The surprise of the election will be whether Mitt Romney can win Ohio and if he does he will be the next president, GOP strategist and former McCain-Palin presidential campaign adviser Ford O’Connell told Newsmax TV.
O’Connell, who is a strategist at CivicNext and chairman of the CivicForum PAC, said it’s too early to put Ohio in President Barack Obama’s column.
“Everybody’s down on it,” he said. “They’re putting Ohio in President Obama’s category. I’m not sure that Ohio is really gone to Obama yet. If Mitt Romney wins Ohio, guess what? He’s going to be the next president of the United States.
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“It’s almost a necessity and if he can find a way over the next couple of debates to really break through for the blue collar Ohio voter, he really can win Ohio,” O’Connell said. “He needs to win Ohio. He can win 11 different ways on the electoral map without Ohio. What’s really hurting Mitt Romney in Ohio is not Mitt Romney’s message but, really, the politics of the auto bailout. It has really been the biggest benefit that President Obama has and the reason is about one in eight Ohio voters derive their income from auto suppliers, which is a direct result of the auto bailout.
“Really, there’s a built-in advantage because of that auto bailout and that’s really what Mitt Romney’s working against,” he added.
He said Romney, after his poll surge in the wake of the debate, needs to keep pressing his case about helping the economy to keep the momentum going.
“[Romney’s poll boost] certainly piggybacks off of his strong debate performance but if Mitt Romney wants to take this forward and win the oval office, he must continue to convince voters that he has a plan to make America recover faster than President Obama and that his policies on balance will improve the lives of all Americans over the next four years,” O’Connell said.
“He’s really most effective when he’s up on the debate podium with President Obama, when he’s drawing contrasts saying, ‘Here’s where your policy failed. Here’s what I’d do differently. And, by the way, I’m a principled but practical candidate who’s willing to work across party lines.’ It’s really that practical and willing to work across party lines that’s really resonating with a lot of voters,” he said.
Romney is on a roll right now but Obama will come out strong for the next debate, O’Connell said.
“They’re having second thoughts. I don’t that it’s in trouble because, remember, over the last 100 years, only five presidential incumbents have lost,” he said. “Mitt Romney is certainly on a roll and, let me tell you, next time out, Mitt Romney is going to get President Obama’s best debate performance because, really, last time around President Obama was not very nimble on the podium and, frankly, he was irritated. Mitt Romney won for two reasons: superior body language which made him look like in command and the fact that he really tried to demonstrate himself as somebody who was principled but practical and willing to work across party lines.”
Romney still trails 251-181 in projected Electoral College votes but is closing the gap in some swing states. Pennsylvania, however, may still be out of reach, O’Connell said..
“Pennsylvania’s going to be very tough for Mitt Romney because of the fact that in Pennsylvania Democrats have a one million voter registration advantage and enthusiasm is down among Hispanics and youth voters, which are very key to the Obama re-election campaign,” he said.
“But, really, the cards are stacked against him and the fact that Mitt Romney’s not running any ads in Pennsylvania is really a telltale sign that unless something breaks late, they pretty much bypassed this state. They do think there is a chance but, again, the stars are really going to have to align for Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania. The last time a Republican won Pennsylvania was 1988. So, in all honesty, it’s not looking good in the Keystone state for Mitt Romney.”
Another must-win for Romney is Florida, O’Connell said, which is very much a possibility.
“Under no circumstances can Mitt Romney lose Florida and if he continues along this path as principled but practical conservative who’s looking to improve the lives of all Americans, he can certainly win Florida and it’s going to be a very close vote in Florida,” he said. “But, that said, really, what Mitt Romney’s doing with his foreign policy and how he’s putting forth his five-point plan to help make America recover faster is really resonating.”
He continued, “And one thing that is important to note in the Sunshine State is that even though Democrats have a voter registration advantage, the irony is that the Independent voter in Florida tends to bend center-right so Mitt Romney is in good shape in Florida right now but he must continue to move forward and it’s really his job to win it and to really narrow the gap with Hispanics and to really push forward with seniors. Seniors will be the key in Florida for Mitt Romney.”
Turning to Colorado, O’Connell said it is “a very tough state for Mitt Romney and it’s one he’d like to have in the win column and one he certainly can have in the win column because Republicans have a voter registration advantage in Colorado.”
“But they really want to see a practical, pragmatic candidate, the one that we’ve seen in October and it’s something that Mitt Romney can win,” he said. “What concerns me the most about Colorado is really the state party has been a little bit weak in terms of on-the-ground optics but if Mitt Romney continues to shine in the debates, Colorado is going to be an extremely close state and one he certainly can win. And if he does win Colorado, he probably will win the election.”
Another key state is Virginia, which Romney cannot afford to lose “under any circumstances,” O’Connell said.
“Virginia’s very much in that sort of Ohio-Virginia category,” he said.
“The problem with Virginia for Mitt Romney is we’re really dealing with two different states: what we’ll call south Henrico County which is north of Richmond and north of Henrico County. Mitt Romney really needs to find a way to break through in Northern Virginia while making sure everybody turns out in Southern Virginia. He has a shot up there but the demographics have changed so much over the last 10 years. Virginia’s not the safe, Republican state that it used to be.”
He continued, “One other concern that we have about Virginia is that there’s a third party candidate on the ticket, Virgil Goode, who essentially has been known to Virginia voters for the last 25 years. Essentially, if he wins one to two percent, Mitt Romney could be in real trouble. But Virginia is a must-have state and something that Mitt Romney can win, particularly with his touting of military strength and lessening of small business regulation.”
In Wisconsin, O’Connell said he is hoping vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan “can pull a rabbit out of the hat” in the state he represents.
“The last time a Republican won Wisconsin was 1984,” he said. “It is doable but if Mitt Romney wins Wisconsin, he’s certainly going to have well over 270 electoral votes. He really must rely on Paul Ryan to really break through with the blue collar voter because it’s the blue collar voters that delivered Scott Walker victory twice and it’s who Mitt Romney must connect with but he’s well on his way but he’s got to keep moving forward.”
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