Political News

Ohio Democrats think Biden can win the state and urge campaign to go all in

Posted September 28, 2020 5:11 p.m. EDT

— President Donald Trump's path to reelection runs right through Ohio, but with polling showing a tight race ahead of November, some Ohio Democrats think the state is ripe to flip and are urging Democratic nominee Joe Biden's campaign to invest more resources there.

A memo obtained by CNN makes the case that Ohio -- which falls behind other top battleground targets for Democrats, such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania -- is "winnable if someone decides to go for it." Written by Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper, it advises the campaign to deploy additional financial resources in the state in the final stretch.

"Ohio is within the margin of error despite minimal relative investment by the Biden campaign versus the Trump campaign or other swing states," reads the memo, which was sent to national Democratic officials and a senior member of the Biden campaign. "That leaves it winnable if someone decides to go all in, and the marginal dollars spent here in the closing weeks will matter much more due to lack of spending thus far."

As of Thursday, the Trump campaign had spent a total of $6.7 million on advertising in Ohio while the Biden campaign had invested $2.6 million. Trump has made three trips to the state this year, while Biden has traveled there once in 2020, stopping in Columbus for an event on March 10 before his rally planned for that evening in Cleveland was canceled due to coronavirus concerns. Both men will be in Cleveland on Tuesday night for the first presidential debate of the general election campaign. Biden will remain in Ohio on Wednesday, when he'll take part in a train tour that will include stops in the eastern part of the state before heading to western Pennsylvania.

Despite the difference in time and money spent in the Buckeye State, a Quinnipiac poll released on Thursday shows the race is within the margin of error, with Biden receiving 48% to Trump's 47%. A Fox News poll of likely Ohio voters released the same day showed Biden with a slight lead, drawing 50% to Trump's 45%.

The memo also makes the case that a win in Ohio for Biden would tilt the electoral map so decisively his way that it would deny Trump a way to contest the race. Last week, Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power following Election Day.

"With early voters counted first in Ohio, a GOP Secretary of State who has attested to the legitimacy of vote by mail and a big electoral college prize, a blue Ohio on election night ends the drama that otherwise will unfold as Trump challenges and drags out other swing state results," the memo reads.

Pepper would not comment directly on the memo but said the Biden campaign "understands the case" for investing in Ohio. He believes a larger television ad buy could make the difference, especially when it comes to undecided voters.

"Many of them have not yet been reintroduced to Joe Biden as a presidential candidate, and I think that matters," Pepper told CNN.

"I think more than anything it's having people feel like Joe Biden gets what they're going through on economics, on health care, and shares their values in a way Donald Trump doesn't. I actually think with those undecideds, that would do it."

Pepper says the dynamics in the state, and especially the suburbs, have shifted since Trump won by 8 points in 2016. That makes it a prime target for Biden, he says, pointing to Democrats' success in 2018 in flipping six state house seats as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown's reelection as strong indicators.

"It's the same dynamic," Pepper says of Brown's and Biden's appeal to Ohio voters. "They have a lot of similarities about how they campaign and some of the tone they set."

Campaign lists Ohio as 'priority' state

With the tailwind of recent public polling and Biden already being in the state for Tuesday's debate, his campaign announced over the weekend that the former vice president would embark on a train tour including eastern Ohio the day after the debate.

The campaign is up with television ads across the state, specifically targeting northwestern and northeastern Ohio, areas where there is a high concentration of voters who supported both Obama and Trump -- people who the campaign believes Biden can win back.

A recent memo from the Biden for President Ohio state director, Toni Webb, said the campaign is in a "strong position" to win there as it leans into an economic message contrasting Biden's "Build Back Better" plan with Trump's "broken promises" across the state, including the loss of jobs at the General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and the President's call for a boycott of Akron-based Goodyear. Biden's plan promises to create union jobs with a focus on investing in American-made products and the nation's manufacturing sector.

"We very much see President Trump on his heels," Molly Ritner, Biden for President deputy states director, told CNN. "That gives us an opportunity to be on offense, and if you look at where we're investing, you'll see the majority of our TV buy is in states that Trump won last cycle."

Ritner says she and her team "spend all day every day trying to figure out how to get to 270 and win the presidency." They are focused on 17 priority states, which include Ohio, where they see disaffected Obama-Trump voters, along with suburban and Black voters, as a key part of a coalition needed to win.

Still, Ritner did not confirm specific additional resources currently headed to Ohio, reiterating the team's need to continue to be nimble in its spending during the final stretch of the general election. The campaign's goal is to keep open as many paths to 270 electoral votes as possible, she said.

"It is the job of the state party and local candidates and others to go and ask for resources for their state, and so I am glad they are doing that and I am glad that Ohio Democrats are fired up and ready to go and thinking through this and figuring out how we're going to get to a win," Ritner says.

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