With less than a month to go until Election Day, all of the action will be in a handful of battleground states as the campaigns zero in on their key targets. On Thursday, the political universe consists of Ohio, Wisconsin and Missouri.
Barack Obama kicks off a two-day, five-city bus tour through Ohio, on the heels of an ABC News/Washington Post poll this week that shows him leading John McCain 51-45 among likely voters in the Buckeye State. This is Obama's first visit to the Buckeye State since Sept 9.
The economy is far and away the most important issue to Ohio voters and Obama is "riding economic discontent to an advantage" there, per ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer.
Obama is in Dayton, Cincinnati and Portsmouth on Thursday. Dayton is in Montgomery County, which Kerry won 51-49 in 2004; Cincinnati is in Hamilton County which went for Bush 53-47 four years ago and Portsmouth is in Scioto County, where Bush beat Kerry 52-48 percent.
The Ohio Secretary of State's office announced yesterday that 665,949 new voters have registered since Jan. 1, with the largest gains coming in heavily Democratic Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland and its suburbs. Eighteen percent of the new registered voters live in Cuyahoga and 10 percent live in Franklin County, which includes Columbus and The Ohio State University.
Cuyahoga County is Obama's stronghold – in the ABC News/Washington Post poll, Obama leads by a wide margin (71-26). Voters in Ohio do not register by party, but given that polling data, could the 122,618 new voters in Cuyahoga deliver Ohio for Obama? (Bush's margin in 2004? Just 118,601 votes.)
Since wrapping up the Democratic nomination in June, Obama has had 23 events in Ohio – more than any other battleground state. McCain has had 31 events in Ohio since wrapping up his nomination in early March, second only to Florida where he has had 34 events.
Obama already has Cleveland Cavalier/statewide favorite LeBron James on his team but will Browns QB Derek Anderson show up at any of his events this week? At their event in Strongville OH today, McCain/Palin had Browns back-up Brady Quinn, who is perhaps better know for his Subway commercials these days than his game stats.
McCain and Palin team up for a town hall in Waukesha, WI on Thursday. Per ABC News' records, this is their 19th joint event since Palin was named McCain's running mate on August 29. Obama and Biden have done 8 joint events. The thinking behind the McCain/Palin buddy act is that the crowds are more enthusiastic and larger than if they were to campaign on their own. But there are just 27 days until Election Day and the McCain campaign is playing defense in more states than they are on the offense – are they wasting opportunities to cover twice as much ground by having them share a stage?
Tivo Alert! ABC News' Charlie Gibson sat down with Barack Obama in Indianapolis today as part of World News' "Great American Battleground Bus Tour" which is making its way through the Midwest this week.
Gibson and Obama talked about the economy and voters putting their faith in a young, one-term Senator.
"[I]f I didn't have confidence in the ability to lead the country, I wouldn't be running for president," Obama said. "But it's not simply trust me. What I'm saying to the American people is trust in us. Trust in ourselves. Trust in our innovation, the talent of our workers.