-- The last year in which Ohio voters did not pick the winner of a national presidential election.
President Obama will today make his 20th visit to Ohio since taking office with a campaign stop in Lorain County, a Democratic stronghold just west of Cleveland.
Obama is expected to continue his assault on GOP budget proposals backed by his Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with a town-hall meeting and speech at the county’s community college.
The White House and Obama campaign have extrapolated broad proposed spending cuts in the House Republican budget to suggest that Romney backs very specific and very deep cuts to popular programs like subsidies for college students and entitlement programs for the aged.
Obama will head up to Dearborn, Michigan later to rally supporters and raise money (ironically at the museum dedicated to union-busting Henry Ford, the founder of the only major American automaker that did not participate in Obama’s 2009 bailout and restructuring).
But the primary purpose of the campaign trip is to rally the Democratic base in Ohio. Lorain County hasn’t voted Republican since 1984 and has long been a bastion for blue-collar, union Democrats.
The president’s intense focus on Ohio belies claims from Democratic strategists that Ohio will not be a make-or-break state for the president.
Ohio will have fewer electoral votes – 18 – in 2012 than in any election since 1828 when the state helped deliver the election to Andrew Jackson over incumbent John Quincy Adams. And Democrats tout the president’s viability in previously bright red states like Virginia and North Carolina thanks to strong support from black voters and large immigrant populations.
The Buckeye State, they say, has been supplanted as the key battleground. But that’s probably wishful thinking. This election promises to be tight and that means we’ll all be watching Cuyahoga County on the night of Nov. 6.
The reason Democrats are eager to downplay Ohio is because the terrain looks rocky for the president there. In 2011 Obama carried an average Gallup job approval rating of just over 40 percent in the Buckeye State and Romney scores well with the large number of suburban voters in counties surrounding Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
Compounding the problem is that the same population loss that has led to Ohio’s reduced electoral stature has fallen hardest on the most Democratic parts of the state, particularly in the northeast quadrant, as the state continues a decades-long manufacturing slide.
Democrats have had success rallying union members against the effort by Republican Gov. John Kasich to limit the power of government unions. Union sentiment still runs very strong in the state, even among households more inclined to vote Republican on the national level.
While Republicans had a banner year in 2010, picking off five of 10 incumbent House Democrats and electing Sen. Rob Portman, the Democratic hope is that they can provoke a counter backlash in 2012 by branding the GOP as too extreme.
The ultimate battle between Romney and Obama will be for the suburbs to the east of Cleveland, all around Columbus and in between Dayton and Cincinnati, but right now the president’s effort is aimed at consolidating his base by attacking the policies backed by Romney, which Team Obama says are aimed at victimizing poor and middle-class voters.
Obama hopes that by this summer he can be paying attention to the folks on the other side of the $50,000 median income line. But today he will be preaching to the choir in Elyria (median 2009 household income: $38,672.)
His message to the Democratic base today will be largely the same one that Romney’s team is using right now with conservative Republicans: you may be disappointed in me, but get a load of the other guy.
In this task, Obama has a decided disadvantage. Republicans need no convincing that they oppose Obama. Democrats still need to be instructed in what Obama and his team say are the wicked ways of Mitt Romney.
The blue team will get there, but in the process the president is slinging a lot of red meat that won’t help him make his case to the more moderate suburbanites on the other side of town.
The Day in Quotes
“Are you better off than you were the last time Obama gave a convention speech?”
-- The theme, according to a Romney aide, of a speech the former Massachusetts governor will give today in Charlotte, N.C. from a spot overlooking the football stadium where President Obama is expected to formally accept the Democratic nomination in September.
“I would say first, we’re excited about the opportunity to defeat Barack Obama more than anything. I think Gov. Romney is the nominee, and you’re going to see conservatives unite behind him and do everything we can to help him win this November.”
-- Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, talking to reporters at a panel discussion with fellow conservative lawmakers. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also endorsed presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday.
“Let me just tell you: If you’re not sure about wanting to support Mitt Romney, whether you’re liberal, whether you’re very conservative, you ought to be excited, because he’s been on your side at one time or another.”
-- Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, talking to reporters at a panel discussion with conservative lawmakers. Gohmert later clarified his support for Romney.
“For less than 10 percent of the people, it means copying another document and sending it in the mail. It's not a big burden. And considering the benefit to the system as a whole of preserving the integrity of the system, it's perfectly reasonable."
-- Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne talking to public radio station KNAU about a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of appeals affirming a state law requiring voters to show identification but striking down a provision that requires proof of citizenship to register to vote. The state will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
“The only emergency seems to be a mindless election-year war over who’s to blame for sustained high gas prices — a question for which Mr. Obama himself has repeatedly given the most reasonable answer: those shadowy actors called supply and demand.”
-- Washington Post editorial panning the president’s call for immediate congressional action on his call for $53 million to enhance regulations of oil traders.
“Congress faces a difficult task to balance needs and resources and allocate burdens and sacrifices. Just solutions, however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.”
-- Letter from Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, Calif., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, opposing Republican proposed changes to the food stamp program.
“Protecting women against violence shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
-- Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in a March floor speech calling for swift passage of a new version of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act that includes controversial provisions for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals as well as illegal immigrants. Murray, other Senate Democrats, Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and others will today call on Republicans to drop their objections to the new provisions.
“We are aware of the comments and we are conducting an appropriate follow-up.”
-- A Secret Service spokesman responding to a question from Politico in reference to comments made Saturday by guitarist Ted “Motor City Madman” Nugent at a National Rifle Association gathering that if President Obama were re-elected Nugent would be “dead or in jail by this time next year.” The Democratic National Committee called on Mitt Romney to denounce the comments of Nugent, who performed at a rally in support of Romney prior to that state’s Republican primary in February. A Romney spokeswoman later lamented “divisive language.”
“In hindsight, a chilling photo”
-- Tweet from Romney strategist Eric Ferhnstrom responding to Obama strategist David Axelrod’s January Tweet showing the president riding in his limousine with dog Bo captioned “How loving owners transport their dogs,” a rip on Romney’s 1983 trip to Canada with Irish setter Seamus in a crate on the roof of the family station wagon. Ferhnstrom’s Tweet was in reference to Daily Caller article Tuesday recounting Obama’s recollections of eating dog meat as a boy in his years living in Indonesia.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“The president's defense it to say ‘I can't deal with this -- Washington can't -- in an election year.’ What about last year, and the year before and the year before? He has been in office for three years, all of which were non-presidential election years. He did nothing on tax reform or entitlement reform. That's why we're going to hit the wall within a three-week window in December when people many of whom will have lost an election will make decision that will last for a decade.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.