Columbus (Ohio, US), Oct.6 : Republican presidential candidate John McCain is unlikely to win his bid for the White House if loses the 20 electoral votes from Ohio state.
According to the latest Columbus Dispatch poll, the Arizona senator now trails by seven percentage points in Ohio.
The survey is a result of more than 2,200 likely voters conducted over a period that included the first presidential and vice-presidential debates and Capitol Hill's response to the financial crisis.
But Karl Rove, a former political strategist for President Bush who twice pulled off victories in Ohio, told The Washington Times: "It is not slipping away: Watch the polls in the Buckeye State over the next couple of weeks."
Rove noted on Fox that "this race is susceptible to rapid changes and we're likely to see, in the remaining four weeks, more changes."
No Republican has won the presidency without taking Ohio. To win in 2008 without the state's electoral votes, McCain would have to take every other state Bush won in 2004, then flip 16 electoral votes from states that John Kerry took four years ago.
The Dispatch poll found that Obama leads by 10 points on the question of who is "more likely to bring about the change this country needs." That plays right into Obama's campaign theme of "change."
McCain appears heavily outgunned in Ohio, where Democrats have built a massive operation to swing the state into their column.
Obama has 72 offices with 300 paid staff, along with thousands of volunteers.
"We have an office within 42 miles of every person in Ohio," said Ohio Obama campaign spokesman Isaac Baker.
An Ohio McCain aide said his team has just slightly more than half the offices Obama does, 40, "with staff expanding by the week."
Ohioans are already voting in droves. Early voting opened September 30, and a new rule lets registered voters cast absentee ballots without having to specify why they are doing so.
Thousands of voters therefore already have cast their ballots, and it will be too late even if Mr. McCain is able to rebound in the final 30 days of the campaign.
The state's electorate has changed since 2004. More than 700,000 state residents are newly registered to vote, and there are currently 10 percent more self-identified Democrats than Republicans, the Dispatch said.
With early voting already under way, the two presidential nominees are spending millions of dollars flooding TV and radio airtime with commercials.