Republicans have come a long way since 2012, when I ran Mitt Romney’s campaign in Ohio. President Barack Obama took an op-ed Romney had written with the headline “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” four years earlier and used it to slam the GOP. Romney never had an answer to Obama’s attack depicting Romney as a heartless corporate raider who cared more about profits than people.
“When some wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt, we made a bet on American workers, on the ingenuity of American companies,” Obama said in a Columbus speech in May of 2012. He was still at it in October: “[We] refused to throw in the towel and do nothing. We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt. We bet on American workers and American ingenuity, and three years later, that bet is paying off in a big way.” I had nightmares about that “bankrupt” headline; I couldn’t turn on a TV or pick up a newspaper without seeing Obama’s team relentlessly hammering that nail.
The gambit worked perfectly: Obama bested Romney by three points in Ohio, en route to winning a second term.
But four years later, Ohioans, like many other Midwestern voters, had soured on Democrats, with Trump owning Hillary Clinton by eight points. In fact, Trump’s margin of victory in Ohio was bigger than Georgia (5) and Arizona (3.5), states that pundits routinely think of as being redder than Ohio. And Trump’s work in the state will make it more likely than not that Trump will outperform any earlier poll that predicts a Democratic edge.