CINCINNATI — President Barack Obama headed back to Ohio on Tuesday facing a tight race that has some supporters in the battleground state feeling anxious.
Obama was to make a rare joint appearance with Vice President Joe Biden at a rally in the afternoon in a Dayton park. The Democrat carried Ohio over Republican John McCain in 2008 and has campaigned in the pivotal state frequently, while his campaign and its supporters have devoted heavy portions of spending and time there.
However, Republican Mitt Romney's campaign says he has been gaining in Ohio with two weeks left until Election Day. A Quinnipiac University/CBS News poll released Monday put Obama ahead with 50 percent to Romney's 45 percent in Ohio, down from a 10-point lead in a Sept. 26 survey. The margin of error for the poll conducted Oct. 17-20 was plus or minus 2.5 percent.
"Romney's picking up momentum. You can just see it," said Scott Jennings, his Ohio state campaign director. Jennings said the campaign has a powerful "ground game," reaching millions of voters with door-to-door canvassing and phone banks.
"There is just no comparison in the state to 2008," Jennings said. "We have just blown it out on voter contacts."
The Obama campaign says it has built upon a strong 2008 organization in Ohio. It recently opened its 125th field office, triple the number of campaign offices Romney has in the state. They are promoting the support Obama gave the rebounding auto industry in the state.
"Ohioans know that the right path forward for the U.S. lies with President Obama," former Gov. Ted Strickland said in a statement Monday night. The Democrat is a campaign chairman for Obama.
The Romney campaign thinks it can swing votes in eastern Ohio, where there are concerns about the Obama administration's coal policies.
Cheryl Austin, 57, an unemployed Steubenville office worker, said she is seeing "an awful lot of Romney supporters" in her area.
"That concerns me, because I just don't feel Romney tells the truth," she said while attending an Obama rally in Wintersville last week featuring former President Bill Clinton.
A supporter who turned out Tuesday morning to see Biden at the University of Toledo said he was seeing more Republican signs in his home area.
"I don't see near that many Democrat signs," said Tom Joseph, a retired electrician from Tiffin who has been canvassing for Obama in northwest Ohio.
While there is less visible enthusiasm, he said, he expects Obama to carry Ohio again because of his auto industry support.
Some longtime Obama supporters in the Cincinnati area have said that they don't see the same level of enthusiasm as in 2008, but that they are working hard to persuade voters that the stakes are too high to sit this one out.
In Columbus, Brandi Gilbert, 25, said she will vote for Obama this year as she did in 2008 and thinks he has done as well as possible, considering Republican congressional opposition.
Asked at a recent Obama rally at Ohio State University whether she expects him to win Ohio, she replied: "In a perfect world, yes, but you never say never. But I'm going to say yes."
One thing is for sure: Ohioans will see plenty of the candidates and their campaigns in the final two weeks. No Republican has won the White House without carrying Ohio, and no president has been elected without Ohio since Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960. Many electoral projections say winning Ohio this year likely will be decisive to winning the election.
Biden began the second day of a three-day swing through Ohio in Toledo, and the president will return Thursday evening for a rally in Cleveland. GOP running mate Paul Ryan will speak Wednesday at Cleveland State University, with Romney scheduled Thursday to be at a Cincinnati machine and manufacturing plant that also produces military components.
"You're going to see Romney and Ryan in the state a great amount," Jennings said. "It all underscores the importance of Ohio. It may well be (Ohio voters) who decide who is the next president of the United States."
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Kantele Franko in Wintersville and John Seewer in Toledo. Contact the reporter at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell
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