CLEVELAND — Since 2004, presidential elections had been all about "Ohio, Ohio, Ohio," as the late Tim Russert famously proclaimed. The state was a true bellwether that could go either way but with Donald Trump's 8-point win in 2016 here, the shift to "leans Republican" had been cemented.
But Thursday, the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, which has been rating such races for years, shifted Ohio back to "toss-up," fueled by three polls last week that showed Joe Biden leading or leading within the margin of error.
"Toss-up is what that is," said News 5 Political Analyst Tom Sutton of Baldwin Wallace University. "Toss-up means you can't tell which way it's going to go and the polling data is remaining pretty steady at least in the last few weeks."
University of Virginia's Larry Sabato, who is founder and director of the Center for Politics, said: "If you had told me six months ago that on October 1 we would have Iowa and Ohio in the toss-up category, I would have said immediately, well that means Biden is winning and still I'll be surprised if he wins then, but the fact that it's close tells you Biden is doing very well."
The split between the two was evident in Alliance on Wednesday as News 5 rode with former Vice President Joe Biden on his whistle-stop tour from Cleveland, a train greeted by what seemed an equal number of supporters for both candidates. That's why Trump senior advisor Bob Paduchik still sees the state as red.
"I think we're in a great position right now," Paduchik said. "The enthusiasm, the level of activity in our campaign is much better than it was in 2016 and I think we're going to win the state very big."
Senator Sherrod Brown sees it differently.
"I think there's no question that Biden not just has a fighting chance in Ohio, I think he's going to win Ohio," Brown said.
His opinion is from the perspective of a Democrat who ran statewide in Ohio two years after President Trump's 2016 win and won his mid-term race with the support of many voters who went with Trump who he believes will vote for Biden.
The bottom line, Sutton says, is America looks to Ohio on Election night for this reason. Biden doesn't need Ohio to win the election, Trump does.
"If Biden wins Ohio given, the 8-point win by Trump four years ago, Biden most certainly will win the rest of the country, because Ohio has become a more Republican, more conservative state even in the last four years," he said.