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Strickland Becomes Top Priority As Re-Elect Signs Turn Good

WASHINGTON -- Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour was not delving into hyperbole when he noted on "Morning Joe" Tuesday that the Ohio Governor's race has become a fault line of sorts for the Democratic Party.

"[T]he Democrats have really marshaled their forces there," said Barbour, who, in addition to being one of the top political minds in the GOP, heads the Republican Governor's Association. "For some reasons the Democrats think, and Governor Strickland has said this many times, that Strickland's reelection is essential to Obama being able to be reelected in 2012. And since the president has been to Ohio 12 to 13 times to campaign for Strickland, the White House must think that too."

They do. The quintessential swing state, Ohio is home to either the second- or third-biggest Democratic Party apparatus in the country, behind the Democratic National Committee and, depending on metric, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And while the Senate candidate there -- Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher -- has been a dud, a robust get-out-the-vote operation has proceeded with little hiccup for Strickland.

A Democratic operative in the state emailed the Huffington Post on Tuesday that early results from Cuyahoga County, a Democratic stronghold, are looking incredibly promising for the incumbent governor.

"No Democrat has won statewide in Ohio without garnering at least a 100,000-vote margin in those precincts," the operative said. "Due to early voting in Ohio... the governor is already half-way to victory before voting even begins on Tuesday."

Indeed, according to state data, in Cuyahoga County, Democrats had returned more than 110,000 vote by mail ballots compared to the Republican Party's 45,000. Strickland went into Election Day with a 55,000-vote lead.

The early vote margin extends wider, a national Democrat argues. Based on the party's early vote modeling, more than 485,000 ballots have been requested by Democrats; compared to 394,000 for Republicans.

This, of course, is just one metric. And while the margins in Cuyahoga County are based on ballots already returned, the statewide measurements are simply ballots requested. Former Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio) may have seen his lead in the polls narrow, but he has also basically led the race from start to finish.

That said, Barbour didn't seem as bullish on the prospects of wrestling away the Ohio governor's chair as he did about other aces. And if his appearance on "Morning Joe" is any indication, the Republican Party is getting ready to spin away a Kasich loss as merely the byproduct of the one massive, concerted and fine-tuned Democratic campaign effort.

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