Visiting the Battleground State Ohio

The election campaign was far more visible on the campus of Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus than in Kansas or Oklahoma. But that comes as no surprise since Ohio is one of the key battleground states in this years’ election. In 2004, Ohio won Bush Jr. his second term. But a lot of questions were raised about the validity of the process. One of the documentaries that takes a look at the role of the Buckeye state Ohio in the 2004 election is “So Goes the Nation.”


Walking around the Ohio State campus, I saw numerous posters that invited students to volunteer for the Obama campaign or for other organizations, whose goal it is to elect Barack Obama president. I also noticed a table set up at an intersection on campus to register voters. Two students, one of them a volunteer who came all the way from California to work for Obama, sat behind the registration table to register as many students as possible. At the edge of the campus, the Obama campaign had its OSU office. Without even entering the office, it was clear that it is a busy place. In front of the office was a table again with two volunteers behind it, there students could sign up for the Bruce Springsteen concert that would take place a few days later. Inside the office, it almost looked like an anthill. There were many, many flyers and posters. Several staffers took care of the people, who came in to sign up to volunteer. On the wall was a huge calendar with events and canvassing information. Clearly, the Obama campaign poured a lot of resources into their operation at OSU. The McCain campaign or any other Republican organization, on the other hand, was not visible on campus.   

The sight in Athens/Ohio, home to the University of Ohio (OU), was very similar. Obama volunteers seemed to be everywhere as the registration deadline was approaching and as early voting had just started. When I took a picture of the Athens Board of Elections office, a lady, who stood right next to it and who, it turned out, worked there, said to me that it’s an awful place. She went on saying that they were 4000 registrations behind, and consequently had to work over time. On October 6th, the last day of registration, 342 people registered to vote at the Board of Elections in Athens and 440 people voted, which was a new record in early voting in one day. After one week of absentee/early voting, more people have voted that way already than in the whole 2004 election cycle. Participation in Ohio appears to be on the rise, which might already be a sign for things to come on November 4th.

But there is more to the Ohio than the college campuses, where as a Republican volunteer acknowledged the Republicans don’t stand many chances. Even though the Athens headquarter of the Republicans and the McCain campaign was very quite, their territory are the more rural areas, like the famous Appalachia, and the suburban areas. The first night in Ohio, I spent in a suburb of Columbus called Dublin. My host, a German professor of Veterinary Science, pointed out that there are less Republican yard signs out in this suburb than in 2004, which he took as a promising sign for the Democrats.

In Athens, I could not find many Republicans, but I did eventually ran into some. The most striking one was a young female student, who just came to Athens for her studies. She spent all of her live in Ohio and left her parents house for the first time to come to Athens. When we started talking about the election, I mentioned a group on Facebook that I find quite funny. The group is called “I have more foreign policy experience than Sarah Palin” and it has about 230.000 members by now. Her reaction was a defense of Sarah Palin, which brought her to Obama. She said that she is scarred of Obama. I asked why. Her response was the suggestion that Obama could potentially be the Antichrist. She talked about the Book of Revelations and really meant what she said. I was shocked. I mean I have heard a lot of things, but that is absurd.  

And there might be more people in Ohio, who think like her. In a recent issue, the New Yorker published a piece about working class whites in Ohio entitled “The Hardest Vote.” The article is definitely worthwhile to read.