DAYTON, Ohio -- Reporters circled around Reince Priebus at a campaign rally Monday in Lima and one asked the Republican National Committee chairman what he thought of polls showing Mitt Romney trailing President Obama in this crucial battleground state. Priebus said he was satisfied that the GOP challenger was "within a field goal" of the incumbent, and made a bold prediction: "We're going to outspend the DNC 10-to-1 [in Ohio] for the next six weeks… We're going to crush 'em on the ground."
Such confidence might surprise those millions of Americans who know only of the presidential campaign what the major news media tell them. More than 1,500 people turned out in Lima on a Monday afternoon to see Republican vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan. The size of the crowd that packed inside the Allen County Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center might seem a significant indicator of GOP strength in the heartland, but it was scarcely noticed or mentioned in the horse-race coverage of the election campaign. Instead, the media's narrative of the race relies heavily on poll numbers suggesting that Obama's re-election is all but assured. Among these is the most recent Ohio poll, by the University of Cincinnati, that showed Obama above the magic 50-percent threshold, leading Romney by five points, 51-46.
This theme was made explicit in an Associated Press article over the weekend with the headline, "Tide shifts to Obama in most competitive states." Such tendentious reporting has drawn increased skepticism from critics, including Tom Blumer, who suggest it is part of a deliberate effort to create a false sense of momentum for the Democrat. And when the media are caught in gross errors -- e.g., reporting that 18,000 people attended an Obama rally at a 5,000-seat arena -- this skepticism seems entirely justified. In fact, there are reasons to believe the momentum has actually begun to shift toward Romney and Ryan, given the recent debacle in Libya, which Ryan hit hard in his speech Monday in Lima.
"I mean, turn on the TV and it reminds you of 1979 Tehran… they're burning our flags in capitals all around the world, they're storming our embassies," Ryan said, likening the terrorist attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens to the Iran hostage crisis. "We've lost four of our diplomats. And what is the signal that our government is sending the rest of the world?" He answered his own question, saying that the Obama administration's policy "projects weakness."
Ryan brought home the economic significance of this policy, pointing out that the Obama administration has announced plans to close a factory in Lima that produces the Army's M1 Abrams tank, which would cost more than 800 local jobs. Ohio's congressional delegation has so far been able to prevent the Pentagon from closing the plant, but Ryan said Obama's eagerness to cut defense spending -- the only area of federal spending that the president favors reducing -- shows an intent to "gut our military," part of a policy that that would mean "our adversaries are so much more tempted to test us, and our allies are so much less willing to trust us."
Ryan's words seemed in sync with a generally more aggressive tone from the GOP campaign, including one new TV ad that faults Obama for failing to "stand up to China" on trade policy, a failure that the ad says cost 2 million American jobs. In a question-and-answer session, Ryan also deftly handled the "47 percent" issue with which the media spent last week pounding Romney. "We want an opportunity society not a welfare state," Ryan said, pointing out that Obama's policies have produced the "highest poverty rate we've had in a generation."
The Republican ticket's three-day campaign swing continues today as Romney arrives in Ohio and joins Ryan for an 11 a.m. rally in Cincinnati followed by a 3 p.m. event here in Dayton, with rallies scheduled Wednesday in Columbus, Cleveland, and Toledo. With Election Day now just six weeks away, and the first of debate between Obama and Romney scheduled for next week, this Ohio trip is clearly an effort to re-ignite enthusiasm among grassroots conservatives.
Near the end of his speech Monday in Lima, Ryan offered a message that is likely to be heard repeatedly during this trip across the Buckeye State: "President Obama just the other day, he said on TV that 'I can't change Washington from the inside.' Why do we send presidents to the White House in the first place? Isn't that why we send presidents to Washington, to change Washington? You know what? If he can't change Washington, then we need to change presidents, and that means we need to elect Mitt Romney the next President of the United States."