Mark my words the 2012 Presidential Election is all going to come down to Ohio. Other swing states like Florida, Virginia and Colorado are going to be important but looking at the electoral map, all roads lead to the buckeye state and its 18 Electoral College votes. The candidates know it and Ohio knows it too. After all it has been the most consistent presidential swing state over the last century, picking the eventual winner in 27 of the past 29 elections.
Up until Obama's nap at the first debate he held a slim but stable lead in Ohio. Tracking polls now say it is roughly a tie and all to play for. But this time around Ohio, you have a really big decision. America is at a truly critical and precarious point. The economic numbers are incomprehensible. The national debt is $16.2 trillion ($16,200,000,000,000 if you want to see the zeros), a debt that has increased at a staggering $3.88 billion per day since 2007. To put that into context, America borrows more money in one day than the entire annual GDP of Fiji. Employment is rising (not quick enough) but many of the new jobs are low wage. And to add insult to injury, everything from fuel to food is increasing in price placing more and more pressure on the day to day lives of middle class America.
In times of such national crisis, it is often the case that politicians provide a semblance of united leadership. Sadly, Republicans and Democrats are as polarised as they have been for a generation and the economy is the battleground on which they fight to the death. The most concerning thing about this polarisation is that such a fissure in economic ideology has major implications when the decisions you make impact spreadsheets with numbers containing 12 zeros. Decisions that will impact average Americans from Oregon to Georgia and the global economy from Beijing to Athens.
In the last few days of the campaign, as Romney and Obama crisscross Ohio, it will be the undecided voters that will be plied with their economic polarity. But how many undecided voters in Ohio will decide who gets the keys to the White House?
At the last two presidential elections, around 5.5 million people in Ohio voted so let's assume that the same number show up this time.
Between 5-7% of the electorate are undecided, but with only a few days to go it is more likely that figure will be closer to 5%. This means that Romney and Obama are spending billions to court only about 275,000 voters. 275,000 voters, that's a lot of responsibility and power resting in the hands of very few people.
On that basis, each undecided vote in Ohio is roughly worth about $59 million of the national debt, $4 million of the deficit or $54 million of a US GDP of $15 trillion.
Oh to be one of the 275,000 undecided voters in Ohio right now. I really don't know how they sleep at night, I really don't, what with the fate of their country and the direction of a $15 trillion economic behemoth in their hands. I think they should just show the three presidential debates on repeat across all the TV networks until election day so that everyone has the best opportunity to make an informed choice.
I think that this tells us two things. Either, America should rethink an electoral system that places the power to elect a president in the hands of a very small number of voters. Or, maybe we should just trust Ohio to get on with it at each election as they have a remarkably good record at picking winners anyway. As much as I have no doubt the voters in Ohio are upstanding citizens, all I know is, if I lived in Columbus, I'd be phoning a friend right now.