Ohio GOP Chairman on Portman: ‘Rob's a solid conservative, but he's not a nasty conservative'

Regardless of whether Portman's name appears on the ballot next to Romney's in November, winning Ohio's 18 electoral votes will likely be crucial to victory. In 2008, Obama won the state by four percentage points by securing counties in populated urban areas and in the north. Four years earlier, Bush squeaked ahead of Democratic challenger John Kerry 51 to 49. This year, Ohio politicos are planning for another tight competition.

"This election is going to be more like 2004, the Bush-Kerry race," Bennett said. "That became a ground game race."

Romney's general election effort in Ohio has only just begun to unfold in earnest. His campaign opened its statewide headquarters in Columbus last weekend and organized a statewide volunteer blitz in every county.

Having his base of support spread out in the state's rural areas poses a challenge to organizing voters across the state, compared to Obama's largest group of voters based in Ohio's cities. To win, Ohio Republicans plan to focus their efforts on encouraging early and absentee voting, especially in the pro-Romney ag counties.

"We'll try to get those farmers to vote early so that if it's a nice day on Election Day we know they're going to be out there bringing in that million dollars worth of beans," Bennett said.

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