Strickland: Obama ‘Well Positioned’ to Take Ohio

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By Ashley Killough, CNN

(CNN) — With Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama focusing on Ohio and Virginia in recent days, two former leaders from those battleground states added their input Sunday on who will carry the states this fall.

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, said the outcome will be close in November. But he argued that in the end, the president will take the Buckeye State.

“This is going to be a close election, but I think the president is pretty well positioned,” Strickland said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In an interview with CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, he pointed to the auto bailout, a move he called a “big deal for Ohio.”

Obama highlighted the auto industry’s recovery in his first official kick-off rally in Ohio on Saturday, indicating his team plans to make that a major touchpoint in his campaign.

“When some wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt, we made a bet on American workers, on the ingenuity of American companies,” Obama said. “And today, our auto industry is back on top of the world.”

His comment was an apparent jab at Romney, who penned an op-ed in 2008 arguing Detroit should go through managed bankruptcy in order to bounce back.

A recent poll shows the two candidate statistically tied in Ohio, with 44% of voters backing Obama and 42% supporting Romney, according to a Quinnipiac survey taken between April 25 and May 1.

Strickland on Sunday also weighed on rumors that Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio may be tapped as Romney’s running mate to help boost the candidate’s popularity in the state.

“I think it may help marginally, but I don’t think it would guarantee that Mr. Romney would carry Ohio,” Strickland said, adding he doesn’t think Portman “has the kind of standing throughout Ohio” to secure a win for Romney.

The president also held a campaign rally Saturday in Virginia, another key swing state this fall. But former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican, said he doesn’t expect Obama to fare as well as he did in 2008, when he won the Commonwealth for Democrats for the first time since 1964.

Davis argued Obama brought out more African American voters and college-age students last cycle that ever before, but added the president lacks the “same level of enthusiasm” among voters this time around.

Describing it as a “genuine battleground” state, Davis pointed to Northern Virginia, one of the most affluent parts of the country, as a key region for Romney.

“When you start putting a bulls-eye on people making over $200,000, $250,000 a year, that’s where they live,” Davis said, referring to Obama’s proposals to raise tax rates for wealthier individuals. “And I think it’s going to be some problems for the president moving down the line.”

According to a recent Washington Post poll, however, the president has a seven percentage point advantage over Romney, with 51% of Virginia voters supporting Obama over Romney’s 44%. The survey was conducted between April 28 and May 2.

But Davis said he expects Romney, who campaigned in the state this last week, will gain ground in the state by November.

“I think Governor Romney is the right person at the right time,” he said. “I think these primaries have been a good training ground for him. But he’s hitting his stride now.”