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Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan sing along with Janna Ryan as the Oakridge Boys perform during a campaign rally at the Marion County Fairgrounds in Marion, Ohio on Sunday.
Ohio's Republican governor said Sunday that private polls show Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney beating President Barack Obama in the all-important battleground state of Ohio just as auto industry politics assume a dominant role in the closing days of the campaign.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) predicted outright that Romney would win Ohio on "Meet the Press" and, with it, the presidential election — a overall contest which Kasich said wouldn't be that close.
"Right now, I believe we're currently ahead. Internals show us currently ahead," he said, referring to the private polling candidates routinely conduct. "Honestly, I believe that Romney is going to carry Ohio."
The governor's show of confidence comes after a week in which Obama and Romney — along with their respective running mates — barnstormed the Buckeye State in hopes of securing the state's 18 electoral votes, which would greatly enhance either candidate's hopes of winning the presidential election.
A Cincinnati Enquirer/Ohio News poll released Sunday and conducted Oct. 18-23 showed the two candidates tied at 49 percent apiece among likely voters in the state. Two other public polls earlier in the week, by CNN/ORC and TIME magazine, showed Obama leading by a small margin.
Romney was set to spend Sunday touring the Buckeye State after canceling a series of stops in Virginia due to the impending Hurricane Sandy; Obama will make a quick trip to Youngstown on Monday before returning to Washington to monitor the hurricane. The president canceled planned stops in northern Virginia and Colorado in the first half of this week.
Both the president and Romney are battling to turn out their supporters to the polls and shake loose the few remaining undecided voters in a handful of swing states. The Romney campaign has claimed that momentum is on their side, a claim which the Obama campaign argues is a bluff.
The Romney campaign circulated on Sunday several newspaper endorsements — the Des Moines Register and the Cincinnati Enquirer among them — to argue that the Republican ticket had made inroads in crucial swing states. The Obama campaign responded in kind by sending reporters endorsement editorials from the Youngstown Vindicator and the Toledo Blade, both of which referenced the 2009 auto industry bailout as a point in Obama's favor.
The auto bailout — which Romney had opposed, memorably, in a New York Times op-ed entitled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" — has assumed a central role in the closing days of the campaign, especially as the election plays out largely on a Midwestern, industrial and economically-battered playing field.
Kasich argued that the auto bailout hadn't actually boosted Ohio's economy as much as Obama would have the state's voters think.
"We are thrilled that we have a strong auto industry," he argued, "but it doesn't account for the growth of 112,000 jobs in our state."
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In the final push in the 2012 presidential election, candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama make their last appeals to voters.
The Romney campaign also aired a new ad in Ohio touting an endorsement from the right-leaning Detroit News and iconic automan Lee Iacocca, while also making a controversial claim about productions of Jeeps in China.
"Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China," the ad says in reference to plans by the auto company to build a new production facility in China to sell vehicles in that country.
The ad is accurate but plays to misinformation that spread earlier this week — partly because Romney had previously voiced the claims — suggesting that Chrysler was planning to move production of all Jeeps to China. The automaker has strongly disputed those reports, though they could have an impact in battleground corners of Ohio like Toledo, a major hub for Jeep production in North America.
The governors of two other battleground states — John Hickenlooper (D) of Colorado and Scott Walker (R) of Wisconsin — relied on more traditional fare to make the case for and against their candidates.
"What are those deductions and tax credits he's going to get rid of?" Hickenlooper asked of Romney's tax reform plan, seizing on the former Massachusetts governor's refusal to specify which loopholes and deductions he would eliminate to finance his proposed tax cuts.
And Walker, whose contentious collective bargaining reforms sparked a standoff with his state legislature and a recall election which he won, argued that Romney has a track record of working in a bipartisan manner.
"He's proven that he can do it in a state like Massachusetts," Walker said.
But neither Walker nor Hickenlooper seemed as confident as Kasich, who predicted that the fate of Ohio's electoral votes — and the election — would be known early on election night.
"I'm not sure the election's going to be as close as what everybody is talking about today," he said.