Romney-Ryan signs sit on nearly every block in this southwest Ohio suburb, and there’s scant trace of support for President Barack Obama.
Cynthia Herman is determined to find it.
She is among the Obama volunteers who have taken on a tough but possibly decisive mission: Wade through the grumpy responses, slammed doors or arguments in opposition territory to find backers of the president.
Trimming GOP margins in historically Republican areas helped Obama in 2008 in places such as Jacksonville in the Duval County area of northeastern Florida and in Republican-dominated counties in southwest Ohio, which delivered margins of more than 2-to-1 for George W. Bush and clinched his 2004 re-election. Obama also is employing the behind-enemy-lines strategy in swing-voting states such as Colorado, where he has campaign operations in heavily Republican areas such as Colorado Springs.
Ohio is one of the most pivotal and closely contested battleground states, with most polls showing a very competitive race, and an Obama vote in a Republican stronghold such as Mason County counts just as much as one in the Democratic bastion of Cleveland on Election Day on Tuesday.
Mitt Romney’s campaign knows that arithmetic, too, and has made forays into Democratic Northeast Ohio. He’s also campaigned in places such as Pueblo, Colo., where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1.
Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, recently campaigned in Democratic areas of Ohio, visiting Youngstown, which Obama easily carried in 2008, and later going to Berea and Cleveland State University, in the Democratic bastion of Cuyahoga County. Romney also has repeatedly worked traditionally Democratic areas.
“Some of these counties are historically blue, but I don’t think Democratic enthusiasm is on the rise there; it’s on the wane,” said Scott Jennings, Romney’s Ohio campaign director. “If I can turn out my people and convince some of these conservative Democrats and independents, I can change the margins up there by a significant amount.”
The Romney campaign doesn’t have as extensive a network of field offices in Ohio as Obama’s operation but says it is has expanded the ’08 GOP presence and sees results when candidates campaign personally in Democratic regions.
“When you’re in a heavily Democratic area, I think the Republican candidates have to go in there to let people know what they really stand for,” said Gwen Conti, 67, a Democrat who went to Youngstown to see Ryan and plans to vote for Romney because she doesn’t trust Obama. “Because all the advertisements you see on TV are all negative, and people don’t really get to see the real person.”
The three counties that form a crescent around Cincinnati — Butler, Warren and Clermont — are loaded with white conservative voters and bedroom communities. Obama did between 3 and 4 percentage points — and 23,000 votes — better than John Kerry did in 2004 in that area. He also won Cincinnati-based Hamilton County, the first Democratic presidential candidate to do so since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
There are seven Obama field offices in the three Republican counties, up from three in 2008. One of the new offices is in Clermont County, where Obama snagged 33 percent of the 2008 vote without an office.