On Primary Eve, Race Is Too Close To Call

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The latest poll from Quinnipiac University shows a ten-point swing between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney over the last week.(Photo: Flickr composite)
The latest poll from Quinnipiac University shows a ten-point swing between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney over the last week.(Photo: Flickr composite)

With just days to go before the Republican presidential primary, the latest Quinnipiac poll puts the race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum at a near dead-heat.

A major reason for that is that about a third of likely GOP voters say they could still changed their mind before heading to the polls.

Throughout the GOP presidential campaign, in several states, polls have shown big numbers of likely Republican voters were leaning toward a candidate, but also saying they could still change their minds before they cast their ballots. Charley Lough of Vermillion is one of them.

“Right now I’m torn. I see good things in all of them and bad things in all of them, and I can’t decide which one for sure I really want. I’m just, I just don’t feel like any of the candidates are strong,” says Vermillion.

Lough was considering Rick Santorum, but now isn’t sure who he’ll vote for. Monica Rus of Euclid favored Santorum too at one point, and is now looking at Mitt Romney. But she’s also uncertain.

“As a middle-classer – well, lower than middle class – neither one really seemed to be on the same level as the people in my neighborhood, my family,” says Rus. ”

“One seemed a little bit rich; the other one, I’m not sure of.”

And the indecision isn’t isolated to voters. Bill Johnson is a Republican Party insider – he’s an elected member of the Cuyahoga County Central Committee. He turned to Newt Gingrich when Herman Cain dropped out of the race, then looked to Santorum but hasn’t liked some of his recent remarks about religion and government. So now he doesn’t know how he’ll vote.

“I’m not really sure at this point. I really would hope that the convention will draft another candidate or that we’ll have another candidate enter the race at the last minute,” Johnson says.

And many Republican voters are frustrated. Lenan Empey is originally from Massachusetts, and now lives on the west side of Columbus. And she calls herself a proud member of the GOP.

“How could the Republican Party produce four candidates that absolutely, to me, are – I’m just blown away at how bad they all seem to me at being representative of the Republican Party that I fell in love with,” Empey says.

These four voters say they want to hear more about jobs and the economy. Charley Lough wants the candidates to talk about how to reduce the size of government. Lenan Empey says she agrees but wants a more moderate approach.

Monica Rus says she’s also concerned about health care and taxes. And Johnson says when the candidates talk about other issues, they’re diverting attention away from what voters really want to hear about.

Ohio Republican Party chair Kevin DeWine has heard many of these comments and complaints from his voters. DeWine, who supports Romney, says the candidates need to keep working on how they present their messages to voters.

“My advice to candidates has been and will continue to be to tell us as the voters what do you stand for, what do you plan to do? Because it’s not just good enough to say that your opponent doesn’t deserve to be elected.”

Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown backs that up, saying he thinks many voters are waffling because they simply don’t know the candidates – Romney’s the best known because he ran just four years ago, and Brown says he’s probably the best positioned to come out the winner in Ohio because he has the most money to spend to reach voters.

“Money matters, and TV commercials move numbers,” Brown says.

Voters and pundits have long speculated on what the race might be like if there were other well-known Republican figures in it. Charley Lough wishes he could be voting for former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Monica Rus says she misses George W. Bush. And Bill Johnson is hoping the party can draft President Bush’s brother Jeb Bush to join the race.