Politics Counts: Ohio Visits, Offices Hint at Campaigns’ Strategies

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Come January, either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will likely be president, but win or lose it looks like both men will be quite familiar with the highways and tarmacs of Ohio.

Given their recent travel schedules, it almost seems that the president and presumptive Republican nominee should apply for residency. This past week President Obama was in Cincinnati and Mr. Romney stumped in Bowling Green before attending a fundraiser in Toledo.

The infatuation presidential candidates have with Ohio is not new. Any political junky can quote the “importance of Ohio” facts off the top of his head. No Republican has ever been elected president without winning Ohio. Since 1944, Ohio has only voted for the loser in a presidential election once, in 1960, when sided with Richard Nixon against John F. Kennedy. The state’s geographic location, a link between the industrial Midwest and Appalachia, offers a diverse and complicated electorate.

But the 2012 edition of Ohio-mania is particularly impressive. Since May, the two major party candidates have visited the state 13 times between them – six trips for Mr. Obama, seven for Mr. Romney. On average that’s slightly better than one candidate visit a week, not counting campaign surrogates, and remember we are only in mid-July.

Recently, the number of campaign offices in the state has exploded as Republican Victory Centers, which are also Romney offices, have opened to keep up with the Obama team’s advantage. There are some 39 Obama offices in the state and 35 GOP Victory centers.

So yes, most everyone believes Ohio is going to be important in 2012. But mapping those visits and offices hints at some different approaches in the way the Obama and Romney teams are approaching the state.

There are some obvious targets in Ohio. The state’s three largest cities and biggest pools of votes run in a diagonal from east to west, and both Messrs. Obama and Romney have loaded up in them. Each has nine campaign offices in Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton counties, the respective homes of Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Mr. Obama has visited each county since May – Cuyahoga more than once — while Mr. Romney has been to Cuyahoga and Hamilton in that time.

When you get out of those big cities is when things get a bit more interesting, however. For the rest of this week's Politics Counts column, please visit the Wall Street Journal's website.