US election: All eyes on Ohio

JOHN HARTEVELT IN CLEVELAND OHIO
Last updated 11:46 07/11/2012
US election generic

BATTLEGROUND: Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and presidential candidate Mitt Romney on the tarmac after arriving in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Americans in key swing states are being rushed to the polls as the rivals for the White House today play their last trump cards in an effort to drive out the vote.

In the vital swing state of Ohio, the push started right from the top.

Republican Mitt Romney parked up his campaign aeroplane at Cleveland Airport this morning only to find Democrat and vice president Joe Biden surprisingly roll around behind him in Airforce Two.

Then Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, completed the trifecta by taxiing his smaller plane up alongside Romney's.

It made for somewhat of a surreal last game of campaign chess on the tarmac and near chaos for the multiple motorcades racing about for each candidate.

That three of the four men on the top tickets for the White House converged on Cleveland, Ohio today is no accident.

If Barack Obama keeps his two or three point lead in this state, he is almost certain to keep the White House. If Romney can carry it, his prospects for a boil-over greatly improve.

In parts of Cleveland, like Detroit-Shoreway, every last vote is being eked out by the Obama campaign.

Volunteers are door knocking groups of about 50 specifically targeted voters at a time.

The names, addresses and gender of each person on the lists appear by virtue of a "triaging" process that began some months ago and was designed to culminate in victory for Obama today.

The first step was to get folks in a particular area registered. The next, to try and have them vote early.

And today, if after several contacts they are still indicating they are likely or certain to support Obama but have not yet voted, they will be called or door knocked until they have.

There are three shifts rolling out across the Detroit-Shoreway area today for exactly this purpose.

A script for volunteers contacting people in Cleveland lays out how these conversations go.

First, people are asked if they are still supporting Obama. Then, the nearest polling address is given and people are asked if they need any help getting there.

Finally, there is a plea to vote for Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat who has been in a particularly nasty race here with young Josh Mandel.

All of the data gathered from the interviews is recorded and filed back to Obama HQ in Chicago - just as it has all campaign long.

"We know exactly where the votes are lying," says Obama backer and local representative Matt Zone.

"It's very targeted, very strategic."

A fellow Obama supporter predicts around 90 percent of the vote in this part of Cleveland will be for the president. But it won't matter much if it's only 90 percent of a relatively small number of votes.

That is where the Republican grass roots campaign comes in.

While the Democrats will win most of the urban Ohio centres like Cleveland and Columbus, Obama will not win in the more rural areas.

Here, the Republicans are embracing technology in the drive for turnout of its supporters.

Romney's team has developed a real time iPhone app, which effectively crosses supporters off a list as they emerge from the polling station.

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Names left on the list, mean follow-up calls not unlike those being placed by the Obama campaign.

Door knocking is harder in rural areas so there will be more phone calls for Romney than face-to-face contacts.

A script for Romney calls from earlier in the campaign followed a similar process - are you voting early; here is how to find your nearest polling booth and this is going to be close so please vote.

The Romney team also wanted to know what time of the day supporters were planning to vote, allowing them to today go back and check on them at the time they nominated.

It's all pretty labour-intensive, grassroots stuff - a long way away from the campaign aircrafts and 30-strong motorcades - but almost certainly decisive for tonight's result.

- Stuff

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