"Polls show Mitt Romney trailing President Barack Obama in just about every one of the swing states where the 2012 campaign is being waged.
But Romney appears to be in deeper trouble in Ohio than elsewhere, an alarming development for Republicans who know that the candidate's White House chances begin and end with the kind of middle-class voters who reside in places such as Akron, Cincinnati and Zanesville....
Romney's favorable rating is underwater. Almost two-thirds of voters approve of Obama's decision to bail out the auto industry, a staple of Ohio's manufacturing economy. The president leads Romney by a wide margin on the question of who would do more to help the middle class.
And when voters are asked which candidate would do a better job handling the economy, Obama has a sturdy lead, undercutting the thematic premise of Romney's candidacy.
Interviews with some two dozen Republican strategists and elected officials across Ohio revealed an array of explanations -- and no easy answers -- for Romney's failure to catch on there.
Some pointed to the Obama campaign's aggressive effort to hang Romney's opposition to the federal bailout of Chrysler and General Motors around his neck. Others said a hangover remains from the divisive 2011 battle over collective bargaining rights that hurt the GOP's standing with working class voters....
Still others cited Romney's lackluster political skills and said his stiff CEO demeanor as a turnoff for Ohioans....
The main criticism that emerged, though, is that Romney is man without a message....
Another statewide Republican officeholder who -- like others interviewed for this article -- did not want to be identified criticizing the Republican ticket, offered a blunter assessment....
"Why is Mitt Romney running for president and what will his presidency be about?" the official asked. "I don't think most Republicans in Ohio can answer that question. He has not made a compelling case for his candidacy. Don't make your campaign about marginal tax rates. Make it about your children and your grandchildren and the future of this country."...
Mixed message from Kasich irks GOP
Republican Gov. John Kasich's relentless boosterism for the uptick in Ohio job creation runs counter to the national Republican message that Obama's policies have kept the economy from bouncing back.
The statewide unemployment rate has fallen to 7.2%, roughly a point below the national average. In bellwether central Ohio, home to the capital city of Columbus and its thriving suburbs, the jobless rate fell to 5.9% in August.
Kasich is not shy about talking up Ohio's job growth, even if it muddles the Romney campaign's arguments about the state of the national economy.
At a recent campaign event in conservative Owensville, a fiery Kasich boasted that "Ohio is rocking!" -- moments before turning the microphone over to Paul Ryan, who proceeded to issue dire warnings about Obama's economic policies.
The mixed messaging has rankled Republicans in the Romney and Kasich camps. Both sides have done their best to keep the tensions under wraps, but they occasionally spill over into public view. Rex Elsass, Kasich's media consultant and a longtime adviser, told CNN that Romney is "running counter to the reality and the perception of people in Ohio."
"Romney would do better if he stood on John Kasich's shoulders and said, 'Here's an example of a state that's doing better with job creation, in spite of what the president is doing,' " Elsass said.
"When you run advertising here that's running in the rest of the country, it's inconsistent with how people are feeling about Ohio, that things are getting better," he continued. "If you're just telling people things are getting worse and you throw in a graphic at the end of the ad that says 'Ohio,' that's not a state-specific message and it's not working here."
Romney has, in fact, complimented Kasich's economic development efforts in a spate of local interviews and at campaign events -- and there are no accounts of personal animosity between the two men.
But Republicans close to the campaign have groused privately that Kasich is bringing little to the Romney effort beyond appearing at campaign events, while Boehner, Portman and a handful of other statewide officials have loaned manpower and money to the fight.
Portman, for instance, has turned himself into one of Romney's most reliable allies on the campaign trail, hosting more than 20 fundraisers and raising more than $2 million for the campaign.
One Washington-based GOP operative involved in the campaign and closely watching Ohio accused Kasich of not doing enough to help Romney win the state.
""No single swing state Republican has been less willing to criticize President Obama at important junctures in this campaign than John Kasich," the Republican told CNN.
"Anyone who doesn't want an Obama second term should be furious at him."."
..... Romney lost Ohio in 2012 by 166, 214 votes:
..... Romney lost Ohio in 2012 by 166, 214 votes:
Final popular vote in Ohio in Nov. 2012: Obama, 2,827,621. Romney: 2,661,407