Guest Column: Analyzing Obama’s rally

David Cohen

When President Barack Obama spoke at Kent State on Sept. 26, 2012, it was the first time a president had visited Portage County since Richard Nixon and the first time a president had visited the city since 1912 when William Howard Taft was running for reelection.

During his speech, the president hit all the themes he has been hitting regularly on the stump since he accepted his party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6. Those themes included student loans (a topic near and dear to the hearts of the many Kent students in the crowd), health care, jobs and the economy.

In one instance, the president messed up a line by saying, “I want to see us export more jobs” when he meant to say “products.” However, he turned the potential gaffe into an effective barb against his opponent, Gov. Mitt Romney, when he joked that he “was channeling my opponent there for a second.”

This criticism of Romney for his leadership of Bain Capital has been used often by the Obama campaign and Romney’s Republican primary opponents in accusing Romney of encouraging the outsourcing of jobs overseas.

The President also discussed foreign policy and saluted America’s veterans in his speech.

Obama’s visit to Kent is just the latest of many trips to Ohio that both he and Romney have made during this election year. Since becoming president, Obama has visited Ohio 27 separate times—the most of any state save for Virginia, which is located just across the Potomac River from the White House. In 2012, Obama has made 11 separate trips to Ohio with more guaranteed to come.

Ohio’s importance in the 2012 election cannot be overemphasized — it is the most important battleground state in the country. No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio, and only two Democrats have done so since 1896.

As polarized as the country is this year, there are few battleground states in play, and Ohio’s 18 electoral votes are critical for both campaigns. The way the electoral math works, an Obama victory in Ohio would likely mean overall victory, and Northeast Ohio, a Democratic stronghold, is key to this.

The Obama campaign is well aware of this. It’s one of the reasons that after 100 long years, a president decided to return to Kent.

David Cohen is a professor of political science and Bliss Institute of Applied Politics fellow at the University of Akron.