Democrats think Ohio is within reach. But the GOP is confident Trump can win.

Ohio Democrats see opportunity on the horizon for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, given the coronavirus pandemic the Trump administration is still struggling to control and the economic fallout that has ensued.
Ad money is flowing into the state’s media markets. The Trump campaign has reserved nearly $22 million on the airwaves since June 1 through Election Day, according to Kantar/CMAG, despite a spending freeze last week. And on Thursday the president is planning an in-person visit to raise money in Cleveland and to tour a Whirlpool manufacturing plant in Clyde.  
The Biden campaign has two ads running in the state, part of a seven-figure ad buy that will run through the Democratic convention. The ads, playing in the Toledo and Youngstown media markets, highlight the presumptive nominee’s economic recovery plan. While prominent Democratic super PACS have held off advertising so far, Biden is boosted by anti-Trump Republican groups who have invested in the state. 
Democrats are hoping to rebuild past stronghold coalitions — including blue-collar workers — boost city turnout and compete in the suburbs, with messages on the struggling economy and the shortcomings of the coronavirus response. The party knows it also needs to engage young voters and address systemic inequalities. But Republicans in the state are confident in Mr. Trump’s appeal, claiming enthusiasm for him remains high in a state that he won by 8 points after Barack Obama carried the state twice. 

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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden walks off the stage after speaking during a campaign stop at Driving Park Community Center in Columbus, Ohio on March 10, 2020. 

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

“People that voted for Trump in ’16 feel that he’s betrayed them and he’s abandoned this political piece, abandoned the promises he’s made and I think a lot of them are voting for Biden,” said Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. This week, Brown is kicking off a virtual tour to promote Biden’s economic recovery plan.

Recent polling suggests the race in Ohio is tightening. A recent CBS News Battleground Tracker poll showed the president with 46% support, compared to Biden’s 45% support among likely Ohio voters. 
Democratic Congresswoman Marcia Fudge believes the state is “more purple than red,” and she sees “Ohio reverting back to what it’s always been.” 
“I believe we can win Ohio as long as we work in every single county,” Fudge told CBS News. 
The Democratic state party says Ohio has been “shifting dramatically” since 2016. Its data shows Republicans losing ground in the suburbs that helped carry George W. Bush to victory in 2004, especially among women.
CBS News polling found Biden is narrowly outperforming Mr. Trump among White voters with college degrees in the state, a group likely to be found in the suburbs, and one that Hillary Clinton lost in Ohio. The poll suggests that Mr. Trump maintains a 23-point margin among White voters without a college degree in the state, but Biden’s deficit with this group is smaller than Clinton’s in 2016. 
Jonathan Jakubowski, Wood County Republican Party chairman, said blue-collar workers still support Mr. Trump, but he acknowledged the president and party need to do better at engaging suburban families and millennials. He’s been hearing from families who are frustrated with the administration’s coronavirus messaging and exhausted by the president’s use of Twitter. 
“They look at that and they look at COVID, and there is a lot of fear and concern,” Jakubowski said. 

President Donald Trump Holds "Keep America Great" Campaign Rally In Toledo, Ohio
President Donald Trump points toward the crowd at the conclusion of a “Keep America Great” campaign rally at the Huntington Center on January 9, 2020 in Toledo, Ohio. President Trump won the swing state of Ohio in 2016 by eight points over his opponent Hillary Clinton.

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That’s reflected in CBS News’ polling, which found that registered Ohio voters want the administration to prioritize stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Over 40% of registered Ohio voters surveyed deemed Mr. Trump’s handling of the virus “very bad.” For these voters,  addressing the virus and providing economic relief to people is more important than trying to limit Black Lives Matter protests.

But Jane Timken, the state’s GOP chairwoman, maintains that law and order and the economy are still a winning message for the president in the suburbs. 
“A lot of those folks in the suburbs, they see the benefits of prior to the pandemic that the economy was going really well, and your college aged children were getting jobs and their businesses were doing better,” Timken said, adding, “I don’t think that they have forgotten that.”
Republicans have infrastructure on their side. Dan Lusheck, Ohio press secretary for Trump Victory, said the campaign has made 7.8 million voter contacts in the state and has more staff than it did in 2016.  
CBS News’ polling shows half of registered Ohio voters think Mr. Trump’s policies are helping the economy. Just 42% said Biden’s policies would help the economy recover. And 56% said Mr. Trump would do more to protect manufacturing jobs, compared to 44% who say Biden would. 
“President Trump has a much better story to tell to Ohio voters than Joe Biden,” said Corry Bliss, a Republican operative and 2016 campaign manager for Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. “We’re going through a very tough time with COVID, a very tough time economically, health wise, but before COVID hit, President Trump was holding China accountable. He was trying to defend the American worker in the way that President Obama never did, that Joe Biden has no record of doing.” 
It’s no surprise that Ohio Democrats see the president’s handling of the economy in a different light. They feel he ignored economic issues surrounding the General Motors plant and its ripple effects in the supply chain. But Montgomery County Democratic Party chairman Mark Owens feels that Biden should counter the “doom and gloom” of Republicans.
“I think we want to have an economy, economy, economy and have a hopeful message,” said Owens. “There was a broad disappointment even before March of this year when the economy really went to the tank, the jobs that were promised haven’t materialized.”
Ottawa County, which encompasses Lake Erie, watched its tourism industry evaporate due to the virus. But the Republican party is already opening a second headquarters because interest in the election is high.
“I was the president of the women’s club at the time in 2016 and we knew he was going to win,”  GOP county chairwoman Jill Stinebaugh said. “We could tell by the enthusiasm on the ground although they were very quiet. They don’t seem as quiet now.” 
Whatever the outcome, officials in both parties agree that the shift to digital efforts amid the pandemic has enabled them to reach more people than ever before and it is not going back.

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