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Turnout key factor in tight Ohio governor's race

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It's a cliche but it's true: The outcome Tuesday will come down to which side gets their supporters out to vote.

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Laura A. Bischoff
, Cox Newspapers

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It's a cliche but it's true: The outcome Tuesday will come down to which side gets their supporters out to vote.

And while we won't know until Tuesday night, there is some indication turnout this year will be higher than recent midterm elections.

Early voting numbers were trending higher than the last midterm, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's office last week, and a recent Baldwin Wallace University poll showed two of three Ohio likely voters said voting this year is more important than in 2014, when a ho-hum governor's race dampened enthusiasm.

Presidential elections always turn out more voters than the midterm elections that come two years later, but tight races in the midterms -- particularly at the top of the ticket -- can result in higher than normal turnout numbers.

This year's governor's race -- the marquee contest in Ohio -- is much closer than the 2014 contest, when Republican Gov. John Kasich drubbed his Democratic and scandal-plagued opponent, Ed FitzGerald.

Polls show that this year's race between Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray is a virtual dead-heat. And some down-ticket races also appear to be close.

The ballot is loaded with races and issues both big and small: governor, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, secretary of state, two seats on the Ohio Supreme Court, a U.S. senate election, congressional and state legislative races, local contests and issues, and State Issue 1 -- a proposed constitutional amendment to change criminal sentences for some drug offenses.

Cedarville University political scientist Mark Caleb Smith said campaigns know it takes multiple contacts -- ads, door knocks and phone calls -- to influence voters.

The barrage of TV ads and mailers -- plus bus tours, Ohio campaign stops and surrogate appearances by heavy hitters such as Presidnet Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, former Vice President Joe Biden, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- is putting a bigger spotlight on the election this year.

And looming large over it all is someone who is not even on the ballot: President Trump.

"Typically, these elections are local affairs, even at the state level. But this is not a typical year," Smith said. "To some degree, Trump is on the ballot in every contest because of our polarization and Trump's divisiveness, which is unmatched in recent years.

"Trump's presence has also energized both sides," Smith said. "We will see whether that results in higher turnout."

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