Last night's Obama rally on the campus of the Ohio State University had one simple goal - Get Out the Vote.
Did it work?
Now there is no question that the event looked great. While I've heard from several that the crowd estimate of 35k was waaayyy off, it still was an enthusiastic and impressive rally. Musician John Legend and the President were the big draw. But does excitement to see these celebrities translate to more voters coming out for Strickland?
Not if you ask The Lantern, OSU's student paper:
The rally was advertised as "Obama On The Oval," but the president, who still has two more years in office, didn't come to campaign for himself. The rally was intended to generate support for the Democratic candidates running for Ohio offices. However, the crowd didn't seem too interested in what the people running for office actually had to say.Do these sound like people ready to request an absentee ballot, fill it out, and send it back? Does an "audible groan" really inspire people to get off their fannies and go to their precinct between study breaks on 11.2?
"Do you know when Obama's getting here?"
"Do you know where he's coming in at?"
"Maybe he's in that helicopter!"
Since I was carrying around a camera the size of my face and displaying my Lantern press badge, I think people wrongly assumed I knew more than they did, so I was usually on the receiving end of these questions. While I had no answers for them, I did note that not one person asked me when Gov. Ted Strickland, Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy or Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher would be speaking.
When the rally began, the crowd seemed surprised whenever someone that wasn't a member of the First Family was introduced. It got to the point that when Strickland was announced, the last person to go on before the Obamas, an audible groan rumbled through the crowd.
Now surely there were some students at the rally that may vote now and weren't planning to do so before. Good on them. But the article can't exactly inspire any confidence in Democrats who were hoping for a massively re-engaged electorate.
If Obama was on the ballot? Maybe. But he's not. And the students know that.
On top of it all, you have to consider what coverage of the President's visit does to those reading about it in the paper and on the television. Particularly, those swing voters that are trending drastically against the President.
In the most recent Fox Poll, Obama's approval among Independents was at a shockingly low 33%. In Quinnipiac, that number for Indies was stuck at 28%. Chances are that these people didn't hear the President's words, but they do know he was here. Does that knowledge make them more or less likely to vote for Ted Strickland? With those poll numbers, it's fair to say the all-important swing voter was likely turned off.
It's also why Ted Strickland sprinted off the stage after introducing the President faster than any man his age should go. One thing was for sure last night - Strickland did NOT want to be seen with the President. My question? Who made that call? Was it Ted's team? Obama's?
Ultimately, I'm sorta shocked the Strickland team would embrace nationalizing this race with just two weeks to go. When the discussion shifts to an unpopular President among the swing vote, then it pulls away from "Wall Street Kasich" or "Well, At Least He Tried Strickland".
There are a lot of reasons Rob Portman is way up on Lee Fisher right now. Not least of which is his ability to focus this race on national issues and Obama. Strickland has now enabled Kasich the same opportunity with two weeks to go.
This isn't how you raise Ted's flatline.