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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ohio Opportunities

In what could be good news for Barack Obama’s campaign, Ohio election officials have announced plans to establish a one-week window from September 30 until October 6 when eligible voters can simultaneously register to vote and then cast early ballots. The window seems tailor-made to facilitate a strong turnout among first-time voters, particularly college students, of whom there are an estimated 470,000 in the Buckeye State. In national polls, Obama has been beating McCain by better than a two-to-one margin among younger voters (66-30 among voters 18-29 years old in the latest Washington Post/ABC poll).
There’s another small but potentially significant Ohio opportunity for Obama that I’ve been meaning to write about. One of the odd data points contributing to George W. Bush narrow win in 2004 in Ohio was his relatively strong performance among African-Americans: 16%, as compared to 11% nationally. (A gay marriage ballot initiative is generally thought to have been a factor in skewing the black vote in a conservative direction). Black turnout wasn’t particularly impressive, either (African-Americans accounted for 10% of the statewide vote, as compared to 12% in the Ohio Senate race two years later). There’s every reason to think that Barack Obama will improve on Kerry’s 84% support-level among African-Americans, perhaps by a significant margin, with much higher turnout. For all his appeal to certain categories of Democratic and independent voters, John McCain probably has less of a natural connection with black voters than Bush, if only because of the latter’s famous religiosity. If McCain’s campaign and/or supporters are perceived as engaging in race-baiting (a pretty good bet, as Peter Beinart argues today in the Washington Post), , then Obama’s advantage among African-Americans could become a real factor in a close statewide contest.
All in all, this supports Tom Schaller’s contention that a major investment in minority voter registration and turnout in Ohio by Democrats would be a very good idea.

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