Ohio, Ohio, Ohio?

I’ve been meaning to make an effort at paying more attention to local news outlets, especially in swing states, and that led me to find this entry on the Columbus Dispatch’s blog:

In case you had any doubts: Ohio will once again be the focus in the presidential election this fall, the chairman of the Republican National Committee said during a visit to Columbus today.

“From a practical standpoint, Ohio is going to be ground zero again,” Robert M. (Mike) Duncan said in an interview at the Ohio Republican Party headquarters.

What I find interesting here is that Ohio is certainly ground zero for Republicans (allowing for the fact that it’s very unlikely McCain will be able to carry any Kerry states, or Iowa for that matter), as losing the state would almost certainly mean losing the election, but is it crucial for Obama? The obvious logic for Democrats in 2008 is “blue states + Ohio,” but if Ohio is going to become a minefield, do you play there or do you try to find a hole somewhere else? To find the obligatory sports reference, if Ohio is you All-American wide receiver being covered by the other team’s star corner with safety help over the top, do you try to go to him for the hell of it or do you zip one to your no-name tight end who is uncovered in the middle of the field?

It’s not unreasonable to say that Obama starts the conversation with 259 electoral votes (Kerry states plus Iowa), meaning he needs to find 11 votes to win. He can do that by winning Ohio, or he can do that by winning Virginia or Indiana, or combining New Mexico and Colorado. Now the reality is that in winning any of these states in their own right, Obama would probably also get Ohio as well, but if the RNC is going to target Ohio as the beginning and end of the conversation, it might make more than a little bit of sense to make serious plays for less glitzy swing states the “defense” has neglected.