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COLLINS: Swinging away in Ohio, a state on the fence

  • Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, accompanied by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, shakes hands along the rope line during a campaign rally, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 ,in Westerville, Ohio. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

WESTERVILLE, Ohio

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In my next life, I want to be an undecided voter in Ohio.

Honest to gosh, can you imagine the love? If the Ohio Undecided Voter had a Twitter account, it would have 10 million followers. Each campaign would have an entire operation dedicated to watching it. People in China and Bulgaria who wanted to understand what's going on in this election would just check in with #IhavenoideainSteubenville.

"October 2! Voting starts! Are you ready?" Rep. Pat Tiberi hollered at a Mitt Romney rally in central Ohio Wednesday.

"Yeah," the crowd returned, rather weakly. The dim response couldn't have been because of a lack of commitment. These people were standing in line at dawn — at hours before dawn — to get in to see Romney and his celebrity guest endorser, golfer Jack Nicklaus.

"The Golden Bear is here because he gets it!" cried Sen. Rob Portman.

The Golden Bear was there to woo white male voters, the latest demographic that seems to be giving Romney trouble. Maybe the crowd sounded tentative because it knew the Republicans are definitely not ready. This week's Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll showed Romney running behind President Barack Obama 53 percent to 43 percent in the state.

Even among the elite brotherhood of swing states, Ohio is sort of special, particularly to Republicans. It is known, at least to the Ohio Historical Society, as the "Mother of Presidents," because eight inhabitants of the White House, all Republican, were from here. Admittedly, the first one lasted only four weeks, and the last one was Warren Harding.

No Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. Asked if Romney could manage it, political director Rich Beeson retorted: "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas."


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