Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell rejects as “contrived” the growing whispers that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney should consider giving up on Ohio to focus his resources elsewhere. Instead, he urges Romney to use Wednesday’s debate platform to launch a major appeal to Buckeye voters.
Recent polls indicate the former Massachusetts governor is slipping behind President Obama in the key swing state.
A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows Obama up by 8 percent among likely Ohio voters. A Columbus-Dispatch survey shows Obama enjoying a 9 point advantage there, but conservatives say that poll is flawed because it oversampled Democrats.
Those polls appear particularly daunting for Romney given the oft-cited statistic that no Republican presidential candidate has ever captured the Oval Office without winning Ohio.
On Wednesday’s Morning Joe program on MSNBC, NBC Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd suggested that the Romney campaign may soon have to consider investing its money elsewhere.
“I think this is going to be an interesting little question for the Romney campaign in a week,” said Todd. “If the Ohio numbers don’t move, there is a strong case to be made … He’s got a path to 270 [Electoral College votes]. Al Gore had to make this decision in 2000. Do you pull out of Ohio?”
Blackwell, an expert on Ohio politics, concedes that Ohio is currently leaning toward Obama. He estimates Obama’s actual lead there at about 5 points. But he insists that Ohio remains “within his grasp” because Ohio Republicans have a superior get-out-the-vote machine.
“What I tell people about the ground game in Ohio: It’s like a field goal,” he says. “If you’re down seven, you cut it to four. Romney has a chance to win Ohio based on a superior ground game, and the opportunity that he has with independents.”
Blackwell rejects pundits’ suggestions that Romney may be better advised to invest his money elsewhere as “stupid and contrived,” adding: “They know that if Romney walks away from Ohio, he walks away from the presidency.”
He adds that anyone who thinks Romney should give up on Ohio has “an imagination that rivals that of Jonathan Swift. Somebody did too much acid in the 70s.”
Instead, Blackwell says Romney should make a major play for Ohio voters in the debate. He wants Romney to single out better development of Ohio’s energy resources, including rich shale-oil deposits, as a prime example of how his policies would revive the U.S. economy.
“Obama has created an environment where people are sitting on their capital, or capital is going elsewhere, when we have states like Ohio we can turn into the new energy meccas,” Blackwell tells Newsmax.
“Romney can use that energy issue to say, ‘Look, there’s no reason why middle-class and lower-income families are paying extraordinary utility prices, when the deposits are sitting right there beneath them. And go right at him,” he says.
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