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Mitt Romney Targets Anti-Obamacare Democrats in Ohio

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

The Romney campaign this week unveiled a television ad that alleges Obama raided Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act. The ad, which the Obama campaign has said mischaracterizes the savings the law wrings from Medicare, was part of a Romney offensive on the senior citizen health care plan that was launched on the heels of the former governor selecting House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) as his vice presidential running mate. Ryan is identified with his proposal to overhaul Medicare.

The brain trust in Romney's Boston campaign headquarters believes that Obamacare still works for them as a campaign issue. In Ohio, their microtargeting effort has identified Democrats and independents that voted for the Health Care Freedom Amendment, with the campaign working vigorously to turn them out for the Romney-Ryan ticket. The measure passed in all 88 Ohio counties, including six targeted swing counties and four additional counties that were hotly contested in 2008.

The counties that moved from President George W. Bush in 2004 to Obama in 2008, and the margin by which the Health Care Freedom Amendment passed, include Hamilton (65 percent), Ottawa (66 percent), Sandusky (70 percent), Tuscarawas (67 percent), Wood (61 percent) and Lake, which is considered a Buckeye State bellwether. In Lake County, adjacent to Cleveland, Issue 3 passed with 70 percent of the vote.

Additionally, the Romney campaign is hopeful that Obamacare could help it turn the central eastern Ohio counties of Belmont and Jefferson red. These counties have voted at least moderately Democratic for president since 1976. Last November, they supported Issue 3 with 68 percent and 67 percent of the vote, respectively. The campaign is also targeting pockets of blue-collar Democrats in moderately Republican Noble and Washington counties.

An Ohio Republican campaign operative endorsed this element of the Romney campaign's strategy, saying Obama remains slightly ahead in Buckeye State polls because of his support in urban areas. But the operative said the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is "overperforming" in eastern and southeastern Ohio counties. Obama hasn't lost suburban voters, but he is in trouble in rural, working-class counties.

"In polling I have seen from some traditional blue-collar Democrat counties, Obama's numbers are upside down," the Ohio GOP operative said. "Romney has to make it all about Obama because he is so unpopular."

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