Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Photos from the campaign trial

Election coverage from Ohio:

Total-state approach aided Obama
Strategy to campaign in every county in Ohio turned some parts blue

Thursday, November 6, 2008 3:21 AM
By Joe Hallett, Jonathan Riskind and Mark Niquette

In a historic election that reaffirmed Ohio's status as the nation's bellwether, Sen. Barack Obama powered his way to a four-point victory in the state by campaigning in all 88 counties.

Obama won Ohio with 51 percent of the vote, becoming the first Democrat in 44 years to capture more than 50 percent. Lyndon B. Johnson garnered 63 percent in his 1964 landslide against Republican Barry Goldwater.

Ohio once again mirrored the nation: Unofficial results show Obama won nationally 52-46, and in Ohio 51-47. The state has picked the presidential winner in 25 of the last 27 elections since the turn of the 20th century.

From the start, the Obama campaign's goal in Ohio was to exceed Democratic nominee John Kerry's performance in 2004 -- and it did so in a big way. Obama won 22 counties, six more than Kerry, and he topped Kerry's vote differential in 75 counties.

With an army of volunteers and paid staffers across the state, the Obama campaign brought down Republican percentages in GOP stronghold counties and raised Democratic percentages in counties where Kerry had done well four years ago.

"They gnawed at the edges and did a little better than Kerry, even in Republican counties," said Barry Bennett, chief of staff for GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt of Loveland. "They increased their margins just a little bit. You do that 88 times, and it adds up."

Some highlights:

• Obama won the big-six urban counties with substantially more votes than Kerry, including 51,200 more in Franklin County, 18,500 more in Cuyahoga County and 18,300 more in Lucas County.

• Obama became the first Democrat in 44 years to win Hamilton County, Ohio's third largest, using a big turnout in Cincinnati to beat Kerry's vote take in the county by 43,800 votes.

• In the fast-growing and reliably Republican "collar counties" around Cincinnati -- Butler, Clermont and Warren -- Obama cut deeply into the margins McCain needed to match President Bush's 2004 performance. Compared with Kerry four years ago, Obama got 19,860 more votes in Butler County, 6,900 more in Clermont County and 4,600 more in Warren County.

• Even in GOP strongholds such as Hancock County, which has supported the Republican nominee in the last 12 presidential elections, Obama won 6,200 more votes than Kerry, cutting into McCain's margin of victory there.

Rather than model his campaign on Kerry's, which focused mainly on maximizing the Democratic vote in Ohio's big-six urban counties, Obama followed the blueprint from the 2006 campaign of Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, who competed in every county.

"Focusing on a handful of large urban counties is not enough," said Doug Kelly, executive director of the Ohio Democratic Party. "We believed in the model of competing everywhere."

Strickland turned the Ohio map from red to blue: Two years after President Bush won 72 counties, Strickland also won 72 counties.

"It wasn't hard to sell the Obama folks on how to put this together because it's the way they were organized in Iowa and other early states," said Aaron Pickrell, Obama's Ohio campaign manager.

Pickrell also had managed Strickland's campaign, so he hit the ground running June 8 when Obama appointed him. Flush with campaign cash, Pickrell commanded more than 300 paid campaign staffers working out of 89 field offices -- an operation that dwarfed McCain's, which relied heavily on volunteers.

Aided by Bush's unpopularity, overwhelming voter sentiment that the country is headed in the wrong direction and heightened economic anxiety caused by the Wall Street meltdown, the Obama campaign saw an opportunity to pluck off undecided voters.

It turned three northwestern Ohio counties -- Wood, Ottawa and Sandusky -- that were red in 2004 to blue on Tuesday by arguing that Obama was the better choice for jobs, said John Hagner, voter-targeting director for the state Democratic Party.

"We had persuadable voters in the northwest who were willing to give us a chance because the economy in a lot of the one-factory towns up there had gotten worse," Hagner said.

Jon Seaton, McCain's regional campaign manager for Ohio and Pennsylvania, said the campaign's ground operation worked well and "I think we got as many votes as there were to get for John McCain." Although McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, secured the vote of the GOP base, the campaign suffered from the sour political climate, Seaton said.

"When you have an election like this with independents and moderates voting the other way, the base is never enough," Seaton said. "Given the realities of the environment, Sen. Obama was able to move independent votes."

Seaton said that frequent visits by McCain and Palin to the Mahoning Valley, a bastion for conservative Democrats, paid off. Although Obama won Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Jefferson counties, he received fewer votes than Kerry in all of them.

Compared with Kerry, Obama also underperformed in many of the state's 29 Appalachian counties. Asked whether Obama's race was a factor, Pickrell said: "I don't have any evidence of it being an issue at all, but I don't have an explanation for why we didn't perform a little bit stronger there."
"I think we got as many votes as there were to get for John McCain."

Jon Seaton
McCain's regional campaign director in Ohio and Pennsylvania


Barack Obama uses Ohio win to help gain victory
by Elizabeth Auster and Mark Naymik / Plain Dealer reporters

Tuesday November 04, 2008, 11:39 PM

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama became the first black American in history to win the U.S. presidency Tuesday, riding a powerful wave of economic anxiety that gave Democrats control of both Congress and the White House for the first time in 14 years.

Ohio, which gave President Bush his margin of victory in 2004 and which Arizona Sen. John McCain had considered vital to his own success, once again played a crucial role in a presidential election, handing its 20 electoral votes to Obama much earlier in the night than many had expected.

Obama was declared the winner in Ohio by multiple networks before 9:45 p.m. Little more than an hour later, the networks and the Associated Press declared him the winner of the election.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, clearly elated when Ohio went for Obama, took the lectern early at the Democratic election party at a downtown Columbus hotel where the crowd was cheering thunderously and hailed Obama's victory as a historic milestone.

"We have come together as a people and we have broken through a barrier and that barrier is race," he said. "For the first time we have an African-American as president. And we are a stronger country and a more unified people because of what has happened in Ohio and across the country tonight."

The Buckeye State, long regarded as a bellwether in presidential elections, had voted with the winner in 25 of 27 presidential elections before Tuesday, a record matched only by Missouri.

Obama also racked up important wins in Florida, Virginia and Iowa, which also went to Bush in 2004, while holding Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and other closely watched states that Democrat John Kerry won in 2004.

Shortly after 11 p.m., thousands of Obama supporters gathered in Chicago's Grant Park broke out in cheers as they waited to hear from Obama. McCain, who had hoped for a last-minute comeback despite weeks of polls showing him behind, conceded in a call to Obama.

Longtime Ohio Republican Chairman Bob Bennett seemed resigned to an Obama victory and attributed Obama's success partly to the recent meltdown of the global financial system.

"The No. 1 issue in Ohio for some time has been the economy and once the financial meltdown hit, we dropped nine points in 10 days," Bennett said Tuesday night. "We had a headwind against us."

Bennett praised Democrats in Ohio for mounting "the most effective ground game I've ever seen the Democrats put on," and also blamed his own party for straying from its message of fiscal conservatism.

"Republicans need to take a real hard lesson from this defeat. We had an opportunity to put this country on a path of fiscal conservatism and we failed," he said. "The American people realize that."

Exit polls conducted for the Associated Press and television networks showed the economy was the dominant issue on voters' minds in Ohio and the rest of the nation. Six in 10 voters in Ohio, and the rest of the country, picked the economy as the top issue, while only one in 10 cited any other single issue as most important.

Obama did best in Ohio among blacks, younger voters and the least and most educated voters, the exit polls showed. McCain did best in Ohio among wealthy voters and older voters. Obama, however, won key swing groups of Ohio voters -- independents, moderates and women -- and he won all age groups except those 65 and older.

Both candidates this year courted Ohio voters relentlessly. No Republican has won the presidency without Ohio, and the state's voters have sided with the loser only twice in the last century, when Thomas Dewey beat Democrat Franklin Roosevelt in Ohio in 1944, and when Richard Nixon topped John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Democratic presidential candidates need to pile up votes in Cuyahoga County and other urban counties to counter the less populous but more numerous suburban and rural counties, which traditionally have heavily favored Republicans.

In Cuyahoga County, Obama had a 3-to-1 lead after absentee ballots were tallied. Though that margin was unlikely to hold, Obama appeared on track to beat the goal of racking up a 220,000-vote advantage there. In 2004, Kerry defeated Bush by 226,000 votes in the county, though it wasn't enough to beat back Bush's gains in rural Ohio.

Obama clinched his victory in Ohio on the strength of the urban counties around Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Youngstown. It was unclear exactly how Obama performed in rural parts of Ohio, but he appeared to outperform Kerry in some parts, based on absentee ballot counts, said Obama's Ohio campaign manager, Aaron Pickrell.

"We had the candidate and the message and a true ground game," he said. "We had people in counties that never saw a field organizer before. It shows that if Democrats can communicate, they can cut into Republican margins."

Obama's victory as the nation's 44th president, combined with significant gains for Democrats in the House and Senate, ushers in a new era of Democratic Party rule in Washington for the first time since the beginning of Bill Clinton's presidency.

Significant policy changes are likely on everything from the war in Iraq, which Obama has promised to end, to the ailing national economy, which Obama wants to pump up with middle-class tax cuts and new government spending on public works projects.

Obama could face pressure from fellow Democrats to move quickly, while he still can claim momentum from his victory, on some of his more ambitious and controversial initiatives, such as health-care reform and tax code changes. He has proposed various tax cuts for low- and middle-income families coupled with tax hikes on income and capital gains for families earning over $250,000 a year.

Labor unions also would be likely to press for quick action on a top labor priority -- passing legislation that would allow unions to be recognized in work places when they get a majority of workers to sign cards, without secret-ballot elections. The bill has previously passed the House but has been blocked in the Senate.

Obama's victory caps a stunningly rapid career climb for a 47-year-old first-term U.S. senator who was unknown to most Americans before the summer of 2004, when he delivered an eloquent keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston appealing to the nation to move past bitter partisan politics.

Combining his gift for soaring oratory with a message that focused relentlessly on the unpopularity of the Bush administration, Obama -- the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, drew record crowds throughout the primary and general-election campaign. He energized not only black Americans, but also hordes of young people, who flocked to his rallies and embraced his call for change.

Cuyahoga County polls closed on time Tuesday, allowing early votes to be tallied shortly after 7:30 p.m. Unlike other recent general elections, there were no lawsuits in Cuyahoga County filed to keep polls open. Some precincts did remain open past the cutoff, but only because people were still in line to vote.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner predicted before the election that Ohio would see an 80 percent turnout. Early turnout figures suggest that estimate could be reached.