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The granddaddy of them all. It seems cliché to watch the Buckeye State, but it remains at the epicenter of the fight for the presidency. Even when Romney surged after the first debate, Obama maintained his narrow advantage for Ohio’s 18 electoral votes, according to public polling, in part because of his effort to help the auto industry. Republicans believe the race is much closer, so if Romney pulls out a victory, that likely means other polling has understated GOP performance nationwide. Of course, no Republican has won the White House without Ohio. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) comes into election night with a small but significant advantage over state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), so an incumbent loss would be a surprise. On the House side, the 16th district features a faceoff between Reps. Jim Renacci (R) and Betty Sutton (D), while former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) is trying to avenge his 2010 loss to Rep. Bill Johnson (R) in the 6th district. Winning one would be a moral victory for Democrats, but they needed to put more than these two races in play to make a difference in the overall House margin.
The Tarheel State is one of three states — along with Ohio and Pennsylvania — where Republicans exercised their redistricting muscle. The GOP plan will land them the 13th district (where Democratic Rep. Brad Miller decided to retire) and they should win the 11th district (where Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler opted for retirement) and the 8th district, currently represented by Rep. Larry Kissell (D). A Democratic victory in any of those races would be a shocking result. Republicans also have an opportunity against Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) in the 7th district. McIntyre is one of three Southern Democrats — along with Reps. Ben Chandler (Ky.) and John Barrow (Ga.) — who are in jeopardy tonight, but he’s still very much in the race against former Hill aide David Rouzer (R). If Republicans indeed net three, or even four, seats in North Carolina, it would insulate their majority from potential losses later tonight in Illinois and California.