Ohio Takes Center Stage in Presidential Race

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Eight weeks ago, Obama appeared on top in the swing states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. But according to the latest poles, the race has gotten a lot more interesting. The most recent Quinnipiac pole puts McCain ahead in Florida, while Obama continues to lead in Pennsylvania, and the pair are neck and neck in Ohio. No one has been elected President since 1960 without taking two of these three states.

LAMIS: It's reminding me a lot of 2004 - its coming back to Ohio as a very critical state for both sides.

That's Case Western Reserve University political scientist Alexander Lamis. He says although polls are notoriously unreliable this early in the election they can still be important indicators of what's to come. Tom Sutton who teaches political science at Baldwin Wallace College agrees.

SUTTON: What's telling about the polling data is that we're seeing such a dead heat emerge so early.

Sutton says the close race should squash any expectations that Ohio's contribution will be anything less than pivotal.

SUTTON: At some point there had been some loose talk that Obama was going to write off Ohio and move on. I think someone on the campaign team looked at what happened to Al Gore in 2000 when he pulled out of Ohio 6 weeks before the election and to some degree John Kerry in 2004 and realized this is not a good idea. He has to campaign here and I think he knows that.

And John McCain knows it too. It appears that he's coming to Dayton to announce his pick for VP. Aides say he's assembling a crowd of some 15-thousand which would be the largest rally of his campaign. An unlikely move if Ohio weren't critical to his strategy.

Lake County republican party chairman Dale Fellows believes McCain's message will ring true to Ohioans.

FELLOWS: Energy, the economy, national security, keeping taxes low. Those are the key elements that people in NE Ohio and throughout Ohio relate to - and he's on the correct side of those issues.

And while the candidates are jockeying into position, place your bets Ohio. And keep your eyes open – it’s bound to be a photo finish. Gretchen Cuda, 90.3

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