It has been a hectic weekend for foreign journalists and the White House press corps on the campaign trail in Ohio.
Reporters have grabbed a few hours sleep in hotels, and then continued driving and flying from one district to another as President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney battle it out in one of the most fiercely contested presidential races to date.
Ohio, with 7.8-million registered voters, is pivotal in the race for the presidency and could decide the election on Tuesday night—described by some analysts as the closest race since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s victory in 1936.
Both Obama and Romney were back in the state over the weekend in a final push to convince mainly white, working class voters to get out and vote on election day.
Vice-President Joe Biden, former president Bill Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama also made stops in the state to campaign for the Democrats.
The Republicans also had their big guns out on the campaign trail—including former Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice and controversial House of Representatives speaker John Boehner.
The white working class is an important group in Ohio for both campaigns.
According to a Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll, Obama runs even with Romney among white voters in Ohio who do not have college degrees.
The majority of the white, working class are employed in the state’s large motor industry and some of them lost their jobs during the recession.
However, Obama has been lauded by unions and workers here for coming up with the bailout that saved thousands of jobs in the state.
His campaign at the weekend portrayed Romney as "a class enemy" who opposed the president’s decision to bail out the motor industry.
Romney, on the other hand, claimed that Obama had doubled the US deficit with four straight years of $1-trillion deficits.
Romney also claimed in an advertisement that Obama made it possible for Jeep to move its production to China.
This was specifically meant to scare voters into thinking that Romney would prevent this if elected president.
Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan’s campaign also promised to create 12-million new jobs nationally as well as higher take-home pay and a brighter future for the middle class.
At an election rally in Lima, Ohio, a retired teacher, Jinny Ginny-Rice, told the Mail & Guardian that Obama had ruined the country.
'I do not think he is an honest person'
"He has ruined our country. I do not think he is an honest person. He has abandoned Israel. He is pro-abortion. I cannot tolerate that because I am a Christian. Romney knows how to run a business and I think he should be given a chance to run this country. He is a family man. He is pro-life. He is pro-God and has the passion for the country,” said Ginny-Rice.
Engineer Tim Arant (53) said Obama was a liability and could not be trusted.
“He said he will cut the deficit but he has not done that. If we don’t take a different direction in this election we are doomed,” said Arant.
However, Chris Redfern, the chairperson of the Ohio Democratic Party, told the M&G that Romney would do and say anything to become US president.
“We are running against a guy who has no moral compass. He will say anything to win this election. He is not bound by any moral obligation. He has been saying Jeep is going to shift its operations to China. It is a falsehood,” said Redfern.
“The CEOs of Fiat, General Motors and Chrysler have said it is not true. We don’t know if his lies are going to have an impact during the weekend. However, the most important issue is the economy. We are trying to convince people of Ohio about our recovery plans. It was not Obama but the policies of George Bush that created this mess. We were literally lied to going to a war in Iraq. Even today we are paying for this exercise that we never budgeted for.”
According to Professor Paul Beck of the Ohio State University, the state has accurately picked the president for the past 12 elections.
“Whoever wins Ohio will win the elections,” said Beck.
The last candidate to lose Ohio and still become president was John F Kennedy in 1960. Moreover, no Republican has ever won without carrying the state.
In 2000 and 2004, George Bush won in Ohio—and the election.
Before him, Clinton won two terms in the White House, taking Ohio both times.
Obama won Ohio in 2008 and some say he could still win the state.
Obama was said to be leading Romney in key states such as Florida, Iowa, Nevada and North Carolina.
However, some on the streets of Toledo, Lima and Columbus said they couldn’t care less.
They said they were tired of being the main targets of Obama and Romney’s campaign machinery in the form of a barrage of negative television and radio advertisements.
Some complained that they have also been subjected to non-stop, door-to-door campaigns and phone calls from volunteers from both parties.
Now, they told me, they want the "damn billboards" to come down.