US Elections 2016: Final countdown

See-saw battle in Ohio

A young Clinton supporter (above) with a doll of the Democratic presidential nominee at a campaign rally in Ohio earlier this month, while a Trump supporter (below) waits for the Republican presidential candidate to speak at a campaign rally in the s
A young Clinton supporter (above) with a doll of the Democratic presidential nominee at a campaign rally in Ohio earlier this month.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A young Clinton supporter (above) with a doll of the Democratic presidential nominee at a campaign rally in Ohio earlier this month, while a Trump supporter (below) waits for the Republican presidential candidate to speak at a campaign rally in the s
A Trump supporter (above) waits for the Republican presidential candidate to speak at a campaign rally in the state last Thursday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The presidential election battle for the ever-crucial state of Ohio this year can be summed up in two words: Cedar Point.

The amusement park on the tip of a sandy peninsula on Lake Erie in north-western Ohio is known as the "roller coast"; its 71 rides include 16 roller coasters with some of the world's highest hills, steepest plunges and sharpest curves.

Likewise, the political polls in Ohio this year have seen some of the biggest ups and downs and wildest twists and turns of any state in the United States for Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

Just a month ago, Quinnipiac, Bloomberg, Fox News, and CNN all showed Mr Trump ahead by 5 percentage points.

Two weeks later, after the release of a tape on which he spoke of doing vulgar things to women, a poll by the prestigious Baldwin-Wallace University near Cleveland showed Mrs Clinton rocketing to a nine-point lead with 43 per cent, while Mr Trump plummeted faster and further than some of Cedar Point's coasters to 34 per cent.

The latest RealClearPolitics poll average for Ohio showed Mr Trump had rebounded, climbing back up to a 1 percentage point advantage.

On the minus side for Mr Trump, the newspapers in all three of Ohio's major metropolitan areas - Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati - have all endorsed his opponent.

Cleveland's Plain Dealer did so in a somewhat roundabout manner though. It capitalised on Ohioans being less interested right now in an election where many are voting against a candidate rather than for one, and are more attentive to the world of sport.

In a lukewarm endorsement, the Plain Dealer ran a large photo of the Cleveland Cavaliers' superstar Lebron James, who led the team to its first NBA championship in June, under the headline, "We agree with his choice: Hillary Clinton".

The Plain Dealer's editors wrote: "In an election marked by the absurd emergence of a candidate best known for fabricating his own celebrity, we have opted to go with the spirit of this election season and use an over-the-top-vehicle - our concurrence with north-east Ohio's own international celebrity - for announcing our choice. We say, quite simply, we agree with LeBron James' choice of Hillary Clinton."

 

One worrying note for Mrs Clinton in Ohio, however, came on the first day voting was allowed on Oct 16.

In Cuyahoga County, which she needs to win big along with other traditional blue areas, only 1,172 voters turned up, compared with 1,895 when President Barack Obama won his second term in 2012. Even the presence of Indian-American actor Kal Penn shaking hands outside the county's board of elections did not help.

Mr Trump can take heart from one of the most accurate - and tastiest - polls, having predicted Mr Obama's win in Ohio in two straight elections.

The famous cookie poll, run every four years by Cincinnati's Busken Bakery based on the number of cookies with their faces each candidate sells, has shown a consistent lead for the Republican.

As of yesterday, Mr Trump led Mrs Clinton 13,978 cookies to 12,427.

Both candidates do need to look over their shoulders, though; the smiley face of the Cookie Party was close behind with 11,126.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2016, with the headline 'See-saw battle in Ohio'. Print Edition | Subscribe