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Polls: Ohio Slipping Away From McCain

A pair of polls released today indicate Sen. John McCain’s prospects for victory in the absolutely must-win state of Ohio may be growing dimmer.

The results of Quinnipiac University’s newest battleground surveys show McCain trailing Sen. Barack Obama by a whopping 14-percentage points in the Buckeye State, by a margin of 52 percent to 38 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percent. In the same survey earlier this month, Obama led by seven percentage points.

The Big 10 Battleground Poll — a survey of the Rust Belt and Midwestern states represented in the NCAA’s Big 10 Conference directed by pollsters at the University of Wisconsin-Madison — found McCain trails by 12 percentage points in Ohio, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent.

A couple of caveats about this poll: It had a relatively small sample size and thus the relatively high margin of error. Also, the pollsters surveyed registered voters and “those likely to register to vote before the election” — but the deadline for registering in Ohio passed Oct. 6, 13 days before the polling took place, so it’s unclear what exactly this means. The bottom line is that only a fraction of those surveyed could be considered likely voters.

That said, the two polls paint a picture of a state that is trending away from McCain. Indeed, RealClearPolitics classifies Ohio as “Leaning Obama.” The Website’s polling average in the state shows Obama is leading by 6.0 points, and is pulling away from McCain. Ohio is famously known as the “bellwether state,” having sided with the winner in every election since 1960.

Buried in David Broder’s column today in The Washington Post today, in which he examines the race in Ohio, is a nugget that may provide a glimpse into why McCain is falling behind in Ohio: a shocking lack of organization.

Even after Barack Obama was soundly beaten by Hillary Clinton in the Ohio Democratic primary, losing Wayne County in the process, Democrats insisted that Ohio would be in play in November — and Republicans said they were rising to the challenge. So I was eager to see what was happening on the ground.

I drove down to the McCain-Republican office, across from the local newspaper on a downtown street, and walked in about 2:30 after my lunch interview with Amstutz.

I was greeted by two ladies of my own generation, Judy Dichler and Roma Nicholac, who told me that the office had opened on Sept. 22 and that “this is the first Friday we’ve stayed open.” While we visited, a half-dozen people stopped by to pick up McCain-Palin yard signs. None was asked to do anything else for the campaign.

Just as I was preparing to leave, a third woman arrived and silently began hand-gluing mailing labels to a pile of brochures.

Broder contrasts this with the scene at the Obama office two blocks away:

Sixteen people were at their desks, talking on phones or working on computers. Two of them were imports: Alain Hankin, a corporate trainer from Northampton, Mass., and father of two who decided to give the campaign five weeks of volunteer time; and David Litt, a New Yorker who graduated from Yale in May and, finding the job market bleak, also volunteered for Obama. Both were sent to Wooster to bolster what was already a vigorous local effort.

With the electoral map shrinking for McCain, he can hardly afford to lose Ohio and its 20 electoral votes — which President George W. Bush narrowly won in 2004.

McCain can theoretically lose Ohio and still win the election, but he would need to run the table on Pennsylvania (where polling shows a bleaker situation than Ohio), Virginia (where it’s not looking particularly good, either), Florida, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri and Colorado.

The obvious question is, why aren’t all McCain’s Ohio field offices buzzing with activity less than two weeks until Election Day?

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