POLITICS
03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ohio Primary: Latest News, Polls On Democratic Race

***UPDATED 3/4***

Read HuffPost's OffTheBus Superdelegate Investigation to find out more about the superdelegates who are likely to decide the Democratic nomination for president.

*** Networks have declared that Sen. Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic primary in Ohio ***

Ohio results (88% of precincts reporting):

Clinton 1,068,231 55% Winner
Obama 831,760 43%

11:34 -- Clinton Celebrates: From The Caucus:

Mrs. Clinton is glowing: "For everyone in America who has been counted out but refused to be knocked out, and for eveyrone who has stumbled but stood right back up and for everyone who works hard and never gives up, this one is for you!... This nation is coming back and so is this campaign.... We're going on, we're going strong and we're going all the way."

"No candidate in recent history, Democratic or Republican, has won the White House without winning the Ohio primary." The crowd chants: "Yes she will!"

"Ohio has written a new chapter in the history of this campaign." This is not a candidate who is on the verge of dropping out.

11:25 -- Huge Turnout: HuffPost's Off The Bus correspondent Bev Davis has an excellent dispatch on the massive turnout in Ohio despite the bad weather.

11:20 -- "On To Michigan And Florida": Ben Smith reports from Clinton's event in Ohio:

The Ohio Governor, Ted Strickland, can be blunter than the candidate herself, and he makes the Clinton campaign's case bluntly: She needs, he says, public permission to keep going, she needs Florida and Michigan, and she needs money.

"I want to say to you and I want to say to America: Let her continue this fight. Let all the people have a chance to vote before we end this contest," he says.

Then he lists the states to come, concluding: "Let us go to Michigan and Florida."

And finally, as direct an ask for money as you'll hear at an event like this:

"I want you and all America to send your money to HillaryClinton.com," he says.

11:11 -- The Hillary Chant: "Crowd on riser here at Hillary event has a chant I've never heard before: H-I-L-L-A-R-Y, she's much better than the guy!"

11:05 -- Race A Factor? NBC's First Read: "It's also interesting to note that in Ohio, 1-in-5 Democratic voters said race was an important factor in making their decision. In that group, 8-in-10 voted for Hillary Clinton."

10:27 -- Still No Vote From Cleveland: From The Swamp: "Don't say we didn't warn you: Still nothing -- not one vote -- in from Cleveland. Also nothing in from Cincinnati and very little from Toledo. All are big urban areas. All figure to tilt heavily Obama tonight. So Hillary Clinton is getting a taste of what it usually feels like to be a Republican in statewide Ohio elections: Rack up big margins in the 'burbs and the countryside, then hold on for dear life as the cities report late and the numbers start to tighten. Is her margin enough? We'll find out."

MSNBC says it may be 4:30 a.m. before results come in from Cuyahoga County -- that's Cleveland. And that's a lot of Obama votes.

10:28 -- Closer Than It Appears? Texas Monthly notes: "John King is working his magic, explaining why the vote is probably a lot closer than it looks like in Ohio. With 40% of the precincts reporting, Clinton takes the early lead 57% to Obama's 41%. However, 0% of the precincts are reporting in the counties that hold Cincinnati and Cleveland. 'You're encouraged if you're in the Clinton campaign, but you're a bit nervous,' says King."

10:20 -- Uncounted In Ohio: Marc Ambinder: "Yet to report in from Ohio: most of the major cities and their suburbs, which explains, in part, why Hillary Clinton's margins are so big there. Half of Franklin Co. (Columbus) is in...Very little in from liberal Lorain Co..."

Polls Stay Open Late: A federal judge has granted the Obama campaign's request to keep 15 precincts open late in Cleveland, due to an apparent shortage of ballots.

As the Swamp notes, returns may not be in for quite a while:

It'll be a miracle if we can call the Democratic race anytime soon. The reason? Two of the most heavily Dem counties in the state, Cuyahoga (home of Cleveland) and Lucas (home of Toledo) are notoriously slow in reporting votes in recent elections. The campaigns have already traded charges of polling-place mischief in other areas. All of that adds up to a likely slow, deliberate vote count tonight. CNN just announced polls have been ordered to stay open in another Northern Ohio county, Sandusky, until 9 p.m. tonight because of bad weather.

AP reports that Clinton held onto white voters in Ohio:

Hillary Rodham Clinton was winning robust support Tuesday in Ohio's Democratic presidential contest from groups that have been the foundation of her candidacy, taking strong margins among white, blue collar and older voters.

Early results from exit polls of the state's Democratic voters showed that Barack Obama was not doing as well as he had in recent contests in eroding her support from those groups.

The senator from Illinois was doing best among voters who have been with him from early on in this year's voting. He was getting backing from nine in 10 blacks, two thirds of voters who are under age 30, and just over half of college graduates.

But Clinton, the New York senator who saw her rival win 11 straight contests in the run-up to Tuesday, was showing renewed strength among groups she has relied on heavily. She was even eating into some groups that usually are behind Obama, evenly splitting independents and young white voters with him.

Preliminary data from interviews with Ohio Democratic voters showed she was getting the votes of two in three white women, a group that has generally supported her heavily but with whom she had slipped to thin margins recently in Virginia and Wisconsin.

She also had the backing of almost six in 10 white men, a group in which Obama had forged solid advantages in recent voting.

Blue collar voters earning less than $50,000 annually were a heavy portion of Ohio's voters on Tuesday, making up about half, compared to about a third in prior Democratic primaries this year. Clinton had a slight though decisive edge among those earning less than $50,000 annually, the early data showed, and was winning two in three votes from people with no more than high school diplomas.

GOP Voting Democratic: Even in GOP strongholds, a large number of Republicans are joining in on the Democratic primary:

Thanks in part to the lack of a competitive GOP contest, a lot of Republican voters are crossing over to vote in the Democratic primary -- so much so that Democratic ballot requests are out-numbering the Republicans in even a lot of GOP strongholds. Just who is benefitting, though, it not yet clear.

In the heavily-GOP Cleveland suburb of Chagrin Falls, an estimated 70% of today's ballots are being cast in the Dem race. And judging by the folks who talked to the Plain Dealer and indicated who they'd voted for, they were breaking mostly for Hillary Clinton. We'll find out tonight just how widespread that pattern was.

Hillary Clinton's State Director has released the following statement about Ohio voting:

As Ohioans head to the polls today, we're seeing high turnout across the state despite bad weather.

It is inspiring to see so many Democrats turning out to vote today, and we encourage everyone to make their voice heard in this election.

While we expect voting to run smoothly, we have heard troubling reports of irregularities and inappropriate behavior by Sen. Obama's campaign across the state. We continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that all voters' rights are preserved....

...We encourage all of our supporters to head to the polls today, as we continue to work with local election officials and the Ohio Democratic Party to ensure that no voter is disenfranchised. There is too much at stake in this election for Democrats to stay home.

Obama's State Director has released the following statement:

Our campaign's goal today is to ensure that any registered voter in the state of Ohio can go to the polls and cast their ballot for their candidate of choice without interference. We understand that the Clinton campaign may want to depress turnout because Barack Obama has closed a 20-point gap over the course of this month as voters across the state got to know him.

It has been the hallmark of the Democratic party to educate and protect the rights of voters. If the Clinton campaign disagrees with that principle, they should say so today.

We have received reports from around the state of independents and Republicans who chose to vote in the Democratic primary receiving issue only or Republican ballots instead of the Democratic ballot they were entitled to. We have also had reports that the voter ID requirements have been misstated at various locations, causing some voters to be turned away.

We will take action when necessary to ensure that all eligible voters are able to cast their votes and to have their votes counted.

We will continue to monitor the polls to ensure that all Ohioans who choose to participate in today's election are able to do so regardless of who they choose to vote for.

Ohio Official Rejects Obama Poll-Watcher Letter: Several Obama supporters have been turned away as poll-watchers after an Ohio official determined they did not have appropriate credentials:

The state's rules require a formal certification process for poll monitors. The Obama campaign, however, has distributed a letter signed by its state director, Paul Tewes, which states that the letter's bearer is "hereby authorized to serve as a legal poll monitor."

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Farrell wrote that Obama supporters have been presenting the letter to officials at polling sites, and attached the letter to his email, which appears to have been sent to election officials around the state.

The Obama camp has said the official is "wrong on the facts."

Clinton Runs Fake News Report Ad: Hillary Clinton is running a radio ad that sounds like a news report until the end, when the commercial identifies itself as part of the campaign. Here's the text:

"This is an election news update with a major news story reported by the AP. While Senator Obama has crisscrossed Ohio giving speeches attacking NAFTA, his top economic advisor was telling the Canadians that was all just political maneuvering. A newly released document from the Canadian government shows that Obama's senior economic advisor met with the Canadian Consul General and made clear that Obama's attack on NAFTA were just, quote, "political maneuvering," not policy. Political maneuvering, not policy. In fact, the document shows that Obama's advisor also assured the Canadians that these attacks against NAFTA would not continue. Obama would not want to be, quote, "fundamentally changing the agreement." As Senator Obama was telling one story to Ohio, his campaign was telling a very different story to Canada. How will Ohioans decide whether they can believe Senator Obama's words? We'll find that out on election day. Paid for by Hillary Clinton for President."

Freezing Rain, Floods Expected Across State: It's unclear which candidate will be more hurt by this type of prediction, should the weather materialize:

The National Weather Service is looking for freezing rain to cover most of the northern half of the state, which will be under a winter storm through Wednesday morning. The weather service says if temperatures fail to crack the freezing mark on Tuesday, a "significant" coating of ice is possible.

Across most of southern Ohio, there's a threat of heavy rain and flooding. The forecasters expect 1 to 2 inches of rainfall in the region on primary day, with even higher amounts possible in some areas.

Record turnout among early voters:

Elections officials were unsure whether the surge in voting would lighten traffic at polling places on Tuesday, when record turnout was predicted largely because of interest in the tight Democratic presidential race between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

Clinton Attacks Obama Over NAFTA:

Then she charged that one of Mr. Obama's senior advisers had told Canadian officials that Mr. Obama's opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement was largely a political tactic, not a serious policy position. Mr. Obama denied that he was sending back-door messages to the Canadians and said that the Clinton campaign was "throwing the kitchen sink" at him.

The Washington Post reports that women, long a solid constituency for Hillary Clinton, are astonished that "same campaign they once celebrated as a sign of tremendous progress...has instead reinforced their impressions of gender inequity.":

Although women have been the dominant force in the Democratic race, making up nearly six in 10 voters in caucuses and primaries, things have not gone the way Wagner and other feminist supporters of Clinton expected. The same campaign they once celebrated as a sign of tremendous progress, with its promise of the first female president in the nation's history, has instead reinforced their impressions of gender inequity.

Clinton goes into today's crucial primaries in Texas and Ohio with her candidacy on the line, and Wagner believes it is ignorance and bigotry that undermined it. As Wagner and other NOW executives toured Ohio last week, they repeated a resounding message: Clinton has been mistreated by an opponent who subtly demeans her, by a mainstream media that ridicules her, by voters too threatened to vote for a confident woman, by young women who no longer feel the urgency of the women's movement, by African American women for whom race is more important than gender.

Clinton took a shot at Obama today by saying that McCain has more experience than Obama. Clinton said:

I think that I have a lifetime of experience that I will bring to the White House. I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002.

Watch the video here:

NAFTA Looms Large In Ohio: Clinton and Obama traded barbs over NAFTA, as the trade agreement is very controversial in Ohio, a state that has been best by job losses:

Then she charged that one of Mr. Obama's senior advisers had told Canadian officials that Mr. Obama's opposition to the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, was largely a political tactic, not a serious policy position. Mr. Obama denied that he was sending back-door messages to the Canadians and said the Clinton campaign was "throwing the kitchen sink" at him.

Obama Campaign Confident: The Politico reports that Obama's campaign has determined that double-digit wins in Ohio and Texas are needed for Clinton:

In a statement emailed to reporters, and reiterated on a conference call just now, Obama's campaign Manager, David Plouffe, says:

It is clear that narrow popular vote wins in Texas and Ohio will do very little to improve their nearly impossible path to the nomination. If they do not win Texas and Ohio by healthy double digit margins - and they led by healthy double digit margins as recently as two weeks ago - they will be facing almost impossible odds to reverse the delegate math.

"They were sitting on enormous leads as recently as two weeks ago," he said on the call, dismissing the notion of a Clinton "comeback."

Survey USA Poll: Clinton Holds On To Lead (3/3): With one day until the primary, Clinton has a ten-point lead in this poll. That is up from the closest polling of 6%:

36 hours till votes are counted in the Ohio Democratic Primary, Hillary Clinton appears to stop the momentum of Barack Obama by converting voters focused on health care, voters in Greater Cincinnati, and voters in greater Dayton to her cause. At the wire, it's Clinton 54%, Obama 44%, in SurveyUSA research conducted for WCMH-TV Columbus, WCPO-TV Cincinnati, WHIO-TV Dayton, and WKYC-TV Cleveland. Three weeks ago, Clinton led by 17. Two weeks ago, Clinton led by 9. One week ago, Clinton led by 6. Today: Clinton stops sliding. Obama has not polled more than 44% in any SurveyUSA tracking poll. Clinton has not polled less than 50% in any SurveyUSA tracking poll.

Early Voting Points To Big Turnout In Ohio (3/2): Although Texas early voting has been discussed recently, Ohio has been showing similar enthusiasm:

Dan Pilrose, deputy director for the Lucas County Board of Elections, said that more than 700 people voted on Saturday during the 5.5 hours the polls were open, and more than 500 came out on Friday. "Every day, it's been increasing," he said, and other counties have had similar influxes.

Prior to Feb. 22, about 60 people a day voted. But then, Mr. Pilrose said, turnout jumped to around 300 and has stayed at that level every weekday since. "There must be a campaign that is really pushing this," he said.

Dems Favor Hillary But Think Obama Will Win In November (3/2): This is an interesting poll. Among Democratic voters in Ohio, Hillary holds a commanding lead. But those same voters overwhelming see Obama as the candidate most likely to win in November:

A new Dispatch Poll shows that the New York senator would lead in Ohio by as much as 16 percentage points under the usual turnout scenario dominated by loyal, older party voters -- especially if women show up in force, as they have in earlier primary states.

Even if you presume an unusual influx of young and black poll-goers, Clinton still would hold a healthy single-digit lead, the poll indicates....

...But there's one undeniable fact among Democrats: They overwhelmingly think that Obama will win the November election, regardless of whom they support in the primary. Even nearly a third of Clinton supporters in the poll expect Obama to be the next president.

Plain Dealer Poll: Hillary Keeps Narrow Lead (3/2): Hillary Clinton is holding on to a 4-point lead in Ohio, with only 48 hours before primary day:

In Ohio, a Plain Dealer survey shows Hillary Clinton holding a 4 percentage-point lead over Barack Obama, 47 percent to 43 percent.

Reuters Poll: Two-Point Margin (2/29): Obama has pulled within two points of Hillary, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Houston Chronicle poll:

Obama, an Illinois senator, has a 6-point edge on Clinton in Texas, 48 percent to 42 percent. He trails Clinton 44 percent to 42 percent in Ohio -- well within the poll's margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.

Toledo Blade Endorses Obama (2/29): In what can only be described as an interesting endorsement, the Toledo Blade praises Obama for quitting smoking and attacks Clinton for stealing White House furniture:

Additionally, Mr. Obama, a younger and more physically vigorous man, will be in a far better position to push Americans into solving one of the biggest problems we face: that of an unhealthy, morbidly obese generation of young people, a health crisis that is costing the nation billions. We applaud the fact that, urged by his talented wife, Michelle, he has quit smoking. That alone should be an inspiration to millions....

...Voters during this primary process have come to know the real Hillary Clinton, and many have not liked what they've seen. Try as she might to project a warm personal image, she has come across mostly as a coldly calculating individual.

Moreover, her candidacy reminds voters of how the Clintons in effect looted the White House of expensive china, furniture, and other items when they left in January, 2001. And, if that weren't enough, they set up a gift registry to furnish their new home in New York. In contrast to such political royalism, Mr. Obama, his wife, and their two daughters live much closer to the reality of ordinary people.

New Clinton Ad Featuring Gov. Strickland:

Pro-Obama SEIU Ads In Ohio (2/27): "Barack Obama, once vocally opposed to outside groups' involvement in campaigning, quietly has been letting pro-Obama ads from the Service Employees International Union run in Ohio without much comment," NYT reports.

The S.E.I.U. spots explicitly say "Barack Obama for president" and provide an outlet for an assortment of S.E.I.U. members to state why they support him.

In one of them, "What We Need," union members say "what we need is a fresh voice" and "someone who hasn't gone Washington."

Last December, however, Mr. Obama harshly criticized John Edwards for not condemning an ad put out by the special interest (a.k.a. 527 group) Alliance for New America -- whose members included some of the very S.E.I.U. affiliates that have now endorsed Mr. Obama.

An e-mail sent from Clinton strategist Howard Wolfson to members of the media on Monday said "simply put, Obama's trying to have it both ways, decrying political loopholes two months ago and using them to his advantage now."

Of course, last week Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton gained the support of a new 527 group in Ohio that has produced ads for her.

And Obama spokesman Bill Burton told ABC News, "While Senator Clinton has benefited from more than $5 million in spending from outside groups and said nothing, Senator Obama has long said that he would prefer those who want to support his him do it directly through the campaign."

New Obama Ads Up In Ohio: "Quiet" and "Future" ads now running:

Survey USA Poll: Obama Gains "Inch-By-Inch": In a Democratic Primary in Ohio today, 02/26/08, the day the candidates debate in Cleveland, and 7 days before the votes are counted, Hillary Clinton is 6 points in front of Barack Obama, 50% to 44%, according to a SurveyUSA poll.

Two weeks ago, Clinton led by 17. One week ago, Clinton led by 9. Today: 6. Clinton holds her ground in greater Cleveland, greater Columbus, and greater Cincinnati. Clinton is steady among seniors, among voters focused on Health Care, among Moderates, among Pro-Choicers, and among women. Though Clinton trails among men, Obama has stopped making further inroads there.

However: Among registered Democrats, Clinton had led by 21, then led by 17, now leads by 8. Among voters under age 50, Clinton had led by 9, then trailed by 2, now trails by 7. Among Pro-Life voters, Clinton had led by 11, then led by 8, now trails by 5. Among voters focused on the Economy, Clinton had led by 25, then by 21, now by 14. In greater Toledo, Clinton had led by 29, now leads by 1. Early voting favors Clinton: Among the 12% of respondents who tell SurveyUSA they have already voted, Clinton leads by 22 points. For Obama to win Ohio, he must receive at least 52% of the remaining likely voters. If Clinton gets more than 48% of the remaining Democratic Primary votes, Clinton wins the state. Because the convention delegates are allocated proportionally, a win for either candidate is not as profound as the symbolism that goes with it.

Rasmussen Poll: Clinton Lead Narrows: Yet another poll suggests the Ohio race is tightening, with Clinton's lead shrinking to 5 points:

The latest Rasmussen Reports poll shows Clinton earning 48% of the Ohio Democratic Presidential Primary vote. That's unchanged from a week ago. Barack Obama's support has grown to 43%. That's up from 40% last week and 38% the week before....

...By a 53% to 14% margin, voters believe that Obama opposes NAFTA while there are mixed perceptions on where Clinton stands. Thirty-five percent (35%) believe she favors NAFTA, 31% believe she opposes it and 34% are not sure. This issue is critical in a state that has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs. Politically, these lower-income voters have generally supportive of Clinton throughout the primary season.

Obama's Grassroots Advantage: Time focuses on one area where Obama has an advantage over Hillary Clinton:

While the blue-collar Buckeye state has been viewed as part of Clinton's firewall strategy for stopping Obama's momentum, the truth is that even though she is still leading in polls, her campaign is playing catchup when it comes to the all-important job of grassroots organizing. "I'm 52, I've been around for a while, and [Obama's] is the most spontaneous, energetic political operation that I've ever seen," said Keith Wilkowski, a lawyer and former Democratic Party chair in Toledo.

That level of energy was apparent at a Monday rally of several thousand people in Cincinnati. Obama opened his remarks by telling the crowd that early voting is already underway in Ohio and urged them to go vote immediately after the rally ended. He even told them the location where they could go cast their ballots. It was candidate-as-precinct-captain, and it showed both the intensity of the fight for votes going on daily as well as the benefits of having a candidate who used to be a community organizer and has run a voter registration drive.

PPP Poll: Obama Within 4: Today's poll shows the tightest race (pdf) yet in Ohio:

Clinton leads Obama 50-46. Obama's surge appears to be at least partially attributable to the virtual certainly that John McCain will be nominated on the Republican side. That means more independents and Republicans in the state are planning to vote in the Democratic primary. While Obama trails Clinton 56-40 among self identified Democrats, he leads 80-13 with Republicans and 64-33 with independents.

Obama Spends The Day In Cincinnati: Obama is campaigning hard in Ohio, starting the day off by picking up the endorsement of Mayor and superdelegate Mark Mallory:

Obama, as he began his speech, said he had "some business to take care of." "Each and every one of you can go down to the Hamilton County Board of Elections - that's 824 Broadway - and vote right now,'' Obama said.

The campaign had buses parked outside Fifth-Third Arena to take people to the board of elections to take advantage of Ohio's early voting system. (The Board is open until 8 p.m. each night this week.)

Univ. Of Cincinnati Poll: Clinton Leads By 8: "The latest Ohio Poll finds Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama 47 to 39 percent among likely Democratic primary voters. At this time, an additional nine percent of likely Democratic primary voters intend to vote for John Edwards, who suspended his campaign at the end of January. Two percent of likely Democratic primary voters intend to vote for another candidate, including Ohioan Dennis Kucinich (who ended his campaign for president in January), and four percent are undecided as to how they will cast their vote March 4.

Three issues dominate Democratic primary voter decisions about the 2008 presidential race: the economy/jobs (41%), health care/health insurance (25%) and the war in Iraq/Iraq policy (16%)."

Quinnipiac Poll: Obama Gains on Clinton in Ohio: "Buoyed by a big shift among college-educated voters," Sen. Barack Obama is gaining on Sen. Hillary Clinton, who now leads 51% to 40% among Ohio likely Democratic primary voters, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. Political Wire adds:

Clinton held a 21 point lead in mid-February.

Key finding: Clinton's large margins among women, 53% to 36%; older voters, whites and those without a college education keep her out front.

Said pollster Peter Brown: "Sen. Clinton's lead remains substantial, but the trend line should be worrisome for her in a state that even her husband, former President Bill Clinton, has said she must win. A week is an awful long time in politics to be playing defense, but one thing going in her favor is that she is viewed more favorably than is he by Ohio likely Democratic primary voters."

UFCW Launches Obama Ad: "Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) released a television commercial...urging support for Barack Obama for President that will begin running in markets across the state of Ohio starting Tuesday. The UFCW endorsed Obama for President on Valentine's Day. The ad is running in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngtown, and starts Tuesday running through the March 4, 2008, primary."

Poll: Clinton Leads By 8: "A new Rasmussen Reports survey in Ohio shows Sen. Hillary Clinton leading Sen. Barack Obama, 48% to 40%. Key finding: 'In addition to the 12% who are undecided, another 17% of voters say they might change their mind before voting.'"

New Clinton Ads:

Obama Picks Up Superdelegate: "Sonny Nardi, president of Teamsters' Local 416, today endorsed Barack Obama, citing his 20-year record of standing up to special interests and fighting for economic fairness."

Poll: Clinton Outperforms Obama Vs. McCain (2/22): Survey USA has the latest:

In SurveyUSA head-to-head polling in Ohio, conducted last weekend and released today, there are several interesting findings.

* Hillary Clinton beats John McCain by 10 points, 52-42.
* Barack Obama beats John McCain by 3 points, 47-44, well within the survey's 4.3% margin of sampling error.
* Both Democrats are performing significantly better than they did last month, when Clinton lost by 2 and Obama lost by 7 to McCain.
* This is the first time Obama has led McCain in Ohio in the nine tracking polls SurveyUSA has conducted on that matchup.
* This is the fourth time Clinton has led McCain in Ohio in the twelve tracking polls SurveyUSA has conducted on that matchup.

Voting Changes May Snarl Tallies in Big Ohio County: "Ohio's March 4 primary could be do-or-die for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential ambitions. Here is the catch: Cuyahoga County, where she hopes to cement a victory, has just changed the way it casts, collects and counts its votes, potentially clouding any win." WSJ reports:

[P]roblems in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland and is the state's most populous county, could tarnish any Clinton win -- or invite Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to challenge it.

"We can safely predict there will be some problems" with the county's new voting system, says Ohio State University law professor Daniel Tokaji. "How catastrophic it is depends on how close the election ends up being."

Clinton Holds Narrow Lead In WaPo/ABC Poll (2/21): Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama 50-43 in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Clinton holds a 16-percentage point lead over Obama among Ohio Democrats from union households, who comprise one in four of the party's likely voters. Obama has an 11-percentage point edge over Clinton when Democrats are asked who is more electable in November. Even some groups that normally back Clinton _ including women and less-educated people _ are split over who has the best chance to capture the White House. She's more trusted than Obama to oversee the economy. Clinton as usual is running strongly among seniors and loyal Democrats, while Obama does well with blacks, college graduates, higher earning people and the young. A third overall said they could still change their minds.

The ABC News-Washington Post poll was conducted Feb. 16-20 and involved telephone interviews with 611 likely Democratic voters in Ohio. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Pro-Clinton 527 Releases First Ad (2/20):

Politico's Ben Smith notes:

"If speeches could create jobs, we wouldn't be facing a recession," the narrator says in the spot, titled "Blueprint," that takes no more direct shots at Obama, but instead hews closely to Clinton's economic message.

The 527 hews to the legal rule against direct advocacy for the candidate: "Tell Hillary to keep working on these solutions," the ad says. It's aimed for Ohio, but there's no buy yet.

It'll air in Ohio to supplement Clinton's push.

A spokesman for the American Leadership Project, Roger Salazar, e-mailed to stress that his group's message is "positive" and focused on middle-class issues.

Pro-Clinton 527 Group Will Hit Obama In Ohio (2/20): "ABC News has learned that a group of Democratic politicos have set up a new independent 527 organization called the American Leadership Project (ALP) with the express purpose of helping Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, beat Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, in Ohio, and possibly Texas and Pennsylvania as well," Jake Tapper reports.

Free from campaign finance rules, ALP will not be legally permitted to coordinate with the Clinton campaign, but it is clearly intended to help her.

The group is targeting through TV ads, mail, and phone communications white women under 50 in the Ohio area -- specifically Cleveland, Columbus, Youngstown, Charleston (WV), Wheeling- Steubenville, Zanesville, and Parkersburg (WV).

White men will also be a focus, and if there are any excess funds Latinos in Texas and middle class families in Pennsylvania will also be targeted.

ALP has developed three ads aimed at pushing the idea that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, is a talker and not a doer -- the ads are called "If speeches could solve problems" -- and they will contrast Obama and Clinton on issues of importance to middle class voters, such as the economy, health care, and the mortgage crisis.

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder has more:

They're canvassing Clinton donors for pledges of up to $100,000 in the hope of raising at least $10M by the end of next week. The money will be placed in the account of a political committee organized under section 527 of the tax code.

A Democrat who was briefed on the project said that Pennsylvania attorney William A. K. Titelman is leading the effort to solicit money. Titleman, who raised money for Gov. Bill Richardson's presidential campaign, has not contributed money to Clinton. He did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

By law, the 527 cannot coordinate its activities with the Clinton campaign, although at least one major Clinton donor with direct ties to the campaign said last night that the effort was an open secret among donors.

Obama "Blanketing" Ohio With Ads (2/20): "Barack Obama is blanketing Ohio with campaign ads in a huge media buy that appears to double that of Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton," the Columbus Dispatch reports.

While no dollar amounts were released for Obama's ad buy, Bob Clegg, a long-time media specialist at Midwest Communications and Media in Columbus, described it somewhere between "very large and huge" on a statewide basis.

Obama's ad campaign is viewed as crucial in a state where Clinton's lead may be well into double digits.

Clegg said Obama's campaign even purchased airtime for three separate ads in the Cincinnati market, usually not a priority for Democrats because it is a Republican stronghold and much of the advertising is "wasted" because the market includes portions of Indiana and Kentucky.

Hillary Clinton's ad purchases, including a new one that began yesterday, are probably half of Obama's total thus far, he said.

Obama Closing In On Clinton In SUSA Poll: "Barack Obama has cut Hillary Clinton's lead almost in half over the past seven days," Survey USA reports. "One week ago, Clinton led by 17; today, she leads by 9 points (52-43). A week ago, Obama led by 1 point among men; today, he leads by 16."

In our latest poll, Clinton leads by 35 points among seniors, by 30 points in greater Columbus, by 28 points among women, by 21 points among whites, by 21 points among voters focused on the Economy, and by 17 points among registered Democrats. Obama leads by by 48 points among blacks, by 20 points among the youngest voters, and by 16 points among men. The two are tied in greater Cleveland, tied among Moderates, tied among voters focused on Health Care. Among voters younger than Obama, Obama leads by 5. Among voters older than John McCain, Clinton leads by 45. Among voters in between, Clinton leads by 15.

New Clinton Ad In Ohio (2/19): "Hillary Clinton has a new ad running in Ohio, making a pitch to working-class voters -- especially working women -- who feel left out of the modern economy." The ad's narrator notes, "She's worked the night shift, too."

Obama Internal Polls Show Him Down 7 Points (2/18): From the Buckeye State Blog:

I'm at liberty to share very, very little here. I know everyone wants more, but hey, sorry. You take what you can get, right?

I had a chance to check out some recent Obama Ohio campaign internal polls today. Remember how a few days ago I said polling should have HRC a little nervous about Obama's positive Ohio trend? Well...

Sure, Ramussen's last release had Clinton up by 14 points. Sure, the last Quinny poll had Clinton up by 21 points. But the internals have only got Clinton up by 7 points. That's right, 7 points.

Ohio Working Class Skeptical Of ObamaThe Washington Post reports on Obama's challenge in courting working class voters in Ohio:

In Lima and other fading manufacturing towns, he must confront difficult questions that go to the heart of his candidacy and its appeal to a broad section of Americans:

Can grandiose visions of hope and change resonate in places where change -- in this case economic change -- has brought housing foreclosures and economic ruin, where hope means avoiding another round of layoffs? Can a candidate whose support has been based on African Americans and upper-middle-class whites transcend class and race in places where racial tension still colors everything?

GOP Root For Hillary Win (2/18): Republican leaders are banking on a Hillary nominee to jolt their constituents into action:

"There is no doubt about it," said John Becker, a Clermont County Republican who represents much of southern Ohio on the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee. "There is nobody who can consolidate and energize the Republican Party like Hillary Clinton. It will get the people out and the money will flow."

Obama Gets First Nod From Statewide Elected Official: "Ohio Treasurer Richard Cordray, among the most apolitical statewide officials, just jumped into a messy political play. He is the first statewide elected officials to endorse Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination."

Bill Stumps In Toledo (2/17): "Former President Bill Clinton continued his swing through Ohio today by telling a crowd of 1,000 that Sen. Hillary Clinton's health-care plan made her the better candidate for president," the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Saying that the hotly contested Democratic nomination came down to Texas and Ohio, Bill Clinton wove in discussions about the economy and the war in Iraq with the central issue of health care. Repeating his wife's pledges on health care drew a standing ovation from the crowd.

"This is the biggest different in this campaign between these two candidates," Clinton told those gathered in the gym at Toledo Technology Academy, a public school of 150 students honored for its engineering curriculum.

Clinton rarely mentioning Sen. Clinton's opponent, Sen. Barak Obama, by name. The only time was early in his speech, when he said the Illinois senator's speeches have inspired young people.

"I used to be a pretty good speaker myself," he said, getting a laugh from the crowd.

Ohio makeup favors Clinton: Clinton's demographic bases represent a large portion of Ohio's traditional voters, giving her a strong stance in this important state:

In most elections, Ohio's voter demographics -- the makeup of the people who vote -- would play to Clinton's strength. Many women, for example, prefer Clinton over Obama, according to exit polls from recent Democratic primary elections in other states. That should help Clinton in Ohio, where women account for roughly 60 percent of Democratic primary voters, according to data from pollsters and Democratic operatives.

Until last Tuesday's primaries in Virginia and Maryland, where Obama won big victories, union households provided another Clinton strength. In past elections, as many as one in three Ohio voters reported living in a union household. So that, too, would typically be thought to help Clinton, adding to what could be considered "an incumbent's advantage" in the state, says Dennis Eckart, a former Democratic congressman from Lake County who backs Obama.

Clinton: Ohio Isn't A "Must Win." The Columbus Dispatch reports that Sen. Hillary Clinton "said she does not view Ohio as a must-win firewall to keep Sen. Barack Obama from winning the Democratic presidential nomination."

"I really don't think about it like that," Clinton told The Dispatch following a 35-minute speech to 2,600 in Ohio State University's French Field House.

"I think about doing the very best I can. I've got a good campaign here. I've got wonderful, broad support across the state and we're just going to work like crazy to get as many votes as we possibly can and hopefully we'll do well."

Sharpening her contrasts with Obama, Clinton accused him of misleading Ohio Democrats with a direct-mail piece that misrepresented her position on the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed into law by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

"He's running a campaign where he is obviously taking shots at me," Clinton said. "He's got some mailer I've heard about here in Ohio, going after me on NAFTA. I wasn't in the Senate, I didn't vote on NAFTA. I've obviously got a record where I've taken on the trade issues time and time again. So we're going to be drawing comparisons and contrasts."

Obama: As Goes Wisconsin, So Goes Ohio. The Wall Street Journal previews the Ohio spin from the Obama camp:

Fresh from big victories in Virginia and Maryland, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign is trying to maximize momentum by framing Tuesday's Wisconsin primary as a test run for Ohio -- a state Sen. Hillary Clinton's supporters have said she must win to remain in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

With similar demography and slumping manufacturing sectors, the Midwestern states mirror one another. Because Wisconsin is holding a primary rather than a caucus -- Mrs. Clinton has fared better in primaries -- Mr. Obama is trying to raise expectations for his opponent as she lowers them. [...]

The similarities between Ohio and Wisconsin are noteworthy. Both are swing states with populations that are whiter and a bit older than the nation as a whole. Each has an unemployment rate and union membership slightly above the national average. Each ranks near the bottom in prospective employment growth, according to a Moody's Economy.com index. Both are enduring population loss.

"Wisconsin is a little bit of a tell for Ohio," said Ken Goldstein, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "Either the Clinton campaign has done a brilliant job of managing expectations, or they're missing an opportunity here and they're in real trouble."

As the industrial Midwest grapples with globalization and the consequent economic insecurity, a study assessing progress among states into the "new economy" published last year by the Kauffman Foundation ranked Ohio 29th and Wisconsin 30th. Lead study author Robert D. Atkinson said, "They both tend to be less dynamic, and they have...similar kinds of economic anxieties."