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All signs suggest that Romney’s in big trouble in Ohio, where he must prevail to win the presidency

The Columbus Dispatch is out with a poll this morning that SHOWS President Obama with a lead of nine percentage points over Mitt Romney among Ohio voters:

A surge of Democratic support for Obama has transformed the race since the first Dispatch Poll had the two dead-even at 45 percent just before the Republican National Convention in late August.

The survey is the fifth major poll — from The Washington Post to Fox News — of Ohio voters in a week to show the president ahead by 5 to 10 points. He also leads in surveys of most of the remaining swing states.

Obama’s rise comes at an especially fortuitous time for the Democrat: Ohioans begin casting early ballots in two days.

Thus, while Romney is counting on strong performances in a trio of presidential debates that begin Wednesday night in Denver to transform the campaign, every day that Obama leads allows the incumbent to lock in supporters — much the way he did with great success in the 2008 election.

How important is Ohio? The Web site of the conservative National Review carries an INTERVIEW this morning with Matt A. Mayer, president of Opportunity Ohio, a free-market think tank. This passage is especially instructive (despite its misspelling of the word “bellwether”):

I don’t want to be the one who contradicts Karl Rove’s view that Romney can win without Ohio, but he can’t. It isn’t just that historically no Republican has won the presidency without Ohio’s electoral votes that “proves” that point. It also is the fact that Ohio is a bell-weather state, so if a candidate cannot win Ohio — especially a candidate operating under a very-low-margin-of-error strategy — the likelihood that that candidate wins enough of the other five to nine toss-up states is not high. We are seeing that in the polling results in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Virginia. The election isn’t over, but it appears that Romney will need a big Obama misstep to win.

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