Although there’s been much pontificating of late that Ohio has been shaping up as a cakewalk for President Obama, it looks like Ohio’s 18 electoral votes are still very much in the active-battleground category. As Ed detailed in his earlier post, there’s a definitely possible post-debate Romney bounce going on in the swing state; and then there’s this, via Paul Bedard at the Wash Examiner:

In a remarkable reversal of fortune for President Obama in Ohio, the GOP has closed the huge gap in absentee ballot requests used by early voters that favored the Democrats and the president in 2008, setting up what one state analyst said could be a Mitt Romney blowout on Election Day.

While in 2008, 33 percent of the 1,158,301 absentee ballots went to Democrats and just 19 percent to registered Republicans, a 14-point gap, this year 29 percent are being requested by Democrats and 24 percent by Republicans, a five-point gap.

And in a sign that the enthusiasm of 2008 voters is depressed, just 638,997 absentee ballots have been requested, according to American Majority Action, which culled the statistics together from Ohio college professors who are tracking the state’s absentee ballots used for early voting. The group provided Secrets with the details.

Encouraging signs, all — which is why the Romney camp is wasting no time capitalizing on Ohio’s swinginess with a new ad aimed directly at the state, in which he personally appeals straight into the camera:

The question Ohio families are asking is, ‘Who can bring back the jobs?’ Under President Obama, we’ve lost over a half a million manufacturing jobs, and China has passed us in manufacturing. I’ll stand up to China. I have a detailed plan to create 12 million new jobs, including producing our own energy in the ground in Ohio. I’m Mitt Romney, and I approve this message — because Ohio families can’t afford four more years like the last four years.

With the further economic potential of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, as well as Ohio being one of the country’s swingiest coal-producing states along with Pennsylvania, Obama’s under-the-table war on coal and his energy-development restrictions are major opportunity costs for Ohio — and if coal stocks are any indication of how people feel about coal’s prospects, Romney’s debate performance was likely another win for convincing undecided Ohio voters that he’s their guy. Via Reuters:

Mitt Romney’s support of the coal industry during his debate with President Obama sent coal company stocks higher on Thursday, analysts said.

“It’s amazing what 15 words about coal in a presidential debate can do for the stocks,” said Michael Dudas of Sterne Agee.

“These stocks have been volatile, but you can’t discount what a man running for president said about coal. Call it the Romney rally.” …

“By the way, I like coal. I’m going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal,” said the former head of the private equity firm, Bain Capital.

“People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies,” he told Obama.