Mavericks" ad falling by the wayside. McCain's ads are hard-hitting but so dark and nasty I have trouble believing even his supporters can stand them.

Not that Mr. Obama isn't benefiting from attacks. But lately they're coming mainly by mail from the Ohio Democratic Party, which doesn't have to put his face on them.

Close to home
A hard-hitting piece arrived Tuesday, noting that McCain campaign manager Rick Davis was a lobbyist for a foreign company (DHL) that sent 8,000 jobs overseas from nearby Wilmington.

Backers of an Indian-casino initiative say it will bring 2,000 jobs to Wilmington, replacing some of those DHL jobs. Maybe Mr. Davis and Mr. McCain will roll the dice and get behind the tribe, The New York Times be damned.

At least Sarah Palin will give it a try. I got a call Oct. 5 inviting me to her Oct. 9 rally in Wilmington. Then I got a text Oct. 6 from Mr. Obama inviting me to his rally in Cincinnati the same day. Rounding out the multimedia barrage, my wife got an e-mail from a casual contact urging her to view an Obama smear video Oct. 6. The next day, I got my e-mail from Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe inviting me to see and share the campaign's "documentary" on Mr. McCain and the Keating Five.

I should note that, contrary to my discouraged-base theory, traffic at the Clermont County Board of Elections in Batavia was fairly brisk when early voting started. A clerk said early voting seemed "pretty busy."

Then again, another clerk could be overheard saying: "This election is going to be so screwed up." That's the last thing you want to hear from Ohio.
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