ATHENS, Ohio -- My first stop in this state was the safe blue island of Athens County. In 2008, it gave 20,722 of its 31,259 votes to Barack Obama. The last time it didn't vote Democratic was 1984, when Walter Mondale didn't give these people much of a choice. The blue vote is anchored in the city of Athens, home to Ohio University, and when I stopped by after 2 p.m., I saw a brisk early vote heading in and out of a convenient downtown polling station.
But it was a sort of mirage. The local paper's A1 story was all about a drop-off in the early vote, from 2008 to now. That year, there were 9,227 requested ballots; up to now, there have been 7,665. Democrats know these ballots are breaking their way, but the student vote is strolling, not running. In around 30 minutes at the polls, I saw 50 voters grab ballots and head inside. Every single one I talked to was for Obama, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
"I made up my mind during the Republican primary -- they've gotten to crazy," said Bob Gallagher, 57, a social services worker who had voted Republican for some downballot races.