How long will Election Day last in Ohio?
Nothing will happen in public for 10 long days as the counties assess the validity of each provisional ballot. Finally, between the 11th and 15th day after the election (Nov. 17-21), counties will begin tallying the results from the accepted provisional ballots—unless, of course, there are further delays from legal challenges.
Small wonder that at least one Ohio election lawyer is already half-seriously worrying about his holiday trip out of state. No, not for Thanksgiving—for New Year's Eve.
Now, from what I have seen on the ground in Ohio, the single campaign event that best emblemizes the micropolitics of the battleground state over the past few days was Obama's late Friday afternoon rally at Lima Senior High School.
Incumbent presidents rarely come to Lima (pronounced like "lime" rather than the city in Peru). It's a gritty, industrial town (population: 39,000) in a Republican county on the southern fringes of the Toledo media market. This is not a standard political destination—especially four days before an election.
Sure, Harry Truman whistle-stopped through Lima in mid-October 1948, promising in a five-minute speech from the back of his campaign train, "I'm going to take the hide off [the Republicans] from head to toe." And Ronald Reagan, borrowing Truman's Pullman railroad car and his itinerary, told a trackside rally four weeks before the 1984 election that Democrat Walter Mondale was "taxing my patience" and everything else.
But that was pretty much it until Obama got away from the railroad tracks to hold a full-throttle campaign rally here. Addressing more than 3,500 area Democrats, Obama highlighted another form of transportation as he declared, "Look, I understand Gov. Romney has had a tough time here in Ohio because he was against saving the auto industry."
What mattered, though, were not the president's words, but his physical presence. The Obama visit was designed to wring every last vote out of Allen County (Lima and the farmland that surrounds it), where the president received just 19,522 votes in 2008. The morning-after front page of the Lima News underscored the benefits of this small-town strategy: The Saturday front page was all Obama, and featured three photographs of the president and the banner headline, "BETTING ON HOPE."
If Obama wins Ohio, where he has been leading in almost every published poll for the past month, Democrats have a three-part explanation. "The first reason would be the auto industry bailout," said veteran Ohio political strategist Greg Haas, who now heads the Franklin County (Columbus) Democratic Party. "The second reason is the auto industry bailout and the third reason is the auto industry bailout."
That is, of course, an exaggeration. Other pro-Obama factors include the fast-recovering Ohio economy (the statewide unemployment rate is down to 7 percent) and the politically successful demonization of Romney as a job-destroying businessman with Cayman Islands bank accounts and a disdain for 47 percent of the nation. In addition, an NBC News/WSJ/Marist poll, released Saturday, found that a whopping 73 percent of Ohio voters approve of the president's handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.