Rasmussen: Romney up 2 in Ohio, 50/48

Has the Ohio deadlock started to break apart?  Rasmussen’s latest survey in Ohio shows Mitt Romney taking a small edge over Barack Obama, 50/48, for his first lead in the Buckeye State:

The race for Ohio’s Electoral College votes remains very close, but now Mitt Romney now has a two-point advantage.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Ohio Voters shows Romney with 50% support to President Obama’s 48%. One percent (1%) likes some other candidate, while another one percent (1%) remains undecided. …

The candidates have been locked in a very tight battle in Ohio since August. A week ago, Romney and Obama were tied in the Buckeye State with 48% support each. This is the first time Romney has taken even a modest lead in the race.

Nearly one-in-three Ohio voters (32%) have already cast their ballots. Obama leads 62% to 36% among these voters. Romney has a large lead among those who still plan to vote. The question of who wins Ohio may come down to whether enough Romney voters get to the polls on Election Day to overcome the president’s lead among early voters.

Let’s take a look at the internals — which aren’t entirely cheery for Romney.  Obama wins independent voters by four with leaners (50/46), and by seven without (46/39).  How could Romney take a lead under those circumstances?  The sample is a straight-up split of 38/38/24 after Republicans’ R+1 in the 2010 midterms, but Romney’s capturing slightly more Democrats (12%) than Obama captures Republicans (9%). What’s interesting about this result is that Romney has led among Ohio independents in most other polls, yet has either trailed or tied Obama.

Romney has better news in the gender gap.  With leaners, Romney’s advantage among men (+14 at 56/42) more than overcomes Obama’s advantage among women (+8 at 53/45).  It’s closer without leaners, going from a +6 Romney advantage to a +3, but either way Romney has neutralized Obama’s gender-gap advantage.

The age demographics are also interesting.  Obama wins by 17 among voters under 40, but Romney wins the middle-aged (55/43) and senior (53/45) by wide margins.  Those latter two demos are more likely to turn out than the former.  In Rasmussen’s sample, they make up 30% of the respondents, and that may be a little too much.

Finally, the big indicator of voter behavior in a race involving an incumbent is job approval.  Obama only gets a 46/51 job approval rating, with 44% strongly disapproving compared to 29% strongly approving.  It’s 50/50 among independents, but 19/39 among those who feel strongly.

Update: Team Romney sent out this memo on Ohio a few minutes ago:

The next-to-last weekend before the election produced fresh evidence of Mitt Romney’s momentum in Ohio and bolsters our belief that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are poised to win the Buckeye State’s 18 electoral votes.

The state of the race in Ohio shows a dead heat, with Romney tracking toward victory on Election Day. The daydream Chicago was having a few weeks ago about Ohio coming off the board has been replaced by their nightmare of Romney momentum fueled by our ticket’s performance, our goal-shattering ground game, and an unmistakable feeling among independent voters that Barack Obama has no plan for the next four years.

Team Romney Ohio knocked on 669,534 doors over the last two weeks, and the crowds at Romney’s rallies have just been massive. We aren’t doing anything differently to promote the events; people are just organically showing up to see the next leader of the free world. The crowds know what is happening here, and so does Chicago. We can’t print walk books fast enough for people who want to elect a real leader to the White House.

We see momentum in five key areas: polling, grassroots voter contact, newspaper endorsements, events, and early-voting statistics.

1.       Polling. On Sunday, the Ohio Newspaper Organization released a survey that appeared on several Ohio front pages showing the race in Ohio tied at 49 percent. In September, the same survey showed Obama leading by five points. Clearly, Romney continues to track in the right direction in Ohio. Inside the numbers, the Ohio Newspaper poll showed Romney leading on the most important issue in the race – the economy.

“On issues driving the election, Romney’s focus on economic issues appeared successful, as 51 percent of those surveyed said he would do the best job of handling the economy, versus 45 percent for Obama. Among independents, Romney led by 18 points.”

2.       Grassroots Voter Contact. The Romney Victory operation in Ohio continues to produce an enormous number of door knocks, which are the most valuable interactions in American politics. Last week, volunteers knocked on 376,593 doors to bring our General Election total to 2,132,690. We are heavily concentrating on our “get out the vote” universe and finding that Republicans are turning out at substantially higher rates than during the 2008 early voting period, in large part because of the personal interactions they are having with our volunteers.

3.       Early-Voting Statistics. Former Bush ’04 campaign voter contact guru Adrian Gray wrote a thoughtful and thorough piece for Politico this weekend titled “Obama’s Ohio fuzzy early vote math.” In the piece, Gray writes:

“But here is what we do know: 220,000 fewer Democrats have voted early in Ohio compared with 2008. And 30,000 more Republicans have cast their ballots compared with four years ago. That is a 250,000-vote net increase for a state Obama won by 260,000 votes in 2008.”

Our view of early voting continues to be that Republicans are crippling Obama’s early vote margin, which was his key to victory in Ohio in 2008.

On top of that, we believe the Obama campaign is cannibalizing its Election Day voter list during the early-voting period. Consider Karl Rove’s assessment on Fox News Sunday:

“This is an important point. If you look at Ohio, for example, 57 percent of the absentee ballot requests come from Democrats who had voted in none, one or two of the last three elections, 72 percent of the Republican absentee ballot application come from people who didn’t vote — voted in none, one or two of the last elections. That is to say the Democrats are cannibalizing their Election Day turnout, the Republicans are the ones who are getting the new voters out.”

4.       Newspaper Endorsements. Several Ohio newspapers are concluding that Mitt Romney would be better equipped to lead the nation for the next four years. TheCincinnati Enquirer posted its endorsement this morning:

“The No.1 issue in our region and our nation today is how to recharge our economy and get more people working in good-paying jobs. President Barack Obama has had four years to overcome the job losses of the Great Recession he inherited, but the recovery has been too slow and too weak. It’s time for new leadership from Mitt Romney, a governor and business leader with a record of solving problems.”

In addition, the Lima News endorsed Romney-Ryan this week, as did theFindlay Courier. These endorsements follow last weekend’s thumbs up from theColumbus Dispatch.

5.       Events. The Romney-Ryan ticket continues to blitz the state, turning out huge crowds in places like North Canton and Defiance. On Sunday, the ticket spoke to packed houses in Celina, Findlay, and Marion. On Monday, Romney appears in Avon Lake, and on Tuesday, Romney will speak in Dayton and Lima. The ticket is barnstorming critical places in Ohio where pumping up the margin of victory is key to recapturing the state. Judging by the crowd sizes, there’s no lack of enthusiasm anywhere in Ohio for Romney and Ryan.

It’s not just us noticing Romney’s momentum on the ground in Ohio. CBS News Political Director John Dickerson said in a post titled“Romney leaves Obama campaign on defense” that “the race feels tied in every possible way,” and that crowds “go nuts” when Romney lays out his agenda for the future.

On Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos added his thoughts to the mix (as quoted in Playbook): “Can Obama’s swing state firewall stand up to Romney’s momentum? … [Ohio poll out today] shows Governor Romney coming on very strong in that state that matters so much. It looks like a real threat to [Obama’s] firewall.”

Stephanopoulos is right. Every day, Barack Obama’s so-called Ohio firewall crumbles a little bit more because of Mitt Romney’s electric appearances, our campaign’s robust ground game, and Romney’s forward-looking message that lays out a serious and specific agenda for the future.

Our opponents continue to run a negative, divisive campaign that has completely undermined Obama’s ’08 brand (especially among young voters) and left independent voters to conclude that Obama has no plan for the future. Most people are looking for a ticket that has a plan to solve problems and restore America’s greatness. In 2012, there’s no doubt that’s Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.