On a day when Big Bird dominated, President Barack Obama may have best summed up what his victory or defeat on Nov. 6 will come down to.
And he did it in the state both presidential campaigns are showing is perhaps the most important in the 2012 race for the White House.
"I still believe in you. And I'm asking you to keep believing in me," Obama said to 15,000 people on the Oval at Ohio State University yesterday -- his largest Ohio crowd of the cycle.
It's a question facing any incumbent president seeking a second term -- do enough voters who gave him a chance four years ago still believe?
Obama hopes so. Republican Mitt Romney is rooting against it. Both are betting a substantial amount of their fortunes on Ohio, a state no candidate has lost and yet gone on to win the presidency since 1960.
About an hour before Obama took the stage for his 15th Ohio appearance this year, and a couple of hours before Romney kicked off the first of several Ohio events he has this week, a CNN/ORC poll showed Obama with a lead of 4 percentage points over Romney, 51 percent to 47 percent, in Ohio.
The poll, taken after Romney outmuscled Obama in their first debate last week, illustrates a race that's closed significantly. But Obama's lead here still appears to be larger than in other swing states and nationally, where polling shows Romney's caught and surpassed Obama since the debate.
Obama's lead was 48 percent to 45 percent in the CNN poll when minor-party candidates were included.
"Ohio is Obama country," Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, speaking generally and not about the CNN poll. "We absolutely feel that." She later added the campaign always intended "to run this race like we're 5 points down."
Obama has drawn 24,000 people in his last two Ohio stops, including last Friday's visit to Cleveland State. He's hoping to reconnect with an electorate that handed him Ohio by 4.6 percentage points in 2008.
"You're the reason a mother in Cincinnati doesn't have to worry about an insurance company denying her son coverage just because he got sick. You made that happen," Obama said, crediting the voters who made him president four years ago. "You're the reason a factory worker who lost his job in Toledo or Lordstown is back on the assembly line building the best cars in the world. You did that. You're the reason a young man in Columbus whose mother had to work three jobs to support him can afford to go to the Ohio State University."
Hip-hop performer will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas played for the crowd before Obama's speech. The campaign said he also accompanied busloads of about 250 people from the event to the Franklin County early-voting center on Morse Road as part of a voter-registration and early-voting drive.
Before last night's voter drive, the Franklin County board reported 145,757 absentee ballot requests (including 28,751 by Republicans and 23,568 by Democrats) and 2,287 in-person votes. Yesterday was the deadline to register to vote in this year's election.
Obama again touched on Sesame Street, but his campaign took it a step further, this time exploiting Romney's threat to end funding for the Public Broadcasting Service by releasing an ad on cable TV that mocks Romney for refusing to stand up to Wall Street while targeting Big Bird.
But the Sesame Workshop released a statement declaring itself "a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization" and announcing that it had asked the Obama campaign to take down the ad.
"We have so many voters who are worried about the economy right now, worried about the huge national debt and about their family budget, and yet President Obama's message to them is focused on Big Bird," said Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Romney. "That is just so disconcerting, given the big challenges we face, to have the president so easily distracted. Fortunately, Gov. Romney is focused on jobs."
Psaki said the campaign has "received that request" to take down the ad and is reviewing it. She also said "99 percent of (Obama's) remarks are about fighting for the middle class."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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