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COLLINS: It's all about Ohio

CINCINNATI

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Have we mentioned that it's all up to Ohio? "People do like being the center of the universe. And Ohio — when does that happen?" asked P.G. Sittenfeld gleefully. He is a member of the Cincinnati City Council who went to battle recently over a series of billboards that popped up in minority neighborhoods announcing "VOTER FRAUD IS A FELONY!" with a picture of a gavel banging down.

The ads, which certainly seemed less than encouraging, were paid for by a foundation led by a big Republican donor from Wisconsin. Now they're down, and thanks in part to Sittenfeld's yelps, there are new billboards in the same neighborhoods saying, "Hey, Cincinnati: Voting Is a Right, Not a Crime."

So there's a happy ending. Although, in an ideal world, we probably wouldn't be required to remind folks that voting for president is not against the law.

"How do Florida and Colorado feel?" Sittenfeld wondered. "Do they resent us? Is there swing-state envy?"

It's been all up to Ohio for months now. But, on Wednesday, a new CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll showed President Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney by 5 points in the Buckeye State. In response, Romney officials began to suggest that maybe it was really all about Pennsylvania.

Nobody took them seriously. Mitt brought half the Republican Party to Ohio on Friday to kick off the new "Romney-Ryan Real Recovery Road Rally." Everybody was there — Ann, the sons, Paul Ryan, Paul Ryan's wife, whom we have yet to actually meet, Rudy Giuliani, a couple of Olympic medalists and pretty much every Republican elected official except He Who Must Not Be Named in New Jersey.

Sudden plans for a road trip are usually the sign of a pressing need to escape reality.

Ohio is currently famous for its oversupply of TV campaign ads — Douglas Tifft, a legal research clerk in Cincinnati, counted 16 in a row one recent night. It also has a history of Election Day crises. This is one of the reasons voting now runs for more than a month, the better to reduce the chances of a last-minute pileup. (Earlier this year, the Republican secretary of state seemed bent on expanding voting hours even more in the suburbs while reducing them in the cities, but he has gotten over that.) Nearly a quarter of the likely voters have already cast their ballots. Frankly, I don't see why everybody hasn't voted already, because this is the only way to keep the desperate party workers from calling you and coming repeatedly to your door to ask you to get with the program.


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