Opportunity knocks for Romney's crew

Opinions will be divided over the final presidential debate. (AFP)

Opinions will be divided over the final presidential debate. (AFP)

Opinions will be divided over Monday night’s final presidential debate, but for Glenn Heffner, a Mitt Romney volunteer in the bellwether town of Mentor in Ohio, the message was clear – his man metamorphosed on camera into a president. “Romney demonstrated that he is presidential; that he can lead this country not only here, but internationally as well. The president of the United States is not only our leader, he is in a real sense president of the world.”

Two weeks ago, Heffner (66) had two stents put in his heart. Now he is back up, knocking on doors and making calls, showing the determination that Romney is hoping will put him in the White House.

Lake County is a microcosm of Ohio and Ohio is a microcosm of the United States. The state has sided with the winning candidate in the past 11 presidential elections.

Obama has a variety of different routes to victory on November 6, but Romney’s hopes are next to moribund unless he wins here. This helps to explain why the state is being pummelled with TV adverts from both campaigns and trampled over by nonstop visits from the candidates.

Until the fateful first presidential debate, which Obama was widely deemed to have flunked, the president was well ahead, registering a 10-point lead in the Quinnipiac University/CBS poll. That advantage has now slumped to five points, far too close to a statistical tie to offer comfort to the incumbent.

Victory watch party
Heffner, a retired business owner, said he felt the prevailing mood radically shift in the Mentor neighbourhoods he canvassed on the morning after the first presidential debate on October 3. “I felt strongly that night that Romney had performed great, but I didn’t have any sense of how it would play on the street. When I went knocking on doors I was amazed. People said to me ‘I’m so glad to see you!’, which, believe me, I’m not used to hearing when I go out talking about politics.”

For the third and final presidential debate, Heffner was attending a “victory watch party” at the Romney field office in Mentor – one of about 40 field offices the Romney campaign has set up across the state. The room was filled with about 30 volunteers making phone calls to undecided voters. As 9pm came around, they downed tools to watch the debate.

The lustiest cheer of the night had nothing to do with the debate’s theme, foreign policy, but came in response to Romney’s routine promise to repeal Obamacare.

Obama’s boast that the US was “stronger now than when I came into office” received a collective outburst of laughter. When the president made his most scathing comment of the night, ridiculing Romney for saying there were fewer ships in the US Navy today than in 1917 by pointing out that “we also have fewer horses and bayonets”, there were groans of disapproval around the room. “I didn’t like that,” Heffner said after the debate had ended.

“I don’t think it will play that much when I go out knocking on doors tomorrow,” Heffner said. “Israel, Iran, whatever – those issues are important, sure, but try talking about them to someone who’s lost his job.” – © Guardian News & Media 2012

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