President Obama was back in Ohio on Sunday, desperately trying to breathe some enthusiasm into the Democrats' deflated spirits.
It was his 11th visit to the pivotal Midwest state as president, but the soaring oratory and political promises were not working as they did in 2008, and Obama acknowledged as much at a fundraiser in Cleveland that deepening doubts and disappointment have had a corrosive effect on his party's once-confident forces.
"I know that there are times where probably it's hard to recapture that sense of possibility. It's hard sometimes to say, 'Yes, we can.' You start thinking, 'Well, maybe. I don't know.'"
Obama has made some big economic promises in this depressed industrial state, but two years into his recession-plagued presidency, Ohio's unemployment rate has remained at 10 percent and is much worse in many of its major cities.
If you were looking for a textbook example of the Waterloo that awaits Democrats on Nov. 2, Ohio is Exhibit A. It has been trending Democrat for years now, but this year, Republicans are poised for a clean sweep.
Former Congressman John Kasich, who chaired the House Budget Committee, is leading Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat seeking a second term, by 8 percentage points in the latest Ohio Poll.
And in the Senate race, former Congressman Rob Portman, who held the top trade and budget posts in the Bush administration, is crushing Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, the Democrats' jobs czar, by 22 points.
The state's three freshmen House Democrats, all of whom voted for the unpopular Obamacare plan -- Mary Jo Kilroy, John Boccieri and Steve Driehaus -- are threatened with losing their seats, too.
Facing a disaster in a state that he carried by nearly 5 points, Obama told Democrats in Columbus Sunday: "Let's be honest. This is a difficult election." No kidding.
But Ohio will be a plate of hors d'oeuvres for the Republicans on election night, which is shaping up to be a nationwide Republican feast, particularly in the House races.
Stuart Rothenberg, who publishes the Rothenberg Political Report, and Charlie Cook, publisher of the Cook Political Report, are the two pre-eminent election trackers in American politics. Last week, both of them significantly enlarged their lists of competitive congressional races.
Cook now puts the number of battleground seats at 97, 90 of them held by Democrats. Rothenberg increased his number of seats up for grabs to 100, with 91 held by Democrats. The GOP needs to win 40 seats to overthrow Speaker Nancy Pelosi and take control of the House.
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