Recent polls indicate that Mitt Romney is trailing President Barack Obama in the race for the presidency of the United States. While the GOP nominee is favored in some U.S. territory, this election, like most, will come down to the swing states.
Of the notables, Romney is in the deepest water when speaking of Ohio. Two surveys released in recent days, one from the Ohio Newspaper Association and another from The Washington Post highlighted the challenges that the former Massachusetts governor faces as he campaigns in the Buckeye State for a second time.
Looking at the numbers, Obama led by 5 points among likely voters in the O.N.A. poll, and a startling 8 points in the Post poll. But the surveys are only a small part of the bigger picture.
As his campaign travels from the shallow end of the pool to the deep end, Romney's favorable rating can be found submerged under the water.
According to CNN, Almost two-thirds of voters approve of Obama's decision to bail out the auto industry, a staple of Ohio's manufacturing economy. With that being said, there’s no doubt that the President also leads Romney on the question of who would do more to help the middle class.
In addition, when asked the question of which candidate would do a better job handling the economy, it is there that Obama also has a solid lead.
But why has the 65-year-old American business man turned politician failed to connect with the men and women of one of the most densely populated Midwestern states? Interviews with some two dozen Republican strategists and elected officials across Ohio revealed an array of explanations.
While some familiar with the campaign point to the Obama campaign taking advantage of Romney's opposition to the federal bailout of Chrysler and General Motors, others said there is still a bad taste in Ohio’s mouth from the divisive 2011 battle over collective bargaining rights that hurt the GOP's standing with working class voters.
A more popular theory can be validated when looking at the background of Romney’s campaign staffers and see if any of them are even from Ohio. The "arrogant top-down" approach dubbed by a longtime Republican strategist refers to the Romney campaigns inability to listen to the advice of savvy Ohio strategists. Some people from the Romney camp have responded to the statements by insisting that field staffers from the Ohio offices of Sen. Rob Portman and House Speaker John Boehner have come on board.
Regardless, others consider Romney’s CEO demeanor a turnoff, saying that it overshadows his lackluster political skills. A recent CNN report cites and interview with one Republican officeholder who said former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour wasn't far off when he said that Romney is being caricatured as "a plutocrat married to a known equestrian."
As some of the former and ladder might be considered valid, a more common that has emerged through Romney’s tour of the country is that he is a man without a message.
"Generally when you talk people, there is a feeling that Obama hasn't done that great a job. But Romney hasn't made the sale,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told CNN. “He still can. But he hasn't made the sale yet."
An unidentified Republican officeholder also spoke with the news outlet, arguing that both candidates have provided nothing but "narrow arguments" and "fantasy land" policy prescriptions for the country.
"Why is Mitt Romney running for president and what will his presidency be about?" the official asked. "I don't think most Republicans in Ohio can answer that question. He has not made a compelling case for his candidacy. Don't make your campaign about marginal tax rates. Make it about your children and your grandchildren and the future of this country."
With Romney’s campaign recently releasing its first statewide television buy accusing the president of failing to stand up to China and costing Americans jobs, some republicans criticize the ad as not likely to resonate in Ohio as much as a concise and aggressive jobs-themed message.
In a strategic move that has seemingly pushed his campaign in Ohio passed that of his opponents, Obama has capitalized off the auto bailout, using television ads and small-scale media events to remind voters of the lack of response to criticism by the republicans of the bailout in a state where one out of every eight jobs is tied to the auto sector.
According to The Washington Post poll, 64 percent of Ohio registered voters view the federal loans to GM and Chrysler as "mostly good" for the state's economy. Only 29 percent said the bailout was "mostly bad.
A recent CNN report cites one longtime Ohio GOP strategist who called Obama's advantage on the auto bailout "a kick in the balls" for the Romney campaign.
Speaking on the brighter side for the Romney campaign, statistics show that in terms of its ground game in Ohio, the campaign has made more than 3 million volunteer voter contacts so far this year and knocked on 28 times as many doors in the Buckeye state as John McCain's campaign did in 2008.
"It's one of the better operations in the country, as it always is," Romney's political director Rich Beeson told CNN. "Ohio has always led the way and it is again this cycle."
The "victory effort" -- a joint venture of the Romney campaign, Republican National Committee and Ohio Republican Party -- has 40 offices statewide.
The offices are expected to come in clutch for the campaign as it has Republicans confident that the final margin on Election Day will be much closer than the 5-, 6- or 7-point Obama lead has seen in recent public polls.
"Nobody will win Ohio by 5," Mike Weaver, a Republican consultant with more than two decades of campaign experience in the state, told CNN. "Anybody who tells you that doesn't know Ohio. This state is too close. It's too divided. It will not be Obama by 5 or Romney by 5."
But while predictions are just predictions, with just a couple of months until the election, a remaining complication for the Romney campaign in Ohio is the improving state economy.