Ohio's Election Ground Game Tension is especially high in a handful of toss-up states that will determine the winner of the presidential election, and nowhere is the tension higher than in Ohio. This is the state that determined the winner in 2004 and grass roots efforts for both campaigns are fighting long and hard.

Ohio's Election Ground Game

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This is Weekend Edition from NPR News, I'm Alison Stewart. We are nine days away from the presidential election, and there are a handful of states that could give either John McCain or Barack Obama the presidency. Ohio determined the winner in 2004, and this year it's a state where both campaigns are fighting hard. NPR's David Greene has been to Ohio several times over the course of the campaign, and he is there this weekend, as well. Hi, David.


STEWART: So what's going on in the Buckeye State this weekend that lets you know the election is just about a week away?

GREENE: Well, I've got to say the election was taking center stage - was not taking center stage this weekend so far. It was football. And I was wandering around Columbus, which is home to Ohio State, yesterday trying to talk politics, and this is some of the sounds that I was hearing.

Unidentified Man: You want some chips, a sandwich? I mean, I - I can get you something. We got chili in there. We've got whatever you need. I'll help you out.

GREENE: How long until game time?

Unidentified Man: Eight-thirty.

GREENE: It's a big game, right?

Unidentified Man: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Penn State is undefeated, so...

STEWART: And we should say Penn State remains undefeated.

GREENE: Yeah. Penn State's still undefeated. They beat Ohio State. But there were some politics that people were trying to fit in. And things are getting more intense in these final nine days, as you've said. And I made a stopover at Barack Obama's headquarters in Columbus, and they are doing some of the rituals that come with the end of the campaign season. Tom Reynolds, who's one campaign aide in that office, told me that they are sounding like hockey players in the Stanley Cup because they're growing some facial hair. But take a listen to this.

Mr. TOM REYNOLDS (Obama Campaign Aide, Columbus): Here in Columbus, we're undertaking a Beards for Obama club. We have about 15 fulltime members of the staff, and everyone is committed to not shaving until Election Day.

STEWART: OK, so he's got the hair suit vote, we know. A lot of TV ads, the candidates have both been there a lot. But what about the grassroots? What about what they call the ground game?

GREENE: Yeah, well, both campaigns, I think, would tell you that the ground game's been going on in states like this for months. But it is really coming into these final days. And you know, the difference we're feeling now as we've hit this moment when it's less about changing minds and finding and registering new voters, it's about walking the streets and calling out to those people who you know are going to be on your side and just making sure that they close the deal and vote either by absentee, or early, or get to the polls and, you know, do what they said they were going to do.

So it's turning out your people, and it's keeping very close track of them. I was amazed. These campaigns knock on a door, and if no one's home, they write it down and they make sure that they're going to be back there door knocking again before the final day.

STEWART: Now are there any problems on the ground unique to this election cycle?

GREENE: Well, you know, it's funny. Unique to this election cycle, we're so used to legal battles kind of following the actual election. And Ohio, a lot of people think could be the place where that happens if we're going to get some legal wrangling after this is over. You know, one of the headlines I caught in the Columbus Dispatch looking at the paper's Web site this morning is "Is Ohio Doomed to Ballot Battles?"

And we saw it four years ago, a lot of criticism from the Democratic side about the Republican officials in Ohio kind of tending to lean towards President Bush, and now accusations from Republicans that Democrats are trying to deliver this election to Barack Obama. So things might not be over on election night if this state is close.

STEWART: And quickly, before I let you go, four years ago the Republican candidate, George Bush, benefited from a ballot banning gay marriage. Is there anything comparable on either side this year?

GREENE: That was such a big deal four years ago, and it got people to the polls. And the thinking was, you know, it kept that issue in focus and got people to vote for President Bush. No similar initiative this year, but certainly social issues on people's minds. I've talked to a lot of people on both sides who said they're casting their vote based on the issue of abortion this year.

STEWART: NPR's David Greene reporting from Ohio. Thanks, David.

GREENE: Thank you, Alison.

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