Here we go again.
We’ve seen this movie before.
Eight years ago on election night, President George W. Bush was sweating it out in the White House, watching states turn red or blue in what was obviously to be a close race with Democrat John Kerry.
Ohio’s returns kept going back and forth – Kerry in the lead, then Bush, then Kerry again.
The Bush team was sweating bullets. It was going to come down to Ohio.
Finally, late into the night – Ohio was called for Bush.
In the end, he took 2,859,768 votes in the Buckeye State, compared to 2,741,167 for Kerry.
Chalk up 20 electoral votes for Bush; and with those 20 electoral votes, a second term in the White House.
Ohio decided the election.
And it just might do so again.
In 2004, a swing of about six votes per precinct in Ohio would have given the state and the election to Kerry.
This time, as in 2004, the polls are close.
On Friday, Real Clear Politics – a web site that tracks national and key state polling – averaged the nine most recent polls of Ohio voters and came up with an Obama advantage of 2.3 percentage points. Four years ago, on the Friday before the election, the Real Clear Politics average was a 5,8 percentage point lead for Obama in Ohio. In the end, Obama won the state by 4.6 percent.
In other words, it could be very, very close.
That is why the Romney-Ryan campaign chose West Chester in Butler County to hold its mega-rally Friday night, one that drew about 30,000 Romney supporters from southwest Ohio.
The Romney-Ryan team knows all about 2004 and Ohio. And it knows all about the fact that Butler County – as Republican a county as one can find – gave Bush a 50,000 vote edge eight years ago.
They’re looking for that magic again.
And it is why the Obama-Biden campaign has been working furiously to get as many of its supporters out to the polls to vote early – African-Americans, college students, union members - to build up a firewall of Obama votes prior to election day. Because, they, too, know something – Republicans tend to show up on election day in greater numbers than Democrats.
It is one reason why Michelle Obama was on the campus of Miami University Saturday and President Obama is holding a get-out-the-vote rally at Fifth Third Arena on the University of Cincinnati campus Sunday – to reach those young people and push them out of their dorms and into the polling places on Tuesday – or on Monday, where the boards of elections will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. for early voters.
Last week, in a conference call with reporters, Obama-Biden campaign manager Jim Messina and senior strategist David Axelrod argued that they are winning the early vote battle in every battleground state, including Ohio.
Messina said that, in the last nine Ohio polls, Obama has had a double-digit lead among voters who said they have already cast their ballots.
But Scott Jennings, the Ohio state director for the Romney-Ryan campaign, argued in a memo this week that the GOP is outperforming the Democrats in the early voting.
He quoted a Politico story by Adrian Gray, who ran the voter contact program for Bush in 2004, who said that 220,000 fewer Democrats have voted early this year than in 2008; and that 30,000 more Republicans had cast early ballots compared to four years ago.
We will find out on Tuesday night if that “firewall” the Obama campaign believes it has built in Ohio will hold.
In the meantime, both sides will be working continually to reach their voters – in person or on the phone – and do everything in their power to get each and every one of them to the polls by 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Because, in Ohio, every vote counts.