By Rayza Goldsmith, Daily News Editor
Published November 6, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After weeks filled of grueling campaign stops and rallies across the nation, it’s no surprise that the race for the White House culminated in Ohio, a state that has proven to be a critical battleground state in recent political history.
Ohio and its 18 electoral votes has been the source of increased speculation over the course of the campaign, and many believe the race will be decided in Ohio. As polls narrow across the state, the presidential candidates and their surrogates have made numerous trips to Ohio, and on Monday both campaigns held events here in Columbus, in the hopes of wining over the state.
With the help of Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen, Obama reminded the nearly 15,500-person crowd at Nationwide Arena of the importance of voting on Election Day in securing a victory in the state, and thus, the country. Later in the day, Romney appeared with The Marshall Tucker Band before a crowd of about 10,000 at the Port Columbus International Airport to warn attendees of the consequences of four more years under the Obama administration.
Ohio carries significance not only given that the country remains largely unsure of which candidate will win the state on Tuesday, but also because it has historically been a standard bearer of success for Republican presidential nominees. No Republican candidate has won without Ohio, and the winning candidate has taken the state in every election since 1964.
The Romney and Obama campaigns each used high-profile performers to campaign in key battleground states in order to increase the enthusiasm. But beyond the glitz and the glamour, the stars had a message to convey to their audiences.
“American dream and American reality, our vote tomorrow is the one undeniable way we get to determine the distance in that equation,” Springsteen told the crowd. “Tomorrow we get a personal hand in shaping the kind of America we want our kids to grow up in.”
Springsteen’s message is consistent with both campaign strategies in the final days, which is to get out the vote, whatever it takes. However, this was somewhat of a moot point in Ohio on Monday, at least for those who turned out for Obama’s event. Early voting began more than a week before Election Day in Ohio, and nearly 1.6 million people have already cast their ballot.
When Jay-Z asked the crowd to scream if they had already voted, he was received by a robust response, and the cheering of those who had not yet voted was noticeably softer.
Terrell Russell of Dover, Ohio, who attended the Obama rally decked out in an Obama T-shirt, Obama watch and an Ohio State University scarf, said he voted early because he wanted to ensure that his vote would count.
“I voted early so my vote would count,” he said. “I voted early so they didn’t take my vote.”
Romney and Obama raced across the country Monday, visiting crucial battleground states to get out the vote. Before appearing here, Obama and Springsteen made a joint appearance in Madison, Wisc. Later in the evening, first lady Michelle Obama joined the president and Springsteen for an event in Des Moines, Iowa — Obama’s final rally of the campaign, and his political career.
Romney, meanwhile, started the day in Virginia before sweeping through Florida, Ohio and New Hampshire. Kid Rock performed at a raucous Romney rally to end the day in Manchester, N.H.
But Romney was introduced at his event here by a number of Ohio athletes, including Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton, before enumerating reasons the nation should be cautious of electing Obama.
"If the President is re-elected, he's going to continue to crush small business,” Romney said at the event. “I don't know if he thinks of it that way, but that's what his policies are going to do.”
The future of small business, the bailout of the automobile industry and outsourcing in Ohio have been ongoing topics of discussion in the state, which U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D–Ohio), who is running in a tight race for re-election, said is a significant contributor to the nation’s auto production during Monday’s Obama rally.
Sarah Lee of Franklin County, Ohio explained why Obama’s assistance in the auto bailout has been important to helping her community get back on its feet during an economically challenging time.
“Everything you do when there’s a rescue or a stimulus, it helps create and save jobs for everybody,” Lee said. “When they say, ‘When you’re sitting around the dinner table,’ well, you gotta sit around the dinner table with something. And I believe because of what (Obama’s) done, because of that bailout, jobs were saved and food’s on the table.”
Romney has also made numerous trips to the state in the past week, and announced he would also visit Cleveland on Election Day, in what might be considered a nod to the importance his campaign has placed on the state.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Columbus mayor Michael Coleman, who appeared at Obama’s campaign event Monday, said Ohio will play a critical role in determining the victor of the election.
“Columbus will determine how the state goes, and the state will determine how the nation goes,” Coleman said.
One thing remains certain — all eyes will be on Ohio on Tuesday, and if Coleman has anything to say about it, even more emphasis will be on the city of Columbus. Coleman emphasized that Columbus is destined for political importance in this year’s election, noting that presidential candidates require 270 electoral college votes to win, in accordance with I-270, the highway that circles Columbus, making it an auspicious number.
“When you have those two things coming together like that, you know it’s gotta be victory,” Coleman said.